Friday, September 25, 2009

Cable Networks Will Be Last Old Media to Face Digital Destruction

According to Peter Chernin, former head of News Corp, cable networks should also worried at how the digital age will destroy their business. "Whether niche cable programming can survive and thrive in a streaming on-demand video world 'is the single biggest question facing the media industry,' Chernin said Wednesday during a roundtable discussion USC Annenberg School for Communications." And he is 100% right! Cable networks have been leading a charmed life, blessed with at least two revenue streams, advertising AND subscription. Broadcast, on the other hand has had to rely on advertising only, although that has changed too as these same companies own both broadcast and cable and have used their leverage to get higher subscription fees for their sister networks. Digital distribution has the potential of hurting the cable subscription model by reaching directly to the consumer. Without this huge chunk of revenue, cable networks would be in serious trouble, unable to afford their programming.

And Chernin should also be held responsible. His role partnering News Corp with NBC has led to the creation of Hulu, a web-based streaming media aggregator of broadcast and cable shows and films. Cable's response has been TV Everywhere, an authentication model designed to only allow streaming media programming to consumers who also purchase cable TV. But as long as Hulu and offer free programming, it will be a losing battle. And should they try to convert themselves into a fee-based service, they will be competing with themselves and their cable partners who will most likely re-negotiate their deals under this changing environment.

Cable can win this game, but they need to build a better mousetrap, enabling programming to be seen absolutely everywhere and across any device - TV, pc, cellphone, etc. Convergence and portability of an authorized signature. And this content should include both live, DVR, and VOD. Makes you think that maybe a network based DVR could be the first step to making this accessibility work most efficiently and effectively. Otherwise, the consumer will gravitate to the cheapest source and all parties will be hurt.

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