Editorial: Studios, Networks Are Urged to Converge

Jul 6, 2008  •  Post A Comment

The big boys are getting into the convergence game, pushing toward a day when the living room TV acts like a personal computer and vice versa.
The list of names pushing this agenda is noteworthy: Sony, Google, Apple, Microsoft, Netflix. And cable operators such as Comcast are well positioned to marry their Internet-access business with their TV delivery service.
The content companies that create the shows that will be flitting between the desktop and the 60-inch flatscreens are still hovering in the background. It seems they’re waiting for Web video’s iPod moment, to crib a phrase from Solutions Research Group analyst Kaan Yigit, when migrating content between devices will be easy and painless.
But studios and networks will be getting a rather late start if they wait for that iPod moment to occur. Not to tread too heavily on Chicken Little’s turf, but content creators and distributors across traditional media such as broadcast television need to contemplate the day when “Lost” and “American Idol” aren’t competing only against “Paradise Hotel 2” and “Farmer Wants a Wife.”
They need to contemplate the day that they are competing against the vast cacophony of YouTube videos, a cadre of increasingly well-produced Web shorts and whatever other forms of entertainment leap from the Web to the TV. When that happens, it’s not unreasonable to assume that ratings for traditional shows will drop even faster than the current downward trajectory is carrying them.
Traditional programmers’ ultimate bulwark against fragmentation of audience has been that television advertising still amasses a far larger audience than any other medium, making it the best value for marketers who need vast reach across the country.
But what if suddenly “Wainy Days” from MyDamnChannel.com is on the living room set, drawing a “Seinfeld”-sized audience?
One option, of course, is to go out and buy that content when it appears poised to go big. Of course, many Web creators may eschew the traditional TV deal if they’re making it on their own, doing it by their own rules, without interference from pesky executives.
It may be wise to chart a more aggressive course. Studios and networks would do well to start acquiring and incubating promising Web talent now, staying out of the creative process, and recouping what it can of that minimal investment through Web advertising.
The effort probably would amount to less than a rounding error on the income statement, and might position programmers for success in a world that promises to turn upside down.


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