Three Days Looking at the Future of Television

March 19, 2007

Today, for the third year in a row I had the honor of presenting at the NAB Futures Summit. This is an outstanding event attended by many of the most forward thinking broadcasters in our country. Speakers included: Google, Slingbox, TitanTV and others.

Here’s what I had to say, as delivered March 19, 2007 at The Inn at Spanish Bay (Pebble Beach):

Remember, no matter what we’ve heard in the past few days these viewers, the ones in the midst of “disruption” are not only your viewers, but they were your viewers first. In the world of disruption it is you that has first-mover advantage…

First of all, I would like to thank David, Marcellus and everyone at the NAB for having me back again this year. Ironically, today, like many of us, I needed to be in two places at once. I am proud that today we are joining the DTV Coalition in Washington, D.C.  I’ve pledged all of our technology, data and know-how in assisting consumers with the transition to digital television. Clearly, we can do a better job at retail. Clearly, we can do a better job helping viewers make the digital transition.

Now, about that name change… TitanTV Media was born this past January when Decisionmark was purchased by a private equity led syndicate. Our mission — connect every broadcaster to every viewer.

The acquisition and the founding of TitanTV Media is to focus our companies efforts on helping broadcasters, local broadcasters, maximize two key routes into the home: 1) over-the-air and, 2) over-the-web.

We are building an Internet Content Syndication Platform riding on the backbone of our TitanCast technology. It is clear that the notion of territorial exclusivity works. It is also clear that not only does no one do local as well as you do, but no one even comes close to being able to serve the local advertising community as well as you. 

Remember, you are always somewhere when you are consuming content. And, because you are somewhere, that means that on average 12.3 local broadcasters are nearby. Those 12.3 broadcasters – all of you in this room – are the pipeline to advertisers clamoring for entry into the web space. Our plan is to let you bring them along.

Is television actually being disrupted? Maybe, but I don’t think that is necessarily a bad thing.  From where I sit – serving just about every local television affiliate and millions of viewers – it isn’t about disruption per se, it is about choice. Viewers can now choose what to watch, when to watch it, where to watch it and which device just about anything they want. It is about choice.

But how does being able to choose what, when, where and on which device disrupt television? Everyone sure seems to think it does.

Even Shelly Palmer – a talented guy who wrote lots of your station identity jingles – wrote a book called recently Television Disrupted. Shelly says…What could be more disruptive to the business of television than putting complete control of television media into the consumer’s hands?

But perhaps disruption to one is opportunity to another. I remember it like it was yesterday. It was the first meeting of the Red Light – Green Light settlement, circa 1997. On my right, were seated the attorneys for the SBCA. On my left, were seated the attorneys for the NAB. Me? I was in the middle. While the battle in front of me was about satellite viewers, the plan I proceeded to write in my notebook was about Internet viewers. We set out to set the standard in satellite so as to one day be standing here with a solution for web delivery of television. That solution, air-to-web broadcast replication, is now called TitanCast.

So, from where I sit, disruption and opportunity are one. The TitanCast technology, fully implemented will make over-the-air and over-the-web seamless. The model ought to look familiar. It combines national and local advertising together with syndicated content delivery. More on that later…

I recently met with the CEO a fairly young dotcom who announced to me not five minutes after we met that, not only is “television totally disrupted”, but that my customers (as in all of you in this room), the local broadcasters, have already, already been dis-intermediated.” So, I guess, not only was he “dissing” me, he was dissing all of you.

Well, never one to walk away from a debate. I went to explain to him the concept of local. Broadcasting is local. Where there is 1 ABC affiliate, there are 197 others. Together, they make up a Network.  Advertising, at least a large percentage of it, is local. Syndication is local. How often do you see the same show broadcast by the two stations in the same market?

But, perhaps more important is the fact that VIEWING is local. Regardless of device, you are always SOMEWHERE when you are consuming content. And from that point, perhaps ANYWHERE, there is a local broadcaster and a local advertiser who are in the best position to serve you.  Viewing is local. Viewers are always somewhere and that means they always need local news, weather and sports.

Take my family for example. My children are 20, 17 and 6…  I know what you are thinking…20, 17 and 6. He must have dumped the wife 7 – 8 years ago and got himself a trophy wife. Well, you’re right…but only half right. Trophy wife? Yes. New wife? Nope. It’s just that after we finally got SHVA to become SHVIA, I actually was able to stay home for a while….

