Content Distribution- Where Are We Going? That Is The Question.
I wanted to introduce Laura Frankel, the newest contributor to The Monitor. Laura comes to us via Sezmi and now heads up our Content Strategy and Programming Department. Laura is a respected industry veteran who helped launch Animal Planet and numerous other Discovery Networks properties. She will be providing us with her unique perspective on the content site of the business. — Alan
I thought that for my first post with the Monitor that I would just do a little piece on how far we have come with content distribution in the past 35 years totally from my perspective. Nothing fancy… you will find that my style is very conversational and that I don’t take myself seriously at all. I am just grateful to still be in the content space and having a blast as the rules keep changing and the content owners keep trying to grow their margins.
I was just reminiscing and remembering my childhood when there were only 4 main channels and PBS. You know that was only 35 some years ago. I remember when HBO came about – OMG – you could watch movies without commercials and pretty good ones at that. I was in college when MTV was launched and I remember sitting around watching Michael Jackson’s Billy Jean video telling everyone that this channel was going to be a hit. I was so clever back then.
After college, I became a producer… and my only medium to tell stories were TV… cable or broadcast. Discovery Channel became my best friend and I ended up working for them. Then, the international cable channel expansion happened and I rode that wave for over 15 years. We were pioneers, trailblazers in a space that now almost every US operator is in. Then digital cable happened; HD; etc… ending with the dot com crash that happened in 2001 and most content owners (cable and network) licked their wounds and did not attempt to go back into the space until 2005 and with a very timid approach at that. The dot com bust left some pretty big scars and no content owner will go into a digital deal unless there is real revenue to be had. Now, every content deal has business plans attached with subscriber and growth projections.
When, I was at Discovery US and we launched TLC, we talked about the 100 channel universe and by the 90’s, we had succeeded that number. Today, the internet is our new cable frontier and we now have content when and where we want it. The average American watches nearly five hours of video each day, 98 percent of which they still watch on a traditional TV set according to the Nielsen Cross-Platform Report released in May of this year. So TV is still the main medium – however, 45% of US homes have game consoles or some connected device to allow for streaming video. And, thus the dynamic has changed once again. Where this will all lead is anyone’s guess. There are a lot of theories from a la carte programming to the end of linear channels to the whole cord cutting and/or shaving theories.
The reality is that cable and cable providers are here to stay for at least the next decade and probably longer as they recognize the shift in the market dynamics and start to offer their content on more and more platforms like HBO to GO. I just heard Fox is also offering a similar service.
For people like me who are programming in the OTT/digital space, it is a moving target – one that can literally change daily especially as various law suits over digital retransmissions get settled. I am reminded of those days when we were trailblazing in cable internationally and now we are trailblazing in digital – where it will ultimately take us, who knows – that is the question – only time will tell!
Laura Frankel, VP Content Strategy and Programming, Kit Digital