TV Dinner

As broadcast TV continues it’s slow death, and really, it’s basically over, content creators have allowed and even propped up more intermediaries. Intermediaries that mean consumers will pay for more and more services to get access to ‘big budget media’.

The content producers are allowing themselves to get squeezed into a constrained income by their intermediaries and consumers are allowing themselves to be roped into spending money for things they have already paid for once. (Paid for with spectrum allocation, advertising views or, in the case of public television, tax money and donations and corporate underwriting [it’s called underwriting not advertising].).

The changes in the media economy have hurt content producers and consumers and propped up cable companies and ‘internet cable companies’ like Apple iTunes and Netflix (and Hulu <smirk>).

The ‘video rental store model’ and, perhaps sooner than we’d like the physical media model (DVD/BluRay) are eaten by Netflix too.  For now, Netflix is a benefit to consumer cost, convenience and variety but as Netflix gets more control, that will change unless the Cable Companies fight back more effectively.

What’s ironic and interesting is that now, many people would actually be better off with no cable and with Netflix andrabbit ear antenna for ‘loca’l tv.  For now, bundling  internet access with cable services props up the cable companies. Cable company efforts to undermine net neutrality are their cowardice about the ‘the new world order’ threatening their business model. They’ll use a stick (traffic shaping) rather than risk inventing a carrot (viable alternatives to Netflix/TiVo etc).

The take-away, to me, continues to be:

– Content creators need to work hard to disintermediate the Cable Co.’s, Netflix and Apple or they’re doomed, especially independent content creators.

– Consumers need to be vigilant about how much they pay for services that take away their control (DRM, availability windows, bad law, (ACTA) etc.) in exchange for convenience. Consumer’s risks will include an ever-shrinking variety of editorial voices and an ever-growing portion of their disposable income spent on media as intermediaries take control. Control that is propped up by law and inertia.

Fear on the part of big media has allowed intermediaries to make things ‘safe’ for them in the short term and fatal in the long term for most (not all). Netflix and Apple brilliantly allowed content creators to think they were preserving old business models and surviving in the ‘new world order’. In fact, what was happening was intermediaries were taking new control over producers’ fate and access to their audiences.

What producers who actually care about quality (to the extent they still do) should be doing is resisting the obvious ‘business think’. Old busines-think has producers ‘adapting’ to the new realities in MBA-safe ways instead of radically mutating in anticipation of the new environment.

Sports and news are two spaces where the power balance is, to a point, still weighted toward the content owners. The news business is under obvious threat from the audience’s inability to know journalism from propaganda, commentary, guesswork or gossip or what was fashionably once gathered under the moniker ‘citizen journalism’. The sports business is trickier. I can’t really comment intelligently on how that’s shaking out because I’m not a consumer or even interested observer of sports content beyond Formula 1 racing. (And even that interest is waning as the sport is diluted by rule changes.)

Food for thought: “Is the current broadcast tv busines-model such that it will become necessary for broadcast tv to come down *against* network neutrality in order to survive since they’d get no traction legislatively imposing ‘must carry’ on Apple and Netflix?”

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