The State of Television:A Big-Picture Look

Some leading D.C.-centric thinkers weigh in on the opportunities for TV in a dynamic marketplace filled with choice, innovation and plenty of challenges
Author:
Publish date:

jeggerton@nbmedia.com | @eggerton

TELEVISION IS CLEARLY AT A MAJOR CROSSROADS. As the FCC prepares to reclaim spectrum, video is moving increasingly to other platforms and cable operators are deciding how to transition to TV and broadband and data and voice everywhere. No one is really sure what it will all look like once the dust settles.

But to get a clearer view ahead of the first NYC Television Week Oct. 28-30, presented by B&C, Multichannel News, Next TV and the National Association of Broadcasters, Washington bureau chief John Eggerton asked some D.C.-centric policy makers and shakers to weigh in with their takes on the current state of TV.

The result is a mélange of many things: of enthusiasm for the continued promise of the medium, of concern over clouds on the retrans front, of optimism about the opportunities to change with the times and with technology, and of caution about keeping all those exciting new opportunities accessible to everyone. An edited transcript follows.

GORDON SMITH
President and CEO, National Association of Broadcasters


Broadcast television is a great business, as evidenced by the continued popularity of our mostwatched programming and our surging stock prices in the last 12 months. But we are not immune to threats from competitors or from challenges in Washington.

Washington Smith


Continued success depends on smart, pro-innovation decisions at the station level, and rational policy decisions from Congress and the FCC.

Spectrum is the seed corn of broadcasting. That’s why the NAB has been fully engaged at the FCC in implementation of the spectrum auction legislation. It’s critically important that the vast majority of TV stations that choose to remain in business are held harmless after repacking.

Our view on retransmission consent is simple: Broadcasters deserve fair compensation for our most-watched programming. We also want our pay TV partners to succeed, which is why it’s disappointing that Time Warner Cable, DirecTV and Dish are seeking to undermine the free market retransmission consent process by manufacturing a crisis of their own making.


 Why This MattersWith the TV industry on the precipice of great changes, powerful Beltway figures will influence the paths it will take.

It is imperative that broadcasters seize opportunities presented by new technology that will create new revenue streams and lay the groundwork for future growth. We think the world of tomorrow is both broadcast and broadband, and that there is simply no way broadband’s “one-toone” transmission architecture can ever replace the lifeline, “one-to-everyone” role of local broadcasting.

MICHAEL POWELL
President and CEO, National Cable & Telecommunications Association


The power of technology and the seemingly insatiable consumer appetite for video content are remodeling television. Video is flooding into every crevice of American life, becoming as ubiquitous as the Web, surfacing on nearly any screen with an Internet connection.

Washington Powell


Internet streaming will combine with stores like iTunes, as well as on-demand services and DVRs, to give consumers an enormous amount of content to navigate. Live coverage of important events also will continue to enrich content choice, quality and accessibility.

Meanwhile, we’ll see content of every stripe being produced and distributed to the eyes and ears of those with unique interests. Individuals will make videos in their basement and have them speed virally around the world, while large studios simultaneously produce compelling stories in visually arresting formats. Social network platforms will expand the TV conversation and make it more contemporaneous.

Channel lineups will be personalized to the actual viewer, and recommendation engines will tailor and modify content choices to your preferences. Program guides and other consumer tools will move to the cloud, vastly improving the pace and quality of innovation. This transition will greatly strain existing video models. We in the industry will have to work through it together.

SEN. MARK PRYOR (D-ARK.)
Chairman of the Senate Communications Subcommittee


The video marketplace has expanded dramatically with the rise of online video and new challengers to cable and traditional broadcast.

Washington Pryor


This dynamic marketplace presents challenges to existing providers and new entrants. We need to continue to ensure that video content of all forms and platforms is accessible to all Americans, including those with disabilities.

That was one of the motivating factors behind my Communications and Video Accessibility Act.

As always, it’s important that consumers, and especially parents, are able to make informed decisions as they navigate the video marketplace.

GREG WALDEN (R-ORE.)


