Posts about Exploding_TV

Where the TV fight goes

My first bit of advice to pissed-off Cablevision customers in New York — who’ve just lost WABC right before the Oscars — I do recommend that you switch to Verizon Fios. You won’t get it in time. It’s not perfect. But for me, it has been a helluva lot better than Cablevision: more channels, better service, better broadband, good phone service, impressive installation. Switch. It will feel good. It will feel just. I spent years sparring with Cablevision to get what I paid for and I’m glad to be rid of them.

This doesn’t mean I side with ABC in this fight. They — like Fox before them — are trying to get us to pay for free TV channels. This was a point I wanted to make at last week’s FCC workshop on the future of media: It’s no longer true that broadcast channels are free. Fewer than 13% of Americans get broadcast channels over the air; the rest of us have to pay for cable or satellite to get access and now these channels — which got our spectrum for free — are trying to charge us yet more.

Who’s fighting for us? Not the FCC.

But I think that as these fees are fought over and granted to broadcast channels and passed on to viewers — adding up to a likely $72 for New York’s half-a-dozen commercial channels — then I still think that there will be a consumer revolt and the FCC will have the cause it seems to have wanted to require a la carte pricing for cable.

Then both broadcasters and cable operators and their parent companies will get their just desserts. I will not pay for 90 percent of the channels I am forced to pay for now. That will reduce revenue to cable. It will mean that many channels will no longer be subsidized. It will kill marginal channels.

And that will open the door for internet programming. More and more TVs will be directly connected to the internet. Program creators will be able to break free of the control of cable MSOs. We’ll be watching more programming on our mobile devices and pads and computers. Fragmentation? You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

I would invest in low-cost production of, say, home and food programs that can reach sufficient critical mass online. I’d invest in niche programming — see: TWiT et al — that can reach a very low level of critical mass and sell highly targeted advertising. I would not invest in cable companies or big, old TV companies. They’re just trying to milk the cash cow before she keels over.

Surrendering advertising … killing bundling

Two things strike me about News Corp.’s battle to get cable fees:

(1) Again and again lately, the company is surrendering the advertising battle. In newspapers, it is saying that advertising won’t support its high costs and so it will sacrifice traffic and advertising the hopes of building build pay walls. In MySpace, the company handed over its advertising fate to Google and then couldn’t produce. Now in TV — which is where Murdoch fils says the future of the company lies — they’re trying to eke fees from cable operators.

(Under must-carry rules, a station can demand premium placement — which would benefit audience and advertising — or can demand a fee, but the cable company can decline to pay and carry the station. That’s the stand-off occurring now.)

(2) News Corp. may succeed at getting fees from cable operators, but I predict that will raise prices for consumers as more and more fees are passed along; consumers will be further enraged that they have to spend money for bundles of channels they don’t want or watch; and that will give regulators the cause they need to demand a la carte pricing — which will end up hurting and likely killing second- and third-tier cable channels subsidized by bundles and wil hurt cable operators as they end up charging less.

Add to this the paper-tiger nature of News Corp. threat to take Fox stations off cable. Oh, no, they taunt on crawls across the screen, you won’t get American Idol. Except we will, online, on Hulu, co-owned by News Corp. For News Corp. knows that the value of its own stations as ad vehicles is diminishing as the value of internet distribution rises. And so then this story comes full circle as News Corp. will likely threaten to charge consumers on Hulu — again, a capitulation in the advertising model.

What we’re seeing is the disaggregation of another media form. We don’t buy albums; we buy singles. We don’t buy newspapers or magazines; we aggregate, curate, and link to the best stories we like, bypassing editors’ packaging. We don’t go to bookstores to get the books the system decides to put on the shelves; we buy what we want from Amazon. We listen to radio less and listen to our own playlists more (a trend that will only accelerate as we listen to new forms of radio on our phones). Now we will end up picking and choosing TV channels and even shows, diminishing the power network and station programmers’ and cable MSO’s hold over us.

At the highest level, what we’re seeing is the death of the mass audience — and the value of distribution — and the advertising model that supported it.

I don’t think advertising is dead. I think it’s dying for mass companies with high cost structures. Advertising will shrink, as Bob Garfield argues in the Chaos Scenario, and it will migrate to new media and new forms. News Corp. knows that; every media company finally does.

