Category Archives: Media

Post #18 – Pandora buys a radio station. Now the fun begins.

Pandora has announced it’s buying KXMZ-FM in Rapid City, South Dakota. Their reasons are primarily to do with music licensing as explained by Pandora General Counsel Christopher Harrison (link to story). But the end of the article is the part that’s most interesting to me: “Pandora excels in personalizing discovery and terrestrial radio is experienced in integrating with a local community. We look forward to broadcasting our personalized experience to the community in Rapid City, an area where over 42,000 residents already use Pandora.”

As I mentioned in a previous post, I think the integration of Pandora (and maybe the coming Apple Radio or Spotify), with local radio personalities, news and information is the future of radio. Added to that will be smartphone, mapping and in-car integration to give listeners a complete experience that’s geo-aware and inherently social.

Sound like a lot? It’s all well within the reach of current technology and programming. Here in Boston, it could offer Matty in the Morning on KIIS-FM with whatever music you like and commercials targeted for the individual listener. Information like weather and news would be on-demand and traffic could be geo-aware so you’re only alerted to situations that relate to where you are driving.

It does require listening over an Internet stream, but that obviously hasn’t been an impediment to Pandora’s 70 million users. Car makers are falling over themselves to put wifi cellular Internet into their newest models. Mobile carriers are equally excited by an extra cell device in every car. You can see the benefits of connecting mobile users if you drive with Waze (which might get bought by Google if Apple or Yahoo! don’t wake up).

Waze tracks the speed and location of its users to produce increasingly accurate traffic condition reports. It also allows them to input things like accidents, construction and speed traps, which instantly show up on everyone else’s maps.

Connecting cars like this will raise the hackles of privacy advocates, but the flip side is the possibility of tremendous benefits in traffic management. How many times have you sat at a traffic light that wasn’t smart enough to know the no cars were coming the other way? Collectively, millions of times a day.

Pandora is also important because it does a really good job of exposing listeners to new artists and music, based on their existing favorites. This is not something radio does a good job at and hasn’t for decades.

All in all, the reinvention of radio will be good for everybody except those stations which don’t do it.

Post #17 – If you think on-screen promos are the work of the devil, raise your hand.

Ad-supported TV has a death wish. It wasn’t enough to overload programming with an unwatchable number of commercials. Now they are ruining good dramatic programs and movies with pop up animated graphics promoting other shows.

What moron decided that this was acceptable? What other morons decided the first moron was right? There seems to be nothing stupid that these people won’t do to convince us that the only TV worth watching is on HBO, Showtime, Starz and the other pay channels. Oh, and maybe PBS.

Now that consumers are skipping commercials, as well as promos, with their DVRs – and for good reason – programmers are desperate to put largely irrelevant promos right over dramatic programming. No thought is even given to where in the program it appears, not that there really is anywhere it should be.

Would they allow this in France? Where is the collective outrage from the creative community? Does J.J. Abrams like the fact that NBC is ruining Revolution with constant on-screen crap?

Viewers obviously have very little say in this or any other matters. They just keep voting with their channel changers, with more abandoning network TV every year. Three years ago AdAge quoted Adam Stotsky, president-marketing, NBC Entertainment as saying that consumers have developed a “capacity to accept multiple messaging all at once”. What a joke.

It’s one thing to scroll repetitive and often stupid news headlines across the bottom of a news program. It’s quite another to have sitcom characters marching along the bottom of a poignant dramatic scene.

It’s truly amazing to see a medium driving a nail into its own coffin.

Post #16 – Why would anyone buy Hulu? Why would the networks sell it?

What in the world are these companies thinking? Why would anyone try to buy a company with no real assets of its own? Why would anyone sell a distribution scheme that’s almost as good as owning a cable system?

Hulu is not worth much without a continuing stream of first run network programming. Period. They’ve done a nice job with the interface but so what? It’s an interface. Unless you’re prepared to spend hundreds of millions in program development or licensing fees, forget it. And even then it’s not a slam dunk without all the promotion the networks give shows and their habitual (if declining) viewership.

It’s impossible to believe that the networks will guarantee that the same programming will be available to Hulu and at a reasonable price in the future. Bidding will push it up – Netflix, Apple, Xbox, who knows? Or the networks could go back to streaming shows on their own sites (not a good choice).

