Tag Archives: Outlets

It Sucks When You Stop Showing Up To The Party And Nobody Cares

After a ten-day blackout of Viacom-owned cable networks on DirecTV, the sides finally announced this morning that they have come to an agreement. It may be a while before it is absolutely clear what the real impact of this standoff was. During the blackout, there were measurable elements that fluctuated but the real ramifications could be much more than ratings or stock prices. It wasn’t surprising that Viacom took the position that they were in the driver’s seat or that DirecTV engaged in a publicity campaign to ensure that its viewers believed that the negotiating stance was there for the consumer.  What was enlightening was the general ho-hum response by the general public and the nod to what the future holds – both in entertainment outlets and negotiating tactics – as the multitude of choices in channels and consumption platforms is not just a cliché but a reality.

Courtesy Deadline.com

First off, what I found interesting is that the DirecTV subscribers are not in Viacom’s wheelhouse demo. From a non-scientific analysis, it would seem that the majority of the people who are paying for DirecTV are not the ones who are the target for much of Viacom’s offerings. The assumption is that the kids are interested in the Nickelodeon and MTV channels and they aren’t paying the bills. But that’s obviously not entirely true as the bigger issue for Viacom is that there are so many ways to consume the content. They went so far as to remove the online episodes of the grown-up or bill-payer shows (such as Jon Stewart’s Daily Show), only to make those available days later. But, there’s not much new product in the summer to drive demand or viewership. My kid loves a Nick Jr. show, but there were enough episodes in the DVR that she had no idea there was a blackout – let alone have any clue what it means.

Besides the opportunities that consumers have to find content elsewhere – (DirecTV has a whole array of extras that allows viewers to watch content through YouTube and similar online outlets on the TV) how can the sold advertising be allowed to not be shown? The quick-response viewership decline that Deadline pointed out – “Live, full day ratings in the target demos for its channels were down 27% in the week that ended July vs the same week last year – the previous week, before the loss of DirecTV, they were -14%” – only tells half the story. If advertisers are able to, they’ll capture how much of an effect the loss in advertising had on their actual sales.  Perhaps the biggest losers are studios who are trying to promote their films to the key movie-going demo watching Viacom’s channels. But, again, the timing is bad – I don’t know that the demand for the next Batman film is lessened because DirecTV viewers couldn’t see the spots on a few of the many more outlets they access regularly.

The worst by-product of this for Viacom, and perhaps even DirecTV, is that the absence of something provides an opportunity for people to find alternatives. The timing of DirecTV’s addition of Disney Jr during the blackout opened up eyes to the possibility of an alternative for any child who couldn’t get their Nick Jr fix. If the loss was to something outside of the media environment, can anyone be so sure that they will come back?

I’ve been in Paris during a strike by the Metro and museum workers. My feet killed me from so much walking and I ate very well as an alternative to museums, but there is no doubt I would be returning once the trains were running.  Disruption in access to a few channels leads to much less discomfort than the loss of transportation. Viacom and other content providers and carriers should keep that in mind as they threaten tactics like this in the future.

The hardball tactic is fine from a negotiation standpoint – with its true business value debated. But, the risk to the ultimate bottom line of consumer’s interest is a different story that nobody can ill-afford to take lightly. Because, if you’re not around, there’s no certainty that anyone will really care.

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Facebook as Media Hub – Going Too Far?

In a world of expansion in media outlets, formats and hardware, will we ever go back to single (or even a few) points of connection?  It seems like Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook are doing what they can to make it so.

In Ben Sisario and Miguel Helft’s NY Times article, Facebook is Developing Ways To Share Media, it seems to be pointing to their strategy of making Facebook the end-all-be-all for social networking, media consumption and even transactional interactions.  The article focuses on “in the know” comments at the time of Zuckerberg’s participation at eG8 that Facebook is looking to make it easier for users to post and share media – video, news, music, etc.

The article quotes Zuckerberg:

“Listening to music is something that people do with their friends. Music, TV, news, books — those types of things I think people just naturally do with their friends. I hope we can play a part in enabling those new companies to get built, and companies that are out there producing this great content to become more social.”

Zuckerberg and Facebook have already made huge inroads in online gaming, have stated the belief that they will change the very nature of email and have successfully introduced a new form of currency in Facebook Credits.  They are obviously extremely intelligent, in a position of strength, know the social media world – and ready to take over the world all from the lovely confines of Facebook.

The question is, do we really want everything all the time in one place?  Will I want to do my social networking at the same place that I watch TV or pay bills?  This kind of interaction is already in play for those who use their computers for everything, but to think of it being the same for a site like Facebook is both exciting and tremendously concerning.  When we developed FoxPop for 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, we incorporated Facebook Connect into the service so that users could be connected in multiple ways all at once, but it was two-screen interaction and the amount of interaction was up to the user and the information collected was next to nothing – and certainly nothing close to violating privacy.

If Facebook were to become a media hub, the beauty would be that you could essentially and effectively consume that same media on your computer, mobile product, TV and who knows what else will come later.  On its face, that’s pretty cool. But what would come with using one hub or solution for all media – especially from a company that has a track record of questionable concern for users’ privacy.  If they were the outlet for all of your media, can you imagine what they would know about you and what they could then sell to advertisers?  Don’t get me wrong, I understand and appreciate the pluses to this for advertisers AND consumers, but when could it be too much?

To me, the beauty of media today is that people are free to consume it in most any way they want.  It is great that people can listen to music via CD, (MP3 or equivalent) or even vinyl if so inclined.  They can, and should, be able to see a movie in a theatre, on Blu-ray/DVD, VOD or streaming on TVs, Mobile or other.  To have that choice is great and only good for all of business.   What really is at stake here is what happens to flexibility, quality, diversity and privacy if we were to all move to one place like Facebook as a hub for all of our media.  I would certainly be happier if it were easier to control my privacy settings on Facebook – or even if they were to be more content-producer-friendly with their specs – but that doesn’t seem to be in the offerings for the near or distant future.

I’m definitely not a fearful person or a fear-mongerer in the least, but at what point is Facebook going too far?