Tag Archives: Cable

And the award for greed goes to…

Unbelievable. Disney decided to pull the plug on WABC-TV with Cablevision in the New York area on Academy Awards Sunday. Sports fans throughout New York are thankful ABC didn’t have the broadcast rights to the Olympics or the Super Bowl. As of 7:30 PM EST, still no agreement.

Let’s assume there won’t be an agreement. Both Disney and Cablevision lose. ABC will face the ire of advertisers who won’t be reaching a couple of million viewers in an affluent market. Cablevision, already among the least loved companies in Greater New York, will rise to the top of the most hated list with a bullet. No small feat in a metro area that sports AIG, Citibank, ConEd, and the LIRR.

Cablevision is claiming Disney wants $1 per subscriber per month for the right to distribute WABC-TV. Cablevision already pays Disney for the Disney Chaneel, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN News, and the half dozen or so other outlets that provide repeats of SportsCenter round the clock. What am I not getting? Disney already broadcasts WABC over the air for free. WABC’s business model is to sell advertising. Cablevision helps Disney reach more ABC viewers, so ABC can sell more advertising.I’d

Let’s say Disney prevails, and every New Yorker’s cable bill goes up a buck. Customers get mad and switch to FIOS. Disney shakes down Verizon. Customers get mad and give up on TV. By then Lost will have run its course. Who’s going to miss TV? Customers might be mad at Cablevision tonight, but it won’t be long before Disney pays a price as well.

Everyone involved understands Disney’s challenges. Ad revenues for broadcasters across the spectrum are down as audiences shrink, but Disney needs to learn from those who have gone before — music labels and newspapers. Raising the price to the customer only exacerbates the problem.

Updated 9:00 PM 3/7/10New York Times reports someone blinked. This kind of brinkmanship is no way to treat customers.

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.

Of social networks and cable TV

This week’s Economist features a brief analysis of the social networking boom and where it all might lead. Some interesting parallels were brought to the fore. Among them:

  • AOL’s acquisition of Bebo is much like Microsoft’s acquisition of Hotmail a decade ago.
  • And that the network effect still holds.

Social networks as they are now constructed are walled gardens – LinkedIn users cannot communicate with Facebook users. Users typically receive invites from colleagues on multiple networks. Fragmenting a user’s network diminishes its value.

The article ends with an interesting twist – that all the social networking we need is contained in our email clients, address books, and calendars.

That is because the extended in-box contains invaluable and dynamically updated information about human connections. On Facebook, a social graph notoriously deteriorates after the initial thrill of finding old friends from school wears off. By contrast, an e-mail account has access to the entire address book and can infer information from the frequency and intensity of contact as it occurs. Joe gets e-mails from Jack and Jane, but opens only Jane’s; Joe has Jane in his calendar tomorrow, and is instant-messaging with her right now; Joe tagged Jack “work only” in his address book. Perhaps Joe’s party photos should be visible to Jane, but not Jack.

This kind of social intelligence can be applied across many services on the open web. Better yet, if there is no pressure to make a business out of it, it can remain intimate and discreet. Facebook has an economic incentive to publish ever more data about its users, says Mr [David] Ascher [a Mozilla manager], whereas Thunderbird, which is an open-source project, can let users minimise what they share. Social networking may end up being everywhere, and yet nowhere.

Everywhere and nowhere. This got me thinking about cable television providers as we move into the IP-delivery era. Clinging to the walled garden approach will lessen the value of cable distribution networks. Letting viewers aggregate content from multiple sources will be more profitable. Comcast, Cablevision, and Time Warner need only look at last decades big walled gardens — AOL, Compuserve, and Prodigy. How are they doing now?

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