Walking the halls of the NAB Show this week and talking to other attendees, I was constantly reminded that the TV industry - both networks and local stations - is in transition from "what was" to "what will be."
"What was" is well understood: an economic model built over a 50+ year period through a carefully managed, geographically-demarcated distribution network of local stations that until recently held a de facto exclusive right to distribute high-quality programming. This model worked extremely well for both broadcast networks and stations as they tapped into surging advertising budgets fed by Americans' insatiable consumption habits.
As the great consumptive bubble has burst, the broadcast industry's troubles have come into full view. In fact, with every single element of the traditional model now under attack, it is obvious that "what was" is fast-yielding to "what will be." The problem is that "what will be" is still incredibly ambiguous. Having informally taken the pulse of others at the NAB show this week, the picture that emerges is one of deep concern that "what will be" may be radically different and not necessarily very attractive.
For networks the key challenges are monetization and sustaining program quality. DVRs and ad-skipping have significantly eroded the on-air ad model. As for online distribution, as I've written, there is a huge discrepancy today between what a broadcast network earns when its programs are viewed online vs. when they are viewed on-air. For many skeptics, the likelihood of networks ever achieving economic parity between the two outlets is remote. These skeptics believe a new business model, likely based on subscriptions, is inevitable.
I continue to return to the simple fact that as network program viewership shifts to online, maintaining revenue parity is essential to sustain the cost side (i.e. program development) of the business. If ad revenues come up short then the traditional Hollywood production system will be punished. And the program quality issue is all the more urgent since increasingly popular cable TV programs keep peeling eyeballs away.
For local stations the situation is far more complex, and I believe insoluble in the long run. That's because their monetization challenges are much deeper. Limited primarily to local advertising categories that have been hit disproportionately hard by the recession (e.g. autos, retail, real estate) and the shift to online advertising (e.g. classifieds), local stations must find new ad sources to survive. But where these will come from, in a size that matters, is unclear.
Then there's the fact that the news/sports/weather content that has been their bread and butter has been eaten away by online alternatives. And last but not least is the reality that the broadcast networks, which have embraced all manner of alternative program delivery options, have all but gutted stations' prime-time value.
Add it all up and I for one am stumped at where local stations go from here. Massive consolidation, including possible mergers with their local newspaper brethren, to radically rationalize the newsgathering process in local market, seems more and more likely to me.
The sobering reality that two of America's great industries - automobiles and newspapers - are on their way to oblivion should be a big-time wake up call to broadcasters that a sense of permanence can in fact be illusory. At the risk of sounding alarmist, I think the survival of the broadcast TV industry in its traditional form will soon enough be in question.
What do you think? Post a comment now.
I'm en route to Las Vegas today for the annual NAB Show where I'll be moderating 2 panels tomorrow. There's lots of news coming out of the show. Probably the highest profile announcement yesterday was from Adobe, which plans a new press to get Flash onto TVs.
If you're at the show, or coming in for it, my 2 panels are:
11:15am (Wed) "How TV Broadcasters are Capitalizing on Broadband Video"
3:30pm (Wed) "How Syndication is Powering the Broadband Video Era"
Both panels will be in the "Content Theater" adjacent to the "Content/Commerce Pavilion" where many industry companies will be exhibiting (e.g. Brightcove, Limelight, Electronic Arts, Akamai, Kyte, MGM, etc.) Access is complimentary by clicking here, and entering code "X104" Hope to see you there!
I'm pleased to be partnering with NAB to moderate 2 panels at the annual NAB Show in Las Vegas on Wednesday, April 22nd. Access is complimentary by clicking here, and entering code "X104"
The first panel, at 11:15 am is entitled, "How TV Broadcasters are Capitalizing on Broadband Video" with the following panelists:
The second panel, at 3:30 pm, is on one my favorite topics, "How Syndication is Powering the Broadband Video Era," with the following panelists:
I hope you're able to join us, as both panels are sure to provide lots of great information. The panels will be in the "Content Theater" adjacent to the "Content/Commerce Pavilion" where many industry companies will be exhibiting (e.g. Brightcove, Limelight, Electronic Arts, Akamai, Kyte, MGM, etc.) Exhibiting opportunities are still available, so send me an email if you're interested. Hope to see you there!
With the Broadband Video Leadership Evening now behind us, I'd like to turn your attention to three upcoming panels that offer lots of education value.
First, if you happen to be in Boston, or find yourself here next Monday night, March 30th, I'll be moderating a session for MassNetComms, entitled, "Is Convergence Finally Here? Web Video and TV Get Ready to Collide." We have a great group of local Boston-area companies and executives on the panel:
All of these guys are on the front lines of the broadband/mobile video evolution, and will provide tons of market insight. The event is from 5pm - 8pm including networking time. Registration is here.
Then on April 22nd, I'm pleased to be partnering with NAB to moderate 2 panels at the NABShow in Las Vegas. Access is complimentary by clicking here, and entering code "X104"
The first panel, at 11am is entitled, "How TV Broadcasters are Capitalizing on Broadband Video" with the following panelists:
The second panel, at 3pm, is on one my favorite topics, "How Syndication is Powering the Broadband Video Era," with the following panelists:
I hope you're able to join us, as both panels are sure to provide lots of great information. The panels will be in the "Content Theater" adjacent to the "Content/Commerce Pavilion" where many industry companies will be exhibiting (e.g. Brightcove, Limelight, Electronic Arts, Akamai, MGM, etc.) Exhibiting opportunities are still available, ping me if you're interested. Hope to see you there!
