Commentary

Has Online Gone To War Against TV? Is 'TV Everywhere' Dying?

Such excitement. The last few days have been so noteworthy, starting with HBO’s announcement, and then CBS’, that they would start standalone streaming services, and continuing with the Adobe/Nielsen alliance that, essentially, creates a better online measurement tool for advertisers.

Online video has a new momentum--almost like an unorganized marketing campaign. I hate the term, but online video is...trending.

Now this. At a luncheon for broadcast and motion picture engineers in Los Angeles yesterday, Mark Aitken, vice president for the ginormous Sinclair Broadcast Group, told the group that new delivery modes, like OTT, are eating away at the television business, and if broadcasters don’t get their act together, “it will be a sorry state of affairs 10 years from now, if we are still around.”

The account, reported at TVNewscheck.com, was full of fear, trepidation and paranoia and whether that’s good for the business or not, it’s an interesting, and revealing temperature check since Sinclair either owns or manages 164 stations in 79 markets and has a reputation for saying what others just seem to mutter about.

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Well,  Aitken didn’t mutter. 

According to an account at the TV Technology Website, he said,  “War has been declared. Google has declared war on the TV ad industry. If your competitors believe they’re engaged in war with us; if we don’t acknowledge that, we’re going to lose. They are decidedly after what we’ve got… viewers, advertisers, content… they after making lots of money.

“You see a massive migration of content to the Internet; to the wireless industry. If you’re a content producer, you’re doing the right thing, looking for a distribution platform that generates the most revenue.

“I ask… why is it not a status quo that content isn’t coming to broadcasting? We exist as islands. We don’t function as an industry. The broadcast industry really has to unite, at least in a virtual sense. So what can we do to become a viable competitor in the marketplace?”

Mostly, Aitken was pointing to legislative and regulatory roadblocks that he thinks leave broadcasters at a disadvantage, but he also noted that broadcast management also has a technological disconnect between what’s on the air now, and what’s possible. “We believe broadcasting is being marched, quite literally, to the cliff,” Aitken told the crowd.

If that’s the view of one influential broadcaster, consider the latest take on current events from MofettNathanson Research newsletter, which took to commenting on the tone and substance of  last week’s Time Warner investor day (the one where the HBO stand-alone service was announced).

“The ultimate irony of Time Warner’s investor’s day last week was that after years of leading the charge to protect the wall around [the] pay-TV ecosystem, CEO Jeff Bewkes showed up a with a sledgehammer,” Nathanson wrote, adding, a sentence later, “We think Time Warner has now shifted its view from doing what’s best for the industry and the ecosystem to what’s best for their company...So what does this mean? For starters it’s clear that Time Warner’s support for the TV Everywhere initiative has waned. Though TV has slowly improved over the last few years, the technology has remained cumbersome at best with the user experience across various distributor platforms uneven, to put it mildly.”

And like Aitken in his own way, Nathanson says the message from Time Warner was that OTT is where the action is headed, and out of business is where a lot of cable networks should be headed. The MoffettNathanson newsletter quotes John Martin, Turner Broadcasting’s CEO, more or less predicting it: “There are too many networks in existence today in the United States. We would not want to be an owner of a small niche marginal network...One of our competitors has 14 networks that are below the top 60 [in ratings]. Goodbye.”

pj@mediapost.
2 comments about "Has Online Gone To War Against TV? Is 'TV Everywhere' Dying?".
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  1. John Willkie from EtherGuide Systems, October 22, 2014 at 3:33 p.m.

    Mark Aitken did not speak at a conference of "broadcast engineers." It was the annual conference of the Society of MOTION PICTURE and TELEVISION Engineers, an organization of which I am included as a member. In this context, "Television" does not mean broadcasting; indeed, the keynote that morning was delivered by Chris Fetnera Netflix engineering executive.

    This low-wattage article (and even the TV Newscheck yarn it was cobbled from) do not do the address justice. Mark's luncheon address is available at this link (skip over the first 36 or so minutes https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eo2JidrJO7U

    For future reference, "broadcast engineers" (many of whom consider themselves "TV engineers" meet in April.

    John Willkie, a broadcast engineer

  2. pj bednarski from MediaPost.com, October 22, 2014 at 4 p.m.

    My mistake, obviously. I know better and shorthanded it. I will go back in and correct it. Thanks.

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