Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Media, Netflix, CBS All Access and the Future of Broadcast Television

I've never done this before, but I'm actually going to reprint a discussion clipped from Facebook. For background, last week Star Trek: Discovery debuted on CBS All Access, a streaming service created by CBS to host their content. The unfortunately acronymed show, ST:D, is the first major series by one of The Big Four networks to be created exclusively to promote their new online streaming service.

Needless to say, a lot of people were pissed about this. After all, no one wants to pay $8 a month to watch on new Star Trek series.

So, I was bitching about it online with the mob, and this discussion happened, which I thought might be of interest to some of you.

Mike Mitchell: Right now, CBS sees that cable and traditional Network television are dying. This is a very desperate attempt to latch on to the streaming dollars out there. What they don't realize is that this is doomed to failure because their service offerings are too narrow. Unless they ripped open their entire back catalog of every CBS series that exists, and pulled them off of other streaming services, people are not going to pay for this. And even if they did do what I just said, they still probably wouldn't pay this much. $1 or $2 a month? Possibly. A buck an episode for this one new Star Trek series on iTunes? Probably. But eight bucks a month for a service that has almost no content that interests me? They really are delusional on this one.

Shawn: Ultimately in 10-15 years while there still probably will be some broadcast stations those that haven't gone under will be on life support questioning when advertising dollars will fall so low as to not justify staying open.

Launching a successful streaming service is the future. They could license their content to others, but the middleman will cut into their profits.

Mike Mitchell: Hey, Shawn, I hope you forgive me for the long post. I agree with you in principle, and you may very well be right. But looking at how broadcast has transitioned in the past, I tend to think you're wrong about there only being some broadcast stations "on life support" in the future. My model for this is drawn from the transition that radio (which was dominant from the 1930s thru the early 1950s) made when television supplanted it as the primary medium for entertainment in this country in the latter part of the 1950s. Specifically, radio had sitcoms, dramas, sports and variety shows that literally walked from radio to TV (Jack Benny, Gunsmoke, Perry Mason, and too many others to name). In fact, a lot of radio shows thrived up into the 1960s. When sitcoms, dramas and soap operas left radio, those were dire times for the industry.

But then along came FM radio in the 1960s, and the modern (and still thriving) music stations were born to take advantage of the high-quality sound. At that time, everyone predicted that AM would wither and die... but it didn't. Along came Talk Radio (which isn't just right-wing politics, but includes Do-It-Yourself shows, car shows, technology discussions, financial planning, and doctor call-in shows). Suddenly, AM could (and does) make a LOT of money.

So, I think you are right in one regard: The Broadcast Station AS WE KNOW IT will probably be gone in 10-15 years. But something else will fill that void. Maybe more sports? More Public Access style programming? Probably more crappy Reality TV and TV Judges (unfortunately). It may even bring back the return of the low-cost game show.

Here's why I think CBS All Access (and most other single-source content providers) will fail to launch successful streaming services. PRICE. Most people are "cutting cable" because of the cost. Yeah, a lot say it's that there's lots of content that they don't want to see (my buddy in Seattle has no idea what channels Nickelodeon, Disney or Cartoon Network are on; I have no idea where ESPN is or when football is on a network) and are bitter about being forced to pay for it.

Now, paying $9.50 a month for Netflix is a good deal. I get American shows, Star Trek, British crime/cop shows, and a decent selection of movies and old comedies. My wife and I also like some of their original content.

Looking forward to the show, but not the cost of adding
CBS All Access to my monthly expenses
I just glanced at the CBS Prime time Line-up. The only shows I watch are: Big Bang Theory, NCIS, and NCIS: LA. Three shows. If you add Star Trek: Discovery, that makes 4. There is NO WAY I can afford to pay $8 a month to watch only four shows. And if ABC does it, too? $8 a month just to watch Inhumans, Modern Family and Agents of SHIELD? Ummmm. No. Now throw in $8 for the PBS Channel through Amazon Prime (my wife likes old BBC shows and Masterpiece). Oh, and NBC (for another $8)? All I watch there is The Good Place and Superstore. So, if each "network" comes up with its own streaming channel, we're suddenly up to $32-$56 month? Toss in Netflix or Hulu? I could easily wind up paying $70 for ala cart channels that don't get what I get now. This is why I think they are going to price themselves out of the market. People who are already cutting cable due to its cost are NOT going to pay similar costs for less content.

Finally (and wow, I've been going on a long time), I can't help but remember that Comcast (where I live) owns the cable that most people use to get Internet. All they need to do is start charging more for bandwidth and suddenly cable TV might start looking more affordable.

Thanks for bearing with me. I don't know why I got on such a roll tonight. I guess this is just stuff I've been thinking about. In the end, I think you're right that Broadcast TV as we know it probably only has 10-15 years left. But I do think they will be there – I just don't know what type of programming they will have, or what their primary role/status will be in the evolving media marketplace.

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