This is a case of wishful thinking at best.

The networks don’t play well together but tough – they need a joint distribution platform like Hulu, which is why they created it in the first place. Viewers prefer to go to one location to see their network shows, just like they do with cable. Hulu fights piracy and decreases losses to fragmentation, if the networks wise up and begin selling ad inventory on Hulu themselves. The need to start using Hulu more intelligently, not fight over it or reap unwise short-term profits.

Walk away everybody.

PS – I guess I’m not the only one who feels this way. I think $2 billion in additional cost is optimistic.
Why would anyone want to own Hulu – The Street.com

Post #15 – Okay, now I have Aereo. It’s unlikely to change TV.

Aereo became available for Boston so I signed up to see what it’s all about. The Web interface is nice and the guide is well thought out. It’s easy to set a DVR recording of a show. They have the usual two sizes of online video – too small and too big.

My choices for seeing it on a regular TV screen, for the moment, are Roku and Apple TV (using Airplay). The problem is, so what? I can get all my local channels through my FIOS box. Or directly over the air through my TV tuner with a cheap indoor antenna for free. On older TVs you also need a cheap converter box.

I obviously don’t have any idea how many people there are who would consider paying almost $100 a year to get something that they already have, and can still get, free. Even if they’re cable cord cutters, they don’t have to pay extra for local channels. But I’m sure there are some, and if Aereo’s costs are low enough, perhaps it can be financially viable.

However, it’s hard to see Aereo as a major factor in TV distribution, even if they continue to win court cases. The hoopla is really about the possibility that Aereo will lessen the value of free TV to cable MSOs, which pay about a billion and a half to broadcasters for retransmission rights.

At least one cable company has already speculated that it could use Aereo’s “tiny antenna” approach to carry TV stations without paying retransmission. But if you think about what it would take, an antenna dedicated to each subscriber PLUS the need to stream the stations on demand, it would be a complicated set-up for cable to implement. It could also really tax their current on-demand bandwidth. Seems unlikely.

Aereo is also handicapped by its inability to let its subscribers watch when they’re out of the market. They have to geo-filter to prevent someone with a sign-on from Boston from watching in NY (who wants to hear those biased New York sportscasts?). I’ve often thought there’s also a small market among people who used to live in a city who want to keep up with the news and sports. Like Boston fans living in Florida.

Aereo is unlikely to change TV in any significant way.

Post #14: What are the goals for reinventing television?

As Lewis Carroll said “if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.” So where do we want television to go?

The goals in a nutshell are: quality programming, fewer, more valuable ads and a diversity of pay models, all available on demand, on any device.

What’s quality programming? By that I mean a diversity of well produced, watchable shows across a broad spectrum of tastes. It doesn’t mean just “PBS” style programs. Scandal has its place, and certainly Downton Abbey does as well as the Housewives of New Jersey. The key word is “balance”. Right now, increasingly desperate, me-too reality programming is crowding out good scripted entertainment for reasons of cost.

Fewer, more valuable ads is a necessity that I’ve touched on before. It’s the most complex part of reinventing television because it requires cooperation across platforms, programmers and advertisers. Currently TV advertising is very wasteful, exposing millions of viewers to ads that have no relevance to them. They don’t like seeing them and the advertiser doesn’t want them to. The result is a crushing commercial load that makes ad-supported TV almost unwatchable without a DVR to skip the commercials.

The solution is a system that allows better targeting of TV ads to demographics or zip codes so that the programs can generate the same, or more, income from fewer, more valuable ads. This does not require any technology breakthroughs but it does require the creation of new systems which can handle the intelligent insertion of ads in program streams in real time, Basically what Doubleclick does for online ads, but done for television.

It also requires that all programming be delivered as on-demand feed, a not insignificant change but one which we’re already moving toward and that consumers want. The cable companies should be embracing any commercial solution that requires streams since they are the best positioned to deliver them over cable or Internet.

The pay model for television is in pretty good shape, with lots of options. However, I would like to see a micropayment solution added to help support short videos like the ones on YouTube.

Platform diversity has also moved pretty quickly in the right direction. I can get different kinds of video on just about everything I own – Vizio TV, LG DVD, Apple TV, iPad, etc.

But ad-supported TV has a long way to go.