Commentary

Yahoo! Decides To Change Course On Traditional TV Content

Yahoo is making a good choice when it comes to TV shows--avoid them. Specifically, shun TV shows that look like TV shows.

Lloyd Braun, head of Yahoo! Media Group, an ex-chairman of ABC Entertainment, says Yahoo has gotten religion, and in shifting gears has put former ABC projects such as "The Runner" on hold.

Here's what he told the New York Times: "I didn't fully appreciate what success in this medium is really going to look like," he said. "This is not about creating one-off hits like in my old business. That is not going to create a sustainable competitive advantage over the long term."

He's right. If regular 22-minute shows (also called half-hour shows in TV land with advertising) or 44-minute shows (also called hour shows in TV land with advertising) are reproduced exactly the same for the Internet, users will look to other media venues.

Shorter-length user-generated video and video blogs are seemingly the Internet's forte. As the Internet and mobile phones, PCs, Macs and iPods exist now, standard TV originated entertainment fare will be a dreary activity if we are watching "Yes, Dear" or "Scrubs" on our portable devices while sitting in a doctor's waiting room.

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A similar parallel could be drawn to cable TV. Cable started with a lot of promise in the early 1980s. But the reality is that cable programming--other than a few rare series from HBO--really isn't much different that programming on other TV distribution systems. There are off-network reruns, some original drama content, low-rent talk shows, and sports. Cable still looks like its older brother--network television.

Back in the early 80s, the promise of cable was that it would outdo network--on all levels, both creatively and from a financial point of view. After 25 years, it hasn't. Who would have thought that over two decades later, the average network TV show would still have higher ratings that any cable show--or, for that matter, any syndicated show?

Which brings us back to the Internet. Does it really want to be the next cable?

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