So I think we’re seeing News Corp. milk the dying cash cow. Newspapers aren’t going to grow and will shrivel and sometimes die. The value of local stations is only going to shrink. (MySpace was a mistake.) So News Corp. is begging for cash wherever it can get it — from readers online or viewers on cable (via cable companies’ billing) — no matter that there’s no strategy there.

Howard Stern 3.0: The future of entertainment

We just got a glimpse of Howard Stern’s next life, I think. I was running errands today listening to a repeat of the show from this week when I heard Stern talk with a caller about what he could do on the internet. Thanks to my handy Sirius Satellite radio, I was able to – Tivo-like – back and up repeat what he’d just said and I wrote it down:

Tomorrow I could go on the internet and start my own channel with my own subscribers. You’d be able to click and watch us on TV, watch us in the studio live, streaming. You’d be able to listen to us streaming. You’d be able to get us on your iPhone. You’d be able to do everything right at the click of the internet. I wouldn’t even need to work for a company. I’d be my own company… So true it’s ridiculous.

Sounds like more than idle admiration of technology to me. Stern has a year left on his contract on satellite. He’s so valuable to Sirius, they surely will make him an offer it would be hard to refuse. But I suspect that much of his last reported $500 million contract came in stock and that stock is now worth $0.59 (I know all too well, because I own some), so continuing with satellite would still be a gamble. Besides, he has plenty of money and no divorce settlement to pay off (or so it would certainly appear). This week, he was lambasting Rush Limbaugh for ripping off his listeners selling them T-shirt; in response to a question from Gary Dell’Abate, Stern said even an extra $1 million wasn’t worth that. Could he be rationalizing a cut in pay?

On the internet, Stern would get the complete freedom he has long lusted after. He would share his revenue and value with no one but his staff. Now that we can listen to radio over the internet – on our internet-enabled phones – we can listen to him anywhere (is this why he has refused to allow Sirius to put him on the iPhone? I’m still unhappy about that). He would have direct relationships with his fans. He could charge them (and, yes, I would pay for it; he’s why I subscribe to satellite now … see, I am not a pay bigot). He could sell advertising in new ways. Fans could get him anywhere, anytime. If he’s smart – and he is – he could open up enough tidbits to go viral, letting his audience market him for free.

I wrote about Stern as a pioneer in my book. He rethought radio networks and built his own. He brought satellite radio to critical mass. But satellite radio was always a transitional technology, waiting for ubiquitous connectivity that would enable on-demand programming anywhere. (I tried to warn Sirius’ president, Mel Karmazin, here.) Now our phones can give us radio and soon Stern will be ready for them; they will make him portable.

There’s a larger trend at work here: Entertainers (radio, music, comedy, books, columnists, even filmmakers) will have direct relationships with their audiences. Like Stern, they won’t have to work for companies or go through them for distribution. That’s already happening, of course, on the web for creation, distribution, and monetization. That idea is even extending to funding. Look at Kickstarter – a Spot.US for creativity – where your most loyal fans who most want you to make something can fund or invest in it, maybe for nothing more than the privilege of helping you (this is the Wikipedia ethic). It returns to the age of patronage, only now the kings don’t fund the artists, the public does and less money is wasted on middlemen.

Maybe this is all wishful thinking. I’ve been dreading Stern’s retirement (but I think so is he). So I’m hoping that he makes the leap to the next generation and that others will follow his example. Am I reading too much into his conjecture about the internet? If I am, I’ll bet Karmazin is, too.

: Tim Windsor adds in the comments: “Sounds like Howard needs to make a pilgrimage to Leo Laporte’s TWiT Cottage to see how this can be done professionally for surprisingly little money.”

Right. Leo shows it all: how to do live video with chat and also distribute across many platforms.

A newspaper’s life-and-death struggle, played out in a new medium

At the Star-Ledger’s new LedgerLive daily news show from the newsroom (unofficial motto: It’s not TV, damnit), we are watching a big, old paper fight for its survival as it announced buyouts and a possible sale. And the grand irony is that we’re watching this even as the paper reinvents itself in a new medium: online video. The new show and the momentous news about the newspaper came in the same week.

I was in the newsroom on Friday to watch LedgerLive being broadcast and I heard the staff talking about the paper’s and their future, of course. Some of these folks are going to be, well, independent in the fall if they elect to take the buyout and it comes off as announced.