Chairman of the House Communications Subcommittee

Washington Walden


Television today is so much more than the three national networks we watched in the living room of my youth on our small black-and-white set.

Today’s television viewers have unprecedented content choices, the freedom to take their content over the Internet and on the go, and an increasing number of ways to make the television experience interactive.

As we sit at the intersection of television and the Internet, it’s an exciting time as every day brings new opportunities for the industry and their viewers.

MATTHEW M. POLKA
President and CEO, American Cable Association


With retransmission consent fees spiraling out of control, TV-station signal blackouts hitting new highs and $100 billion in new sports costs blitzing all pay TV customers, who can credibly claim that the state of television is good? Not me.

Washington Polka


Shame on CBS not only for blacking out millions of Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks video customers for 32 days, but also for cutting off millions of those companies’ broadband subscribers from CBS.com—even broadband customers who took video from another [multichannel video programming distributor]. And Turner Broadcasting deserves equal shame for pulling TBS network from ACA member Cable One just as the Major League Baseball playoffs were starting. Enough is enough.

I’m not ready yet to call for the introduction of the Affordable Cable Act. But if enlightened industry leaders fail to supply angry consumers with legitimate options, such as the ability to say, ‘No, thanks’ to the TV sports and programming cartels, no one should be surprised if ESPNcares starts to build steam on Capitol Hill.

GARY SHAPIRO
President, Consumer Electronics Association


The first time I saw an Ultra HD display, I was blown away. The Great Wall of China looked like it was just out of reach—even though it was 6,000 miles away.

Washington Shapiro


The rise of ultra-high-definition TVs, featuring four times the display resolution of today’s already outstanding HD screens, is another exciting advance in consumer technology.

At the 2013 International CES, more than 40 Ultra HDTV models were on display. By 2016, CEA estimates more than a quarter of TVs measuring 55 inches or larger will feature Ultra HD; by 2017, that figure is expected jump to more than 50%. As this next generation of TV technology takes hold, content creators must rise to the challenge. A new report by IHS Electronics & Media predicts that by 2025 there will be more than 1,000 available Ultra HD channels. Just as TV broadcasters delivered on HD channels in the last decade, Ultra HD will transform the home theater experience, offering consumers the most immersive viewing experience yet.

JESSICA ROSENWORCEL
FCC Commissioner


The digital revolution has made its way to television and the ways we create, distribute and consume content are changing. Consumers are no longer limited to what is on, but look for video content when they want it, where they want it—on any screen handy. The numbers clearly demonstrate this change. Today, American consumers watch an average of 2 hours and 40 minutes of time-shifted television every week. On top of that, consumers now watch an average of 40 minutes of Internet video each week. Going forward, these numbers are only going to grow.

Washington Rosenworcel


Still, with all this change, it is remarkable what remains constant. Today, consumers watch 34 hours and seven minutes of traditional linear programming every week. This is stunningly similar to viewing habits as far back as 2005.

So what do these numbers tell us? We like television. It has a unique power to educate, entertain and enrich lives. But we live in transitional times. New and old forms of media coexist—and consumers rely on both. So while this is a challenging time, it is also exciting, because there are more platforms for creative output than ever before and more options for consumers than ever before—and that is something we should celebrate.

JAY ROCKEFELLER (D-W. VA.)
Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee


At its best, quality television programming can entertain, educate and enrich lives. The past two decades have seen the emergence of additional competitors, like satellite television, and an explosion of programming options.

Washington Rockefeller


But I remain troubled by other trends, such as ever-escalating bills and limited ability to choose programming. We must continue to look for ways to make the video marketplace more consumer-centric. That is why I am encouraged by the emergence of online video, which promises greater consumer choice, lower rates, and hopefully, better content.

We must also all remain vigilant in protecting our children from exposure to violent or questionable content that could affect their well-being. I take this incredibly seriously. We all should.

Related

Big Voice for Small Operators

ACA president Matt Polka discusses ACA’s successes, programming challenges and why cable needs to be a constructive part of the violence conversation