Is Media Moving Toward 'Free,' Or Are Prices Rising?

There's more media content and entertainment everywhere for consumers. Shouldn't the price be dropping?

One report says it's the exact opposite -- that theatrical movie prices, book prices for Kindle, pay areas for newspaper Web sites, and new Internet video subscriptions -- like the one coming from Hulu -- all mean media prices are rising.

Jeff Zucker, president/CEO of NBC Universal, makes no bones about it. Content isn't free; someone has to pay for it. While advertisers will contribute, consumers will certainly remain a factor. He says there is a growing problem of the after-market -- that networks pretty much get one run to monetize a show and that's it.



There is also, of course, the push by cable operators for  "TV Everywhere,"  in which, if you're not a cable subscriber -- or for that matter, a satellite subscriber -- you will be paying for content online.

That big tome called "Free" from Wired editor Chris Anderson tells us just the opposite. In the big picture -- on a supply and demand basis, with growing and faster moving technology -- prices for some content should be dropping to near-zero. History has shown us that -- even back at the turn of the 20th century, when it came to selling razors and disposable blades.

As it concerns the media, many of these projections are based on a new stream of advertisers -- as well new metrics for advertisers -- that would help to support all this free stuff.

But media content providers can push buttons with consumers. If something is truly free, there might be some guilt attached to that -- or, alternatively, the feeling that some stuff is truly worthless.

Consumers know there is always a kicker -- even if one is not completely apparent at the time. For decades consumers paid $20, then $30, then $60 a month and more for cable subscription packages. 

Now, those under financial duress -- a small minority of the entertainment-paying population overall -- are abandoning their cable/satellite subscriptions, moving to "free" content areas like Hulu -- still predominantly free for the near term -- and other video services like YouTube.

But free isn't forever. Yes, Gillette can still give away men's razors for free and then charge $20 for a small package of disposable blade refills. Comcast doesn't charge anything for most of its video-on-demand content -- yet continues to push for consumer fees for a broader range of premium TV and movie content.

Two different trends keep going: More media and entertainment content, as well as more of it competing with one another, and more people willing to pay for it.

If the laws of supply and demand don't seem to apply to entertainment and media, it may just mean we don't fully understand the capacity of consumers. Media owners don't always get it as well.

3 comments about "Is Media Moving Toward 'Free,' Or Are Prices Rising? ".
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  1. Chris Vinson from Vinson Advertising, August 3, 2010 at 6:01 p.m.

    Great article! What we are seeing is lower costs of production due to the new hi-def cameras and the lower cost of running an editing studio. The cost per on-air ad may come down but what is going up is cost-per-thousands. I remember when the people who were not paying attention to it were paying $10 CPM's and we would be at $2 - $5 in certain demos. & dayparts but now we're still at $5 and they'll be at $40 with a lower cost ad than before so they think they are doing great. Best of luck to all!

  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, August 3, 2010 at 6:07 p.m.

    With cable and internet bills and cellular bills easily reaching $200 per month - for those arithmatically challenged that's $2400 per year - for the average family income of about $30,000 per year gross, these costs will ensure the those who don't have will keep them down on the farm.

  3. Jeff Einstein from The Brothers Einstein, August 4, 2010 at 8:46 a.m.

    What free media? A guy could go broke on all this free media, and as a society all this free media is bankrupting us in every way imaginable...

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