As a subscriber to the print version of the New York Times, I saw an ad on Super Bowl Sunday with the visual of two TV sets side by side, each tuned to an american football game, with one titled “$1.2 Billion,” and the other “Free." The headline stated “It’s The Same Game. Why The Big Price Difference?” It was signed by the American Television Alliance, an organization that I wasn’t familiar with, whose subheading states “A Voice for the TV Viewer.”
As excited as I was to see possible advocacy for TV viewers, I was also confused. I wondered whom the ad is aimed at. What is it about? Who paid for it? And if it’s in the interest of TV viewers, why does it complain about premium content delivered for free? Most cord-cutters under 40 would be thrilled to get the Super Bowl live on their iPad or smart phone.
On its website, the American Television Alliance identifies 36 partners: 20 cable/satellite/telecom/ broadband system operators, including Cablevision, DIRECT TV, Time Warner, Verizon and AT&T; six cable networks including Discovery; six cable/satellite/broadband trade associations and four advocacy/public interest/open Internet organizations. It also makes a convincing case for its single issue and reason for being: to convince the Federal Communications Commission that retransmission consent fees (payments TV distributors make to broadcasters) are subject to out-of-date rules governing fees and negotiations. This, the website points out, has recently led to record numbers of TV blackouts for consumers and dramatically escalating fees.
Since my focus is on the next business model for MIA (multiplatform, interactive, advertising-supported) T/V (television/video), I confess I’m not much interested in how parties try and rework the past or even current models for linear television. I, do, however support the ATA’s right to address, communicate and raise awareness of the issue. Everyone has a right to make a buck fairly, right?
I’m just hoping that the time, money and energy that these companies and organizations are spending against the declining linear business model are matched by R&D and promoting dialogue on how the current explosion of technology options will create and deliver future revenue and customer satisfaction.
I challenge the idea that the American Television Alliance is “A Voice for the TV Viewer.” When I contacted a spokesperson for the organization, he said that in using this phrase, the Alliance means it only for this issue.
When I first saw this ad, I was excited about the idea of an association, alliance or advocacy group that would advance the collective interests and desires of the next generation of T/V consumers. But after spending several hours of research to clarify and understand the “who” and “why” of this ad message, I ended up frustrated by the confusion and distraction it creates against the primary challenge of how this industry is going to get to the right business model. How many like me are even remotely motivated to find out what’s really being said and by whom?
So here’s a couple of additions to my growing wish list for things to get us to a potentially brilliant new business model for MIA T/V, which as the acronym implies, really is missing in action today:
1) How about a powerful advocacy group for T/V consumers, not pushing political, business, social or any agendas other than building the best way(s) for viewers to get the content they want with the least amount of ad interruption, and at the lowest possible cost?
2) Wouldn’t it be great to see some old-style, Bell Labs-like R&D effort focused on business models for MIA T/V, with full, transparent and complete disclosure of the who, what and why of it, and thoughtful insights and implications to guide all parties toward a prosperous future?