John Malone Wants to See the Money
In a June 2 article in The Wall Street Journal, summarizing interviews at the recent ‘D’ Conference in Carlsbad, CA, cable and media mogul John Malone talked to Walt Mossberg about monetization and pricing models in the new era of TV. (Oh, by the way, the word is now “video” — only older folks say “TV” anymore).
One of Malone’s key points is that cable as a product was able to succeed when it was able to blur the distinction, in the consumer’s mind, between transport and content. Consumers were willing to pay incrementally for certain content, because it was delivered via a proprietary transport platform. This has yet to happen on the Internet and mobile platforms — indeed, there’s no guarantee that it will.
Some other highlights from the interview:
- It took decades of lobbying and advocating, and major new federal legislation to even establish the legality of the paid-content business model for cable TV.
- Nobody (he mentions Hulu.com by name) has managed to generate a meaningful revenue stream from video ads. Malone thinks there will need to be paid-content models. (Note the parallels here to the dialog on the same subject for print media that have moved online — the economic imperative to move to paid content.)
- Malone sees TV programming eventually becoming all random access (but bandwidth is insufficient today for this).
- A key role in the new video world will be the aggregator — the central party that sits next to the tsunami of content from the Internet, and turns this and other entertainment into paid-content feeds to consumers.
Kelsey colleague Peter Krasilovsky, in an earlier post, noted Malone’s conclusion that there is “no easy answer to local.”
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As recently as fifteen years ago, many consumers equated “MTV” or “HBO” with “cable TV”: if you wanted to watch Mike Tyson fight, you had to have cable. If you owned a hotel, adding a HBO commercial account was like minting money.
Reading between the lines of recent interviews with Twitter executives, especially the “Twitter as utility” comment, it appears that their goal is to become the aggregator that sits next to the “tsunami of content” and then turns it into paid-content feeds to consumers.
It wouldn’t surprise me – as a recent HBR report suggests, heavy Twitter users are much like the classic cable TV channel surfers of yore.