On his new HBO show “Last Week Tonight,” John Oliver took on the issue of net neutrality and wondered where it was all going, with big digital media companies -- Google, Facebook, and Netflix -- cozying up to big TV-media companies like Comcast and other cable companies as well as telco companies, to get better connections and improved speed for their customers. And this would leave others in the slow broadband lane. Oliver likened Comcast to the big monopolies -- and worse. Pointing out a chart showing the slow Netflix download speed suddenly rising after a Comcast-Netflix deal, Oliver said: “That has all the ingredients of a mob shakedown.”
But Oliver isn’t alone. Recently Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert of “The Colbert Report” has been railing against Amazon for its treatment of Hachette Book Group, which published Colbert’s book.
In an attempt to renegotiate ebook pricing, according to Colbert, Amazon has been making it harder for customers to buy Hachette books -- something Amazon has done on and off with a number of publishers previously. This includes removing pre-order buttons and putting books on backorder for weeks on end.
Colbert said he wasn’t “just mad at Amazon -- I’m mad Prime.” Later on, he gave the finger to Amazon -- twice!
Some of this isn’t new. Over the years David Letterman has gone after big media as well, characterizing many TV executives, especially the ones at his former place of work, NBC, as a bunch of “weasels.”
So if consumers are worried at all about media consolidation, leverage and power, they will increasingly get reminders of those issues from familiar TV personalities. Does this affect how consumers feel about these brands? Not so much. The much maligned “cable guy” (the installer) character has been the subject of mockery for years. But the cable industry hasn’t been hurting much, even considering the modern day cord-cutting of long-time customers.
And with the fractionalization of TV audiences, more of these media brand “earned” messages won’t amount to much -- like screaming while a long, fast train passes by. Still, we can at least laugh if the message is delivered by a comedian.