Fast-forward to the 21st century as we come face to face with the end of the television network model as we know it. We always like to give lip service to the viewer. "The viewer chooses," we like to say. But it is never as true as today -- and many major media companies, from magazines to newspapers to radio to television, are at a loss as to how to fully monetize. Not only can viewers choose, they rule.
There are many factors placing stress on the current model, such as the explosion of viewing sources and devices (many of which interrelate to each other); faster connectivity so higher quality video can be delivered almost anywhere; burgeoning consumer choice and flexibility at a lower cost point; creation of new content on the consumer side in addition to the professional side; as well as a plethora of new and finely divined data sources that challenge Nielsen's measurement currency.
About five years ago I sat across from a senior executive of a network group and told him that we needed to bulk up our Web sites, negotiate for full program rights and create unique original content for the Web, because within the next three to five years viewers would be watching television on their computer. He said it wouldn't happen because the industry could not monetize it. "Websites are just for marketing and branding the network," he said. But now it doesn't matter what we can or can't monetize. The consumer is driving this change, not the media companies.
There are too many short-term thinkers in the industry. How else to explain the crash and burn of so many once great media properties? As long as we reward short term thinking in place of long term strategies we will always be at the mercy of outside influences that reshape our industry beyond our control.
And yet, I see potential opportunities which are not short-term or quick fixes.
The future of media is filled with opportunity if we are prescient enough to take advantage of it, and cooperative enough to reach some consensus on certain issues such as measurement. Mitch Oscar of MPG has formed a committee on the latter and there are many strategic researchers at media companies who can contribute to the former, should senior management decide to listen.