But what struck me listening to them is that they are not prepared for that independent life. I was looking at this from the perspective of being both a former newspaperman who did find a new life in the academe and elsewhere and from the perspective of now being a journalism educator. It is vital that we prepare journalists for this new and independent life or we will lose their journalism. Preparation, to me, means both training – it’s a great thing that Ledger print people are making video in the Rosenblum Method – and setting up an infrastructure to help them create sustainable journalistic enterprises if at all possible. The first factor is why I’m trying to establish a continuing education program for professionals at CUNY. The second is why I’m holding a summit for new business models for news there. That’s my perspective.

I thought the journalists there would benefit from hearing from someone who found life after print and so I suggested to the Ledger’s digiczar, John Hassell, that they get hyperlocal postergirl Debbie Galant to make a video for an upcoming episode of LedgerLive. It didn’t turn out exactly as I’d predicted but it did turn out the start of an entertaining discussion that captures the life-and-death questions journalists across the country are facing now.

Debbie’s message aired on Tuesday from her (very nice) garden in metaphorical PJs:

Baristanet weighs in on The Star-Ledger

On today‘s LedgerLive, reporter Carol Ann Campbell responded in her PJs:

A clip from Ledger Live 08-06-08

Unfortunately, this reprises an us-v-them, pro-v-am rivalry. Fine. Let’s get that out of our system.

And then I’ll challenge Deb to come back and now share her secrets with her still-ink-stained peers: How do you find life after print, Deb? What would you advise a print journalist in the post-print era to do? And I’ll challenge Carol to imagine a new world where she might operate independently. It’s hard but it may be very necessary.

Uh, is that camera on?

I hope I’m not the last to discover this: Harry Shearer complies great off-air moments of Laura Ingraham being a complete itch. If you’re a Howard Stern fan and you like those moments from Orson Welles ,William Shattner, and Jessica Savitch having snit fits, then you’ll love this.

I have seen the future and it’s in Jersey

The Star-Ledger in New Jersey just broadcast its first live, daily noon news show on the web and I’m delighted to report that it bears no resemblance to television. That was the point.

Ledger Live – 07-28-08

When my friends and former colleagues at the paper told me they wanted to create a show, the one thing I begged them to do was not emulate local TV news. Please, God, anything but that. They had the opportunity to create something new and break all the stupid conventions of TV news. But how?

This is the only contribution I made to the project: I introduced them in Michael Rosenblum and the chemistry was a thing to behold. Rosenblum sounds like Gilbert Gottfried in both accent and bluntness (which is not all that different from how the paper’s editor, Jim Willse, sounds; they bonded). The Ledger folks showed him some video they’d made. He was impressed, so far as it went; photographers are good at shooting video. Then they showed him the TV studio they had built and he growled: Why would you want this shit? No, the story is in the newsroom. That’s what a newspaper is. So do it there. So much for the nice studio.

Rosenblum and his partner Lisa Lambden came in and taught more than a dozen staffers how to make stories the Rosemblum way — that is, without its stupid conventions (no B-roll, no noddies, no stand-ups, no establishing shots; just show me and tell me the damned story). And then they worked with the paper’s digital seer, John Hassel, and editor, Jim Willse, and others to create the format of the daily show.

The idea from the start was to have somebody in and of the newsroom and after auditions they found a perfect reporter Jersey-guy host, Brian Donohue. He just talks with you and they show the stories the thing-formerly-known-as-a-paper’s new video journalists have made. In the rehearsals he has also been interviewing people in the newsroom via a TV screen; I’d rather have him just sit down with the real people and talk. But that aside, I think the tone, style, and content are great.

I like the show but what I think is more important is bringing a new video culture into the newsroom with Rosenblum playing Obama, telling them, “Yes, we can.”

Here’s Hassell’s blog post about the show. Heres Rosenblum’s.

: Later: Lost Remote and its commenters got snarky about the show and I snarked back (see comment #28). Let’s get this straight, people: Local TV news sucks. It is no model for what newspapers or anyone should do in video online. It’s cheesy. It’s unbearable. I’m delighted that local TV news priests don’t like what the Ledger did. That’s best indication of success I can imagine.

National Public What?

