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Networks have closed-in from 50 miles to within 50 feet of competing directly with their local affiliates. Affiliates must take the full plunge into news or be pushed into oblivion. 9/10/07

Posted by Steve Boriss in Uncategorized.
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A report from the New York Post ought to send a chill down the spine of every local TV affiliate. This fall, their networks are pushing aggressively to place more of their fresh programming on the web. Downloadable. On-demand. Free. Embedded with advertising. And, across as many platforms as possible, such as YouTube, iTunes, Yahoo!, AOL, MSN, Comcast, MySpace, Joost, Bebo, Sling Media, and their own sites. For affiliates, every viewing of such material will be an audience member lost and ad revenues denied. Networks are completely running around the network-to-affiliate-to-household broadcasting system that has supported local TV affiliates for decades.

Local affiliates once had a profitable lock on that “last 50 miles” that networks could not bridge between their long-range transmissions to metro areas and the short-range broadcasts into households. But now that networks can stream their content directly into households over the Internet, what is keeping them from completely eliminating the affiliates as middlemen? Two things. First, most households do not yet have sufficient bandwidth and systems to handle large video files, particularly those in high definition. Second, it is less pleasant to view web-based entertainment that relies on “lean forward,” PC technologies (small screen, keyboard/mouse) than “lean back,” TV technologies (large screen, relaxing in a living room environment, remote control in hand).

No doubt the bandwidth problem will be solved sooner rather than later through some combination of increased throughput and buffering technologies that finesse download times. And technologies that bridge that “last 50 feet” between PC’s and TV’s are almost at hand. What will be left will be superior on-demand TV from networks vs. inferior, old-fashioned appointment viewing (in-person or TiVo) from local affiliates. So, the only foreseeable solution is for local affiliates to transform themselves into masters of their own fate as full-time creators of original content, which for most means local and hyperlocal news. The networks are encroaching. The clock is ticking.

Comments»

1. Walter Abbott - 9/11/07

By the end of this decade or shortly thereafter, television ‘networks’ as we know them today will cease to exist. After the ’08 elections, network evening news broadcasts will go dark and the news divisions will be disbanded

2. Steve Boriss - 9/11/07

Walter, Here’s a thought… How long might it be before networks as we know them do not exist at all — for news or otherwise? If advertising is embedded in the programming itself, can’t investors that are independent from networks develop shows and distribute them themselves, as they do with movies?


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