I'm excited to be partnering with NAB for its annual show in Las Vegas April 18-23. NAB is putting an emphasis on broadband content in a new "Content Commerce Pavilion" in the Central Hall. There will be a great mix of exhibiting companies including Akamai, Brightcove, Electronic Arts, Limelight, Volo Media and others. Adjacent to the pavilion will be the content theater, where exciting back-to-back panels, demos and presentations will be held. I'll be moderating two sessions, one on what broadcasters are doing with broadband video, and the other on the syndicated video economy and how it relates to broadcasters.
I've excited to share that VideoNuze has partnered with the National Association of Broadcasters for this year's NAB Show on April 20-23. For those not familiar with the NAB Show, it's an annual gathering of 100K+ industry professionals in Las Vegas. NAB has been steadily beefing up the show's focus on broadband and content in recent years and this year I'm helping strengthen it further.
I'm pleased to be organizing and moderating two panels at the show, one on the "Syndicated Video Economy," and the other on broadcasters' broadband video initiatives. I'll have more details on both soon.
Both panels will be held in the "Content Theater" right on the show floor. NAB has organized an exhibit space called the "Content Commerce Pavilion" right outside the theater for broadband-oriented companies. The focus is on content owners, aggregators, online syndication, distribution, advertising, blogging services, UGC, gaming technologies, CDNs, news, video search, DRM, social networking, content management and publishing tools.
Recognizing that budgets are tight and also trying to emphasize informal learning/networking, NAB has laid out the pavilion with compact exhibitor kiosks that are geared to demos and discussion. The pavilion is meant to be turnkey and affordable ($4K) for exhibitors.
I think it's going to be an exciting space for broadband-focused companies and attendees to concentrate their NAB Show time and attention. If you're interested in learning more about exhibiting, contact me or Kelly Alexis at NAB (firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-775-2526).
Hope to see you there!
To get a sense of how grim these last two weeks have been in the local broadcast TV industry, do a quick scan of the "Stations" section of TVNewsday, one of my favorite aggregators of broadcast-related news. Layoffs are rampant as stations are buffeted by the economic slowdown, which has only added to their long list of woes, topped by declining network ratings, massive audience fragmentation and steady migration to online/DVR viewing.
I've long thought that local broadcasters are among the most vulnerable industries in the digital era, as broadband has created many similar challenges as the Internet itself created for their local newspaper brethren. Back in April I wrote in "Broadband, Broadcast Converge at NAB" that local broadcasters needed to reimagine their businesses to capture opportunities broadband offers beyond their local geographies. The urgency needle is now in the red zone. This industry's fundamentals have permanently changed.
What do you think? Post a comment now.
Any question you may have had about whether the broadcast and broadband worlds are converging would be put to rest after spending a couple of days at the NAB Show being held in Las Vegas this week.
This year's NAB Show heavily emphasizes content in a technology-transformed world. For starters, NAB has set up "Content Central" a showcase section in the Main Central Hall featuring a cluster of new media vendors. Within the Content Central area is a specially created "Content Theater" where back-to-back discussion panels run throughout the show, including one I'll be moderating this morning entitled "Broadband Media Workflow: Hitting the Viewing Window," with executives from MTV, CTV and Akamai.
Elsewhere at the show, there are numerous sessions with titles like "The New Hollywood! A New World of Entertainment!", "TV 2.0 - Video When, Where and How You Want It" and "Video Search for Unlimited Channels." In short, NAB has gone full throttle toward content, which in my opinion is a very good thing. That's because a key NAB constituency, local television broadcasters, have seen their market positions impacted by broadband, particularly as network TV programs are now widely accessible online. Broadcasters today are feeling the beginning of what local newspapers have felt as the Internet's use has become pervasive.
But by elevating the focus on content, NAB is helping local TV broadcasters better understand how broadband presents opportunities, not just challenges. With strong expertise in video production, deep local roots and longstanding advertising relationships, local TV broadcasters are in some ways actually well-positioned to benefit from broadband.
The key challenge for local broadcasters is to take a fundamentally different view of their businesses. No longer constrained by their local market's boundaries, local broadcasters can play on a bigger stage, distributing compelling content to viewers living thousands of miles away. One syndication example, between CBS's stations and Yahoo, already generates over 13 million video views per month, all incremental to those at CBS's own site.
NAB's focus on content in a technology-driven world, follows a similar focus by the Consumer Electronics Association and NATPE at their respective shows over the past few months. Taken together, local broadcasters are being given many opportunities to understand the changing video landscape and how to profit from it.
I'm heading off to Pebble Beach on Sunday morning, where I'm delivering one of the keynotes at the NAB Futures Summit (a small executive-level annual gathering) there, entitled, "Profiting from Broadband Video's Disruptive Impact".
We released a report in Q4 '06 analyzing the broadcast industry's (both networks and local stations) broadband video initiatives, and one of the report's key conclusions was that local stations' broadband efforts are all over the board. Many have embraced broadband video big time, while others are still at the starting line. I'll be sharing thoughts on how broadband is transforming the video distribution value chain, and where local stations' most attractive opportunities lie.
Unfortunately, my golf shoes are not making the trip with me...hopefully they will next time!