How Many More OTT Services Can the Market Bear to See, or Wait to See
For about the last two decades, a lot of people have bashed the idea of big, and even little media conferences. Why go there when you can have a conference via Skype or myriad other
teleconferencing sources? That's the logic. Most of that logic originates from the offices where the men and women count beans.
But life, I've discovered, is a people business.
So put together a bunch of executives in a faraway place, and shove them into the proximity of each other, and funny things happen. You may recall this summer, at the annual Allen & Co campfire, that Disney’s Roger Iger and News Corp’s Rupert Murdoch shared a toasted marshmallow and got to jawing and discovered, by god, that they were crazy for trying to sell Hulu. So they didn't.
Last week during Advertising Week and at a a Goldman Sachs media conference, the outer rooms of conference halls were filled chardonnay and CEOs who were now trying to figure out if Sony or Intel were really serious about starting their own online TV service.
I mean, everybody’s doing it. Target stores just started one. Redbox, pretty obviously, likes to go whereever Netflix has cleared a path. Amazon and Apple and more are already there. DirecTV is mulling it over. So Intel was headed there, with its OnCue, and Sony supposedly is still in that market with a product that is so unknown that I think last week it was featured on Sony-produced “Wheel of Fortune” under the heading, “Things That Make You Say ‘What’?"
“All” an OTT provider needs is product and license deals. That’s what the experts say. Clearly, it’s more than that, or will become so when the Over the Top biz really spreads out into providing programming that 1) many, many people will pay for and 2) many,many more people will disconnect from cable to get instead.
Unfortunately, as lousy as cable service can be—Comcast raised my bill from $181 to $207 last month without a peep of explanation—it is still how I could watch the last episode of “Breaking Bad” live, as it were. (I spent the much better part of the day watching the Wild Card games on MLB.com on my computer, so if I could just break the meth habit, look at the money I could save.)
Cord-cutting is happening but it’s going to take one of those services above to overwhelm us with their own better deal with cable networks or some other exclusive something. Yet as The New York Times reported today, “most remain subscribed, knowing it is hard to switch providers and believing the others are not much better, anyway.” What will probably happen is that the next mass distributor of content will be bad or unfair or massively overpriced in their own, new way. Progress marches on.
For right now, the option is to slug it out, or like Iger and Murdoch finally concluded about Hulu while frying up some Spam over the campfire, maybe it’s best to do nothing and take what you can get.