Tag Archives: Broadcast

Even if the vultures circle

The economy is in the dump. We know that. We know that the Big (and quickly shrinking) Three are doing terribly. This is not good for big media and those who make a living keeping its pipelines full. GM, Ford, and their dealer associations continue to slash ad budgets. From Television Broadcast:

The auto industry is the No. 1 source of revenue for TV networks and stations. Car ads were pervasive, from sleek manufacturer mini movies to screeching local car dealers wearing tights and capes. But when auto sales fell into the black hole of mortgage foreclosures, the ad category started shrinking.

Automotive fell by 17 percent in spot ads for the second quarter, according to the Television Advertising Bureau. The category dipped to $669 million this year from $806 million last year.

vultures in treeYesterday The Hollywood Reporter apparently got a jump on its 2009 obituaries. The news for Charter Communications, Univision, and Cablevision is not good. Sirius shares are trading for pennies. In fact that death watch has been going on so long that I’m somewhat surprised every morning when I start the car and the receiver acquires a signal.

For all the gloom and doom in the mainstream and trade press, nothing beats the social networking’s ability to spread the misery. Just as the dot-com bust became an online sensation – we all remember FuckedCompany – the travails of modern media has become a Web 2.0 sensation. The best example of is this Twitter user.

A humorous aside, even though FuckedCompany is no longer, it’s founder tweets here. Plus ça change, baby.

Broadcasters and producers I’ve spoken with are bracing for a tough 2009. They’d be crazy not to. Everyone in virtually every industry is. Economically speaking it does feel a lot like the post dot-com period.

Having survived the challenge of launching a firm in that era, I don’t want to trivialize the difficult road ahead, but I also ask that folks take a step away from the hemlock potion. Be aware of the environment, but please don’t become paralyzed by it.

A different way to look at the downturn

On the eve of a new year, let’s take a more positive look at the environment. Cisco’s CEO John Chambers offers some great advice in Fast Company.

“If you watch what is occurring today, people are acting like the sky is falling,” says Cisco CEO John Chambers. But he has learned through numerous economic downturns – he cites 1993, 1997, 2001, and 2003 – that it’s entirely possible to come out stronger than you were before.

No one gets into this industry thinking it’s going to be easy. We all expected tough times, and we all expected to survive them. Take Chambers’ advice. Prepare for the upturn. Might as well. There’s not much you can do about the downturn.

New Life for Network TV?

Lest anyone think it’s game over for big media. IPTV, pods, and portals will give the major networks a direct connection to their audiences. MIT’s Spotlight on TV features two compelling essays on the topic.

Henry Jenkins of MIT chronicles the rise, fall, and rebirth of Global Frequency. Jenkins believes the lessons learned by WB will be picked up by all the networks. While I agree with his general premise, existing stake holders will significantly delay Jenkins vision of the future. I just can’t see ASCAP, BMI, AFTRA/SAG, and the WGA allowing the networks free reign to distribute this stuff at their discretion. It will take years to get everyone to sign on the dotted line.

For the nearer term, IPTV will thrive only where the unions and publishing giants don’t have leverage. It’s not just that the long tail is now economically viable. It’s the only stuff that can clear the necessary legal hurdles.

Ivan Askwith’s Slate article, cites the role of DVD sales in keeping series such as Family Guy on the air. He posits that iTunes, Google, and Yahoo! paid downloads will in essence have the audience voting with its wallets, but I’m not so sure that’s the logical conclusion to the trend. Askwith’s a lot smarter than I, so if one was to gamble on whose vision of the future is more likely to come to fruition I’d bet on his. That said, this is my blog, so here’s my opinion. I suspect that these new distribution models will render broadcast television as we know it virtually obsolete. News, weather, and sports will dominate the grid. Even TiVo as we currently know it will go by the wayside. Everything will be available anytime. Why tether it to the box attached to the living room TV? Why make me decide in advance what I want to watch? It’s too easy to forget to record what you want.