Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Content Companies Will Remain Successful As Viewership Patterns Shift

Consider this article from Deadline Hollywood a no brainer. The analyst cited is "encouraged by the prospects for TV Everywhere — where pay TV companies make it possible for subscribers to watch their shows on mobile devices." That content accessibility across different platforms will encourage viewership and new revenue models. But this assessment of the media marketplace does not apply to all big companies. While she has high hopes for Time Warner Communications, News Corp/Fox, and CBS, she has doubts about ABC/Disney/ESPN and Viacom. Noticably absent in the article is the other major broadcaster/content company. Is NBC/Comcast a different animal because they are the only one that is both a distribution and programming company? Does that help them or hurt them more than the others?

Ultimately, one has to believe that content is king should remain the mantra. Creating content that is compelling and can be monetized across multiple distribution platforms seems to be key. Being smart enough to recognize the shifts in viewing habits of the viewer is essential. The syndication market may change, the DVD market may drop, the mobile space may grow, second screens may gel, and new undiscovered platforms are pushing to be formed. Staying forward in those trends to ride the changes without getting stuck in the past will drive future revenue and profitability.

Is Improvement in Cable Basic Sub Losses An Oxymoron?

Financial reports are coming out for fourth quarter and Time Warner Cable has announced smaller losses of Q4 basic subs with broadband and wireline reporting increases. Other cable company announcements will follow but most likely they too will report losses in their basic sub numbers as well. Where are these cable cord cutters going? Both FIOS and U-Verse have reported increases in this same period.

But what I like most in reading these articles has been how these basic cable losses have been described, "improvement in basic losses" which means that we are still leaking water from the dam, but at a slower stream. Is this a trend that will lead to an eventual rebound in growth or just a slowness until another crack in the dam occurs and more subs flee?

My point is this, a loss is a loss, and saying that your are improving in the area of basic sub loss is like the classic George Carlin oxymorons, "Jumbo Shrimp", "Hot Water Heater", and my favorite "Military Intelligence". You may have seen a small slowdown, but the problem is not going away. Consumers are shopping for better deals, switching providers, or just dropping their cable service.

Will lower priced entry into basic packages work? Better access to networks and on demand programming on mobile screens, better service? Staying ahead of the curve and preparing for increased online competition are essential for cable operators to remain more than just a broadband pipeline to the home.