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Is the cable industry self-aware enough to pull its own head out of the sand?

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head out of the sandI sat in on a panel on ‘All Video All the Time’ at Digital Hollywood in New York last week. This spurred a heated debate with super smart cable folks who hold measured but contrary points of view on the inevitability and speed of the web/TV convergence.

Executives from BlackArrow, Nielsen, MobiTV and StrawberryFrog appeared like a consortia for ‘nothing is changing anytime soon’ in the cable and network content worlds.

Underneath their strong beliefs that cord cutting wasn’t really happening, that the free internet can’t handle the network video streams, that true connected TV as mainstream was a decade away and that the current model of high-priced bundled content packages was to the consumers advantage, were some really smart folks with deep knowledge but who couldn’t think their way to a changed future.

Honestly, I was impressed by their articulation of the complexity of content and distribution contracts, the funding paradigms for hit cable shows and a whole world of legacy broadcast lore and data that I was clueless about.

But…and this was my heated debate with them, once you connect the TV to the Internet you are ushering in a web world. It may take some time but the beginning of change is starting.

On the web side, everything moves at racecar speed. Everything is democratized and reborn over and over again. On the cable side, they work in geological time and speak to the changes that would be needed as ‘tectonic shifts’ that can’t even be imagined.

The truth lies somewhere in the middle. It’s not going to take decades and change is already happening. Look at Apple TV and Google TV and Boxee.  But the answer to the question of how to finance MadMen or True Blood in a per episode, streamed, non cable TV reality is still the next frontier for understanding.

We agreed that we don’t know the answers to this. We disagreed that the only way is the way it is now.

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