Where’s the Beef?

November 22, 2010

I had a strange flash back at the Future of Television Conference East last week.  After listening to several people (with life lines to cable television) tell the audience that “the numbers” didn’t support wide-spread cord-cutting rumors because folks are watching only 6 hours of TV content  per week on the Internet compared to 6 hours per day in the living room, I wanted to shout “that’s because there’s nothing to watch” yet.  There’s no beef – as in live TV — on the Internet, only everything else.

So, “where is the beef?” and why won’t anybody talk about it? During my panel on “Over-the-Top” at the Future of Television conference, the only thing we didn’t talk about was over-the-top television, which is a shame because that is the hottest topic going. We talked about meta-data, we talked about what Google TV wasn’t doing right, we talked about bundling Internet and cable, we talked about how mean broadcasters are. On and on it went without our moderator or the reps from Sezmi, ivi TV, Rovi and MTV (I know, weird composition) noting that OTT must have live TV; without it, viewers aren’t going to flock to OTT.  The two times I got the mic, I managed to raise the live TV question.  The topic just wouldn’t catch fire.

Here’s how some of the Q&A should have gone:

Moderator:  What will it take for OTT to become a reality?

My answer: Not going to happen unless someone brings LIVE broadcast television into the equation, someone who is not going to get sued. So far all that’s happened is that TiVo and DVRs in general have been rendered obsolete.

Moderator:  Who can make OTT happen? Will it take the likes of AppleTV or GoogleTV?

My answer:  Not necessarily, but sure. They may fall short today, but not by much. I was thrilled when an Apple Fanboy pointed out that Syncbak completes AppleTV. We complete GoogleTV as well. Both AppleTV and GoogleTV set the new standard. Boxee and Roku have their work cut out for them against these two Titans.

Moderator to iviTV:  As an early OTT entrant, do you have a fighting chance to build a sustainable business?

My answer for iviTV:  Probably not, we’ve lost the trust of broadcasters and if we get shut down we’ll lose the trust of consumers and upstream content owners as well.

Moderator to Syncbak: What makes you think you can do what others can’t?

Me: I think we’re on the right side of things. We believe consumers will keep pushing to get what they want to watch anywhere they want to watch it. When live broadcast programming gets to the Internet consumers will pay to watch it. They will also stop paying for what they don’t want to watch. Broadcasters won’t go away as long as premium content is expensive to produce and local broadcasters deliver the lion’s share of ad dollars. There is just no way around this in the near term. Syncbak works within this reality.

Other than that, the conference was great.