The question has been percolating for some time. So, why not spend the holidays pondering it?
What is the definition of television these days? Is "television" still the best way to describe a Netflix-growing, iPad-booming industry? Or, is some moniker top-lined by “video” a more appropriate brand?
How about this? Stick with TV and just tell people it stands for “total video.”
Regardless, it’s time to look ahead to 2013 and the movers and shakers who could have the most significant impact on a “total video” industry. Here’s “13 for '13” in no order whatsoever:
THE DOLANS – CBS CEO Leslie Moonves has indicated he wants to acquire a general entertainment network. The Dolan family could help by selling him AMC Networks. Besides the flagship AMC, the company has several other channels that would fit nicely within the broader CBS operations. But cable networks are exceedingly valuable, so is there any incentive for the Dolans to sell now? Probably not.
ANDERSON COOPER – This probably should say “Jeff Zucker.” As the new head of CNN, Zucker isn’t likely to keep Cooper’s show on for two hours in prime time (weeknights). How much airtime Cooper will continue to get could be an indication of how Zucker may look to reverse CNN’s fortunes. Of course, the more critical sign could be the fate of Piers Morgan.
CHET KANOJIA – The CEO of Aereo, which streams broadcast channels to mobile devices in New York, has riled traditional media companies, who believe his service will deprive them of carriage and advertising dollars. The parties are in court. Kanojia, however, could offer an interesting test case in how willing cable networks are to make their content available to non-traditional distributors. Bloomberg TV has an Aereo deal, but it's an independent.
JIMMY KIMMEL – Kimmel will trail Jay Leno and David Letterman badly as he begins to go head-to-head against them next month, right? Not so sure. The race could be unexpectedly tight, especially in ratings among younger viewers. Perhaps unlike Conan O’Brien, Kimmel also has an ability to gain wider acceptance among a more mature crowd. In any case, swapping Kimmel and “Nightline” is probably an overdue move at ABC.
RINO SCANZONI – The networks want credit for four more days of DVR-enabled viewing. They want to shift the currency in national TV from a C3 to a C7 metric. More than anyone, Scanzoni, who oversees buying at GroupM, could have an influence on what happens. In an Ad Age interview, he suggested more than one currency could be employed. MediaPost’s Wayne Friedman reports ABC, at least, has done some C7 deal-making. On the surface, it doesn’t seem to make sense why advertisers would agree to a currency shift, but that’s what negotiations are for.
MIKE WHITE -- The CEO of DirecTV has been vocal on the need to reduce the costs of offering sports channels. He’s railed against the splicing of sports rights, where channels focusing on the Pac-12 and Texas Longhorns have been formed. He’s resisted carrying those two. But he was unable to steer clear of paying to carry a new Los Angeles Lakers-oriented network. How successful will he be in fighting to keep prices down on some of the most coveted content around?
JASON KILAR – The Wall Street Journal reports Hulu has yet to turn a profit. Yet, under Kilar, it seems to be an increasingly valuable asset -- Netflix has suggested it could be its most dangerous competitor. Kilar has reportedly asked its owners for a huge funding increase to acquire programming and broaden its international presence. Should he leave, other media companies would likely covet his services. His departure may also further complicate Hulu’s future.
CHASE CAREY – Not only will he captain the part of the former News Corp. without the lagging newspapers, but he’s expected to give the go-ahad for a standalone national sports network. Fox has acquired enough live-sports rights to offer a viable outlet. Carey has downplayed a Fox Sports 1 as an ESPN competitor. But Sports BusinessJournal reports a “sizzle reel” for the would-be network has regular folks carping about ESPN; the vidoe also offers up a new concept for “in-game advertising.”
KERRY SUCCESSOR – Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, who has shown an interest in legislation to cut down on the number of blackouts emanating from programmer-distributor disputes, is leaving the chairmanship of a Senate communications subcommittee. California Democrat Barbara Boxer could be in line to replace him. She represents Hollywood in Washington. Would that tilt the scales towards networks? New Jersey’s Frank Lautenberg, who could be partial to Cablevision, could also be tapped to head the subcommittee.
BILL LIVEK – Nielsen is swallowing up Arbitron, but Rentrak under CEO Livek has defied the odds to pose at least a partial challenge to the behemoth in local TV ratings. Rentrak continues to sign up local TV clients with its system based on set-top-box (STB) data. It has exclusive access to Dish Network data and a deal with the ABC-owned station group. Nielsen is moving towards launching its own system incorporating STB data, so Rentrak will have to continue to offer an attractive alternative. That's unless Nielsen moves to acquire Rentrak and the government doesn’t mind.
AMANDA RICHMAN – Want proof how much big media agencies are valuing digital mastery? Starcom has tapped Richman, MediaVest’s president of digital, to run all its media buying. That includes TV for clients such as GM and Bank of America. All told, Richman will oversee an annual budget of about $9 billion. Wonder if a notable shift towards newer platforms will ensue?
THE CORD CUTTER – Any boomlet in people dropping cable subscriptions has subsided, right? Watching the traditional bundle on the big screen is too good an experience at too good a price to cancel? Cable operators say there’s barely any evidence of any meaningful amount of cord-cutting. Yet, Bernstein analyst Craig Moffett writes the controversy is likely to “reemerge” next year and “a growing number of households are making the choice that they don’t need pay TV and obviously monthly cost enters into the mix.”
RICHARD SCHULZE – The Best Buy founder is looking to regain control of the foundering electronics chain. It’s fine for the TV industry if people keep buying new sets online or at lower-cost retailers, but the disappearance of even more Best Buy showrooms would be a blow. Is there a better place to play around with smart TVs, 3D sets and other emerging technology?