The New Online Legacy Gang: Passing The Pipe Between Now And 2020

Someday, and maybe sooner than we think, the media monopolies we know and say we love (because, I mean, we work for them, or might, eventually) will be replaced by other names doing a more up-to-date version of mass media.

Hearst becomes CBS becomes Comcast becomes Google, or pick your favorite giant-type company.

Putting all that together, most recently, is Joe Espelien, senior advisor at The Diffusion Group (TDG),  who in a new report notes the drift from broadcast and cable television to Web-based giants that are on the forefront of the next content revolution.

TDG’s new 2020 Vision - Video Viewing Forecasts by Age and Service, 2013-2020 looks at emerging trends and how they might play out to the end of this decade—that’s a far forecast these days--and assesses the future for everything from broadcast networks to over the top to Web video.



By 2020, this report asserts, Legacy TV will decline by 25%, which sounds awful, but not half as bad as it really is. Because at this point, Legacy TV has already lost so much of what made it a Legacy to begin with.

Diana Christensen, the venal programmer of Paddy Chayefsky’s “Network,” stated: “All I want out of life is a 30 share and a 20 rating,” which, in those days of three-network dominance was the bare minimum constituting a hit. Now, if she could get that once, she might get a three-movie deal at 21st Century Fox when she retired. I just heard this stat yesterday: The top-rated show on TV in 1990 was “Cheers,” which averaged a 21.3 rating. Last year, it was “Sunday Night Football,”which averaged an 8.2.

Espelien’s new Big 4 are Amazon, Apple, Google, and Microsoft, which aren’t very new at all as powerful Web forces, but (with the exception of Apple) are much newer as content players.

Amazon Prime has its new Fire TV and just a couple days ago could bragged that more was streamed from Amazon than from Apple TV and Hulu—the Web site of the networks.

Google’s YouTube now hosts a bushel of sites with YouTube stars you don’t know, but your kids sure do. Google’s Chromecast is a great low-cost game changer, but wait, there’s more. Its rumored Android TV may be joining the set-top crowd soon as reported recently by The Verge.  

(Indeed, says Espelien: "Both Google and Amazon, in particular, could afford to give away their hardware if necessary in order to disrupt the industry. This fact is not lost on forward-thinking legacy operators.")

Microsoft’s Xbox has plans to roll out six shows starting this June, and reportedly has a dozen more in development. Guess who’s running that? Nancy Tellem, the former CBS programmer under Leslie Moonves.

This assault of new players fortifies Espelien’s conclusion that by 2020, the Legacy content providers that today provide 90% of what we see, will only provide two-thirds of it. (To step on my breathless prose, down to just 67% sounds like an audience even some future Little Leslie could live with. In a rapidly fragmented world, two-thirds of the pie sounds downright piggish. Opinions like this, I feel, is one of the many reasons I’m not in management.)

Espelien says, about his new Big 4, that each one is “building global ecosystems to support quantum video viewing - the multi-screen, multi-context, highly-personalized video viewing experiences.”  In short, they’re where the money is. Or will be.


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