Broadcast is dead. Long live broadcast!

Its good to be the king

It's good to be the king

With this week’s announcement of NBC falling under the same corporate umbrella as NBCU’s cable empire (Bravo, Syfy, Oxygen, MSNBC, CNBC, the list goes on…), broadcast television is dead. Where there has always been a dotted line between the profits of the NBCU cable empire and the losses of NBC Entertainment, there’s now also a dotted line between their content production divisions. How long will it be until Universal Cable Productions folds into Universal Media Studios? I’ll set the O/U at a year. Then, the only thing differentiating NBC from its cable counterparts will be its news division (which, by the way, is already branded as MSNBC…the name of the cable channel. Try going to http://www.nbcnews.com).

And yet, the broadcast model of ad-supported media is as strong as ever and is poised to become even stronger as it becomes fragmented and attached to content. It’s not news that advertisers have generally become more content-focused as they’ve invested in digital content, whether it’s Nestea’s investment in CTRL or Microsoft’s sponsorship of The Guild. It’s almost a throwback to the birth of TV: the Colgate Comedy Hour, Texaco Star Theatre.

The difference now is content comes with a distribution outlet attached to it (you know, the medium is the message and all that). Digital content is increasingly becoming aesthetically tied to the medium in which it’s being presented. Not every web show is meant to live on YouTube or Hulu; some are better viewed on iTunes or through Xbox Live, or even in their own complex interactive environments. On top of that, it’s become clear that for a show to be attractive to sponsors, producers are being held responsible for protecting the way brands are presented by ensuring the brand message isn’t diluted or otherwise changed by anything around it. In other words, if your show is sponsored by Kodak, you can’t put it on YouTube for fear their algorithm serves a Fuji ad right next to it. The solution? Create your own site to distribute your content, a site you can design to be Kodak-branded. This is still the broadcast model for media, it’s just fragmented. Today, creating a web show can be likened to starting your very own network. Which means you can sell your very own ad inventory.

On top of that, you’re free on the web to do something TV producers would only die for: you can take your existing content or create new content related to your main show/network and sell it to other people at the same time! Premium content centers like YouTube, Hulu, and blip.tv have huge user bases to tap into and distribution deals with platforms you might not have made agreements with. Think of these guys as the CBS/ABC/NBC/Fox of the digital world – places that don’t produce content themselves necessarily, but sell advertising around acquired content. They’ll increase the reach of your content and can drive traffic back to your main site for your advertisers. So you can sell or just post for free smaller pieces of your content to these major content centers, almost as marketing for your own network. If it’s a hit, the big guys make money, you as a producer make money, and your sponsoring brand makes money as traffic is driven back to your site.

So the broadcast model might be dead on television, but it’s essentially just gaining an extra dimension online with the ability for content creators to create and own their distribution channels. We’ll see the standard licensing model applied to the big guys, as it was to the four major broadcast networks. But the smaller networks focused on single shows will be able to take advantage of their control of their distribution and make another revenue stream out of it.

Leave a Reply