Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Cable Distribution v, Content - Streaming Media

Consumers want their content where they want, what they want, and when they want, whether it is tethered to a wire or not. And they want to pay once for this access. Cable distributors hear that plea and recognize that building an inclusive model with such access keeps subscribers paying, want to proceed with streaming media. Content owners have other ideas.

Content owners like the idea of being paid multiple times for their content and selling to multiple distribution platforms is a revenue winner. That also enables cable customers to cut the cord and switch from one platform to another. Hence the friction between content and distribution.

Now Comcast is announcing that they want to stream the cable content they license to untethered devices like the Apple iPad. "While the initial barrage consisted of warning shots––programmers dispatched carefully worded reminders that such distribution pathways are not authorized by existing affiliate agreements, but stopped short of threatening immediate legal action––many observers believe that this will prove to be the first exchange in yet another long and bloody war between rights holders and operators." Is it time for a response from the FCC?

A merger of content and distribution, ie Comcast and NBCU, would facilitate this step for cable, although other distribution competitors could be shut out of the content. Should the FCC rule that content purchased by a cable operator can be streamed by that operator for the benefit of their customers. Isn't this exactly what Slingbox offers and doesn't Dish integrate Slingbox into their platform's converter box.

To be fair, some content owners have already enabled access. On Demand through authorized boxes can also be accessed. This slippery slope is not flattening and this issue of TV Everywhere will not go away. Other content owners will have to find a comfortable position. Hopefully, an eyeball gained through easier availability will still positively impact revenues. Higher subscriptions and better advertising rates. The future is mobility and Content v Distribution will have to find a common ground.