The Distribution Pie: Sliced too many ways?

March 17, 2015 by Andrew Robinson in

Sometimes I think I should have been an accountant because working in the television business today is not for the faint of heart.

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that that Apple will announce a $30-$40/month streaming service in June that includes ABC, CBS, and FOX although no NBC, apparently Apple is not a fan of Comcast.

Yesterday Netflix stock took a tumble and reports are that the losses won’t stop. Some theorize that the magic of Netflix has worn off because of competition. Couple that with mixed reviews of the third season of their flagship show “House of Cards” and suddenly the great disruptor known as Netflix has shown it’s not invincible.

Competition? Amazon, HBOGO on DishTV, Roku, Hulu, CBS, AppleTV, let’s not forget good old cable TV. . . do I need to go on?

Earlier this year I attended a seminar at Google in New York City. Our host had many interesting things to say not the least of which was “Content is king but distribution is queen and she wears the pants.” I tend to agree with that.

Now, I am in no way capable (or smart enough) to be a predictor of the future but I would say here are some things to keep in mind with regard to content and distribution.

First: Making good television is VERY hard to do. If it was easy everyone would be doing it and clearly they are not. Now this isn’t to say that there isn’t a lot of good TV out there right now, there is. But not everyone can be making great television all the time.

Second: One of the things that helps make great sustainable television is, ahem, money. You noticed I said sustainable. It’s a lot easier to make a great one off but much, much harder to make a “Breaking Bad” or a “Mad Men” without funds because those shows take talented people and resources and that takes money.

And as a subset of that, a cable channel or network has to create many series to fill the programming slots. So while Netflix and Amazon have garnered much deserved acclaim for their foray into content, it’s not like they created The Good Wife, The Big Bang Theory”, 60 Minutes, NCIS, CSI (all on CBS by the way) and many other episodic television shows to fill a week’s worth of programming.

Can we continue to slice the content pie off into many different slices of distribution and sustain a business model that will fund great or even good television? I’m not sure, like I said, I don’t predict but before we declare the death of “regular” television let’s see how all this plays out because it still is.

Remember Aereo?

Andy- The GM