Is fear of the Internet one of the drivers of the Comcast-NBCU deal?
For those who have a vested interest in the way video is currently delivered to consumers, one of the things that keeps them up at night is the havoc the Internet brought to the traditional models of the music business.
One of the questions yet to be answered is: Despite the lessons the video players have learned from their music industry brethren, and the various countermoves they’ve instituted to prevent the same fate—from Hulu to the forthcoming various TV Everywhere plans—will they be successful?
One of the more thoughtful pieces on this subject appeared in the Dec. 6 Los Angeles Times. In a column titled “Coming Soon: Internet via TV," David Lazarus talks about the vision of the future as seen by the Federal Communications Commission. As he says, “if this plays out as the Federal Communications Commission envisions, the world as cable companies know it will radically change, making the potential synergies of the Comcast-NBC deal all but obsolete.”
Lazarus cites two moves by the FCC.
One is the FCC’s move, last week, seeking input as to whether it should require all set-top boxes, to “work with all networks, whether run by cable, satellite or phone companies.
On top of that the FCC appears committed to making sure that “broadband Internet access is available to virtually all households.”
Later in the article Lazarus says where he thinks all this will lead us: “…here’s the nightmare scenario for bulked-up telecom behemoths such as Comcast—you’ll go online via your television and watch shows and movies at free sites like Hulu.com.”
Of course if the Comcast deal goes through, Comcast will be an owner of Hulu and can prevent that from happening.
But, as Lazarus then says, “…even if online video content providers charged a fee for access, chances are it would still be cheaper than what you currently pay for programming packages that typically include dozens if not hundreds of channels you never watch.”
Of course one would expect Comcast and its powerful video provider brethren would come up with schemes to evolve yet protect its business.
The question, ultimately, is whether or not technology will allow them to do that. For example, Lazarus looking not too far into his crystal ball prognosticates, “What, for instance, would there be to stop some box manufacturer from combining cable/satellite readiness and Internet access with a TiVo-like recorder that requires no extra fees? In a word, nothing.”
The gauntlet has been thrown. Can technology be tamed? #