He didn’t know what he does know

May 3, 2006

Most of us are familiar with the saying, “He doesn’t even know what he doesn’t know.” Sometimes I think of this phrase when I look back on my career and realize just how much I’ve learned in the past 15 years. Just recently, however, I discovered a new twist on the saying that goes something like this: “He doesn’t even know what he knows.” It came to me a few weeks ago in a business development meeting with a major dot-com player (who shall remain nameless because I signed an NDA).

The meeting started like many others with a description of Decisionmark’s business purpose, which essentially is to connect broadcasters to viewers on any device, anytime and anywhere via our technology. I went on to say that for several years every major network and their affiliates had been a Decisionmark customer. Before I could even finish my second slide a guy from the dot com blurted out: “Who cares about local television affiliates. They are irrelevant. I get my content from ABC and I don’t even know who my local ABC affiliate is.” The story gets interesting when the same guy, less than twenty minutes later, volunteers the call letters KOMO as part of a product demonstration. “Go to their website,” he said, “it’s KOMO4.com.” KOMO is Seattle’s ABC affiliate. This man, it seems, was actually quite familiar with his ABC affiliate. So, was he lying when he said he didn’t know who his ABC affiliate was? Or, did he really not know what he really knew? I think it’s probably both. I believe that this guy believes affiliates are increasingly irrelevant (which I completely disagree with). I also believe he has a very close relationship with his local affiliates, so close, in fact, that he takes them for granted. And he’s got lots and lots of company. The affiliate system is so ingrained in most of us that ABC and, in my case, KCRG/channel 9 are one and the same in our minds. When I want to watch LOST I type “9” onto my remote control. I don’t look for “ABC” on the clicker. Neither does anybody else and if they tell me otherwise again, I’ll tell them straight out they simply don’t know what they know. The model works. Now let’s make it work on all devices all of the time.