Now, about those viewers…20, 17 and 6… Our 20-year-old, home from college, always watches the 6:00 news. She’s been wired for years, but still watches the local news live. Our 17-year-old has online syndicate so large she could literally impact our revenue if she convinced them all to use TitanTV. She hasn’t migrated back to watching the news live, but she does frequent the local station websites looking for stories about her high school. She also routinely asks us “if we saw Allen, her now ex-boyfriend going to Iowa on a football scholarship, on the news…” Our six-year-old, a kindergartner, found out what a news crawl was this past winter. The first thing he does in the morning is look for it on the screen because if it is there it means school is either cancelled or delayed. So where’s the disruption in all of that?

What is disruptive perhaps is the fear of the unknown. The ultimate impact of the Internet is scary. But I don’t think this means it is the beginning of the end. I think that this disruption, if you can call it that, is actually an opportunity. Perhaps ABC.com, MySpace, Innertube, GooTube, TubeTube are actually training viewers, your viewers, to get content from the web.

Think about it. Those sites are teaching your viewers new ways to get content. But as is the case with my 20, 17 and six-year-old, none of those sites have what you have.

The solution is to meet your market, your viewers, wherever they are. Remember my rallying cry on this stage three years ago? It was simple – ALL VIEWERS, ALL DEVICES AND ALL-OF-THE-TIME. I think it still holds true.

I would like to explore three disruptive factors:

First, one of the factors that are deemed to be disruptive is place-shifting. I was happy to see Blake Krikorian back on the agenda this year. Blake is a shining example of the entrepreneurial spirit and should be commended for it. In fact, if you want to see what is on back home I think you should buy a Slingbox. But I think there is more to the place-shifting opportunity. What about the content which is on in everyone else’s living room? Why not harness this notion of disruption and make money from it?

Thanks to Morgan-Murphy for providing us with some great content. That content when injected into the TitanCast and is now available for place-shifting. We’ll do that now. I am interested in seeing some Wisconsin high school sports content. Using the TitanCast player I am seeing content from Wisconsin and ads from KRON, here in San Francisco…place-shifting without a place-shifting device.

The next, perhaps even bigger disruptive factor is digital video recorders, a la TiVo. Disruptive? Yeah. Have they won the battle? Not by a long shot. I showed you this last year. It works. You need to make sure your affiliate boards and the networks come together on this. The only objection I have heard in the past year is that you could pick up your laptop and move to another market. Yes, this is true. But not for long. In fact, I have in my pocket a Blue-Tooth GPS device which costs less than $100 that is talking to this laptop. Location-Aware  devices will become more and more common. Let’s not wait until 100% of devices are location aware, let’s get in the game now.

While I am on the topic let’s talk about the notion of “geo-filtering” or “geo-location” which has of late gained some momentum. It ought to be called “geo-doesn’t-work” because it doesn’t. If your network is telling you it does or that reverse-IP works then you should push back. It doesn’t work. It never will.

Given the location of a device and the fact that TitanCast can in fact authenticate your viewers, why not function as a DVR for your viewers? The networks should embrace this. It will be up to you to sell them on the idea. I will help. Take a look at what your viewer experience might look like.

Device-shifting is perhaps the best opportunity for all of you in this room. Here is a GPS-enabled mobile phone. We know where this device is at 100% of the time. The nice thing about device-shifting is you can enable you viewers, using TitanCast, to both place-shift AND time-shift, but onto mobile devices. In this example we’ll use a Blackberry to place-shift content from New York to Monterey. Simple. You win. The viewer wins. The advertiser wins.

So, is television really in danger of being disrupted? I don’t think so. Can we rest on our laurels? Nope. The solution is to inject your stations into the disruptive factors: Place-Shifting, Time-Shifting, Device-Shifting and anything else which comes along.

The only question is the one that our TitanCast technology answers. What channels does one actually get? Not what IP location “we think” is almost close to thinking we might know where someone at least gets their high speed from, but “What Channels ARE actually received at ANY location. Because that is the measure on whether a consumer CAN or CANNOT get your content.

So, is television in danger of being disrupted? Not on our watch. Not on my watch. Not any time soon…Thank you.