We Need an Online Model, And Fast
NBC's Marc Graboff, Warner Bros.' Bruce Rosenblum, CBS' Nancy Tellem and John Wells of WGA tackle the question of free streaming at B&C/Multichannel News event
By Stephanie Robbins -- Broadcasting & Cable, 11/30/2009 2:00:00 AM
One size does not fit all. That was the message from executives discussing the future of TV's business model at a B&C/Multichannel News event Nov. 17 in Los Angeles.
The breakfast panel discussion, moderated by B&C Editor-in-Chief Ben Grossman, was titled “Free Streaming: Killing or Saving the Television Business?” Panelists were Marc Graboff, chairman of NBC Entertainment and Universal Media Studios; Bruce Rosenblum, president of Warner Bros. Television Group; Nancy Tellem, president of CBS Network Television Entertainment Group; and John Wells, president of the Writers Guild of America, West. They agreed that the TV business is in flux, and that the trick is to distribute content in a way that serves consumers and allows content providers to extract value.
The panelists further agreed that the events of the past year have clarified the urgency to create a model for online viewing that dissuades viewers from cord-cutting, is measurable, and presents content in branded environments compatible with the TV networks that distribute it.
“The dollars that go into cable MSOs and satellite help support basic cable nets and help support us [the supplier],” Rosenblum said. “We don't want the consumer to stop paying for cable. It feeds the ecosystem that pays basic cable, which pays us for repeats.”
The measurement of viewing on digital video recorders (DVRs) and its potential effect on the economics of the business was another key point. The panelists expressed hope that the recently formed Coalition for Innovative Media Measurement would shed light on the issue.
“None of us is getting compensated for time-shifting on DVRs,” Graboff said. “It's a huge leak in the bucket.”
The panel also touched on authentication as a potentially successful model—but authentication will likely not become a viable business for a few more years. The technology is already in place, and Comcast is expected to roll out its authentication play in December, but the plan is still in its infancy, with most content partners taking a wait-and-see attitude.
Despite the increased emphasis on digital strategy, the executives stressed that their quarter-to-quarter focus remains on the core business of making and distributing top-quality programming. But the group acknowledged the need to work quickly to identify new economic models.
Wells expressed concern that “a technology may hit the market before models shake out,” while Tellem pointed to Web-enabled TV sets that promise to expand consumers' already numerous viewing options.
No one claimed to have the answers, though all of the panelists said they know the question is theirs to tackle.
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