Old Media in a New Media World

I’m really getting tired of seeing this whole soap opera played out over and over. Aging industry doesn’t adapt to changing times and consumers. Consumers take it upon themselves to change. Aging industry gets mad at consumers and continues doing what they were doing for the past 50 years anyway. We’ve seen this story before, with the record labels and the RIAA, now we are seeing it all over again with the television networks.

The way we consume television has changed so much over the past few years. We are no longer slaves to the network schedule. Heck, we are not longer slaves to the televisions themselves. It is a new world out there. We have devices that can record up to four shows at once. We can watch TV shows on our phones and stream them from our houses to watch at work (not that we do that of course), and we can type in a web address and watch them for free on the internet. I think the point here is that we, the consumer, have more control than ever before over what, when and how we watch content. The studios and networks don’t like that very much.

Some of their gripes I can agree with. It is much harder to determine ratings when everyone is watching content via a DVR or downloading a show from iTunes, but should the consumer be punished because the network doesn’t have a fast an accurate way to record that data? No. For a while some networks were hesitant to jump on board with the “give users the content they want” model. NBC even pulled out of iTunes at one point because they wanted more money per download. What did the consumers do once NBC pulled out? No doubt found other ways to watch the content, such as illegal streaming sites and illegal downloads. Months later they came back with their tail between their legs and allowed their content back in the store.

The studios have taken some moderate steps forward with licensing deals to download TV shows on iTunes and Amazon, as well as deals with Hulu and Netflix to stream content to your computer, mobile device, or television. But they don’t always get this right. Take Hulu Plus as an example. A lot of people were outraged to find that you still have to sit through advertising on a paid subscription. This wasn’t what I thought was the craziest part of their plan. You can subscribe to Hulu Plus and get more episodes and more seasons of some TV shows. But wait, that’s only if you watch on your computer. If you want to watch on a TV, that interferes with their TV licensing deals so not all the Hulu Plus content will be available to watch on your TV. What kind of shit is that? Say what you will about Apple and iTunes, but at least they are trying to pull the networks and studios into the 21st century, which brings us to rentals.

Fox and ABC partnered with Apple to bring TV show rentals to the iTunes store. It is about time something like this happened. For years consumers have been craving the opportunity to get their content a la carte. My contention is that if consumers could have gotten this a lot sooner you wouldn’t see the amount of piracy for TV shows that you do now. Not all networks were on board I think this is going to hurt them in the long run. NBC (seriously, do they ever get anything right?) has said that iTunes rentals devalues their content.

” We do not think 99 cents is the right price point for our content. We thought it would devalue our content.” – Jeff Zucker

Yes, that is the same Jeff Zucker who is stepping down as CEO of NBC and who has had a string of failures since being named CEO. Let’s go ahead and chalk this comment up to another one of his many misfires.

Now Warner Brothers has given their reasons as to why they won’t participate, stating that the pricing of rentals are too low and would have hurt sales of full seasons. First off, the people who are going to buy a season of a TV show are people who really like the show and are going to watch it over and over. They are still going to buy the full seasons. The people who are going to rent the shows are the people who only want to watch an episode once or twice… ever! I don’t see how rentals of a TV show could possibly hurt sales of full seasons. Secondly, you’re just encouraging people to find alternative means to watch that show that they could have spent a mere $.99 to rent. I no longer have HBO. I would gladly pay $.99 to rent each episode of Boardwalk Empire instead of trying to find an alternative way to watch.

So when will the networks finally learn that they can no longer tell us what to watch, when to watch, and how to watch? Will they ever learn from the RIAA? Or will they see the RIAA’s grasping at straws by suing anyone and everyone as a viable future for their content as well? I hope they catch on quicker than the RIAA and see that they are no longer the ones in control. In this case, the consumer is right and we will consume on our own terms, not theirs.

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