I’ll be speaking to the Public Radio News Directors this Saturday in Washington and I’ll want to bang all the heads together and make them repeat after me: “We are not radio. We are not radio. We are not radio.” Just as newspapers are not paper, or must figure out what they are after, so NPR must decide what it is after broadcast. I said this to them a few years ago when I spoke to the group in St. Louis and then again when I joined others to talk about new media at NPR’s headquarters. My prescription then:

NPR is not radio. If I tell newspapers they have to stop thinking on paper, so I’ll argue that NPR must throw off the limits of its medium. And I don’t just mean that the can go multimedia, adding photos or videos to their sound. I mean changing the culture, not thinking like a radio network anymore so thewy can see the options the internet opens up to work in every appropriate medium with entirely new kinds of content, from TV to data bases.

I’m seeing the notion of thinking past radio discussed now thanks to the death of one of public radio’s attempts to modernize, Bryant Park Project. It was, as far as I’m concerned, the better of the attempts; the other, The Takeaway, is floundering, earnestly but uncomfortably. NPR apparently doesn’t know what it means to modernize. They seem to think it means losing their legendary polish and releasing their inner “uh’s” and “y’know’s.”

The problem, I think, is that they didn’t understand what the essence of NPR is. They thought it was radio, so they tried to come up with new formats and formulae for radio. But that’s not what NPR is.

Rob Paterson, the very smart consultant who advises NPR, says of the BPP folding:

I think a couple of things are becoming more clear to me. The show was seen as a Radio show with a strong social web element. This is I think the key error that drove the costs and the expectations. If you want to do the new today – you have to break away from the costs of the machine – if a paper, no press and no paper!

I would have launched BPP as a web show with a bit of radio. No small distinction.

He talked about the cost of it, as did John Proffitt. Radio’s also not cheap. And then Rob comes to the bottom line for National Public (Radio):

Just as the presses and the paper is a cost that is killing the Newspapers, so the transmitters are killing TV and Radio. All that can remain for a while are the established shows such as ME and ATC. But if you want some thing new that will scale and make you money – it’s the web all the way.

But again, what is it that moves to the web? And how? What’s that essence of NPR? That’s what I asked the Guardian. It’s what every media organization trying to reinvent itself must ask. What are you saving? What is your appeal? What is your value? What are you?

This afternoon, I happened to be talking with Adam Davidson, part of the team that created that incredible This American Life/NPR News show explaining the credit crunch. On Twitter, Jay Rosen said this was the best explanatory journalism he’d heard. I responded that it was the best I’d heard or read. If The Times had explained the story this well, it would have made it as radio so in their voices we could hear — as someone said in another tweet — their incredulity. So it was great radio but that was merely a choice of media. It wasn’t the essence of it.

So I asked Davidson how he defined that essence. He thought about it and answered that it’s about shows that, at the end of the week, make you say, “Oh, that’s what it’s all about. Now I get it.”

I like that and that essence can be communicated in audio, video, text, graphics, apps, discussion. The intelligence of NPR can now be freed from mere radio to use any and all appropriate media. That’s what we try to teach our students at CUNY: making media choices with every story. So should NPR.

What do you think the essence of NPR is?

Tear down the broadcast towers

My most striking realization since getting my iPhone (love it, thanks for asking) is that radio is doomed. Pandora is a wonder, creating my own radio station, live and on the fly without need for a broadcast tower. CBS is streaming all its stations over the cell network but when I told my wife this she kept asking, “Why would I want to listen to a CBS station?” That’s not the point, I huffed; we don’t need broadcast towers. OK, she said, but I still don’t want to listen to CBS stations. So count that as two strikes against radio. Digital radio? Heh. Satellite radio? I’m paying for it and I want Howard on my iPhone.

And then there’s TV. Comscore just said that Americans watched 12 billion videos in May, up 45 percent over last year. Say that again: 12 billion. It’s a mass medium, still: the mass of niches comes to life.

Some more video stats: Google has a 35 percent marketshare. Fox is a very distant second with 6.4 percent. Huli debuts at 10th place with 0.7 percent, but I’ll bet it will rise quickly. More:

* Nearly 142 million U.S. Internet users watched an average of 85 videos per viewer in May. Google sites also attracted the most viewers (83.8 million), who watched an average of 50 videos per person.
* 74 percent of the total U.S. Internet audience viewed online video.
* The average online video viewer watched 228 minutes of video.
* 82.2 million viewers watched 4.1 billion videos on YouTube.com (50.4 videos per viewer).
* The duration of the average online video was 2.7 minutes.