A nano-debate has developed between Mark Cuban and Chris Anderson around the future of broadcast TV as predicted by George Gilder. Why would anyone chose TV as entertainment when a newsreader provides dynamic instapundrity (can I coin that?!)
Sarcasm aside, there are major issues with unmoderated controversies, the most significant being terms. It appears that Cuban has not read either of Gilder’s works but was commenting about this quote from a cable trade site:
“Does it still die?” He [Gilder] said, “TV is still dying. Followed by Hollywood. It fed a scarcity of a few channels. Advertising has collapsed. TV is living on fumes. TV’s strategy with ads on the Internet will also fail. You can’t push an ad on a consumer. In the future, no one will watch what he doesn’t want to see. The user becomes the producer.”
There is no time frame mentioned. This debate strikes a chord with Cuban because it centers around the R&D of his former company broadcast.com and (my hunch) his passion for sports which is a lynchpin in an argument for “live” events broadcast to millions of people (not currently possible via the internet). True to competitive form, Cuban has drawn a line in the sand with “Broadcast TV will never die.”
Anderson brings his own biases, most notably his longtail model enamored of infinite choice.
What is amusing is that when you get someone blunt arguing with someone subtle there are communication issues and a lot of what is being said is either not up for debate or truism.
My own two cents:
It looks to me that traditional tv is, in fact, on the decline. There has been a massive migration to cable and satellite and today’s most acclaimed shows are not coming from the traditional networks. In fifty years, we have seen the steady migration away from “live” television and with PVRs a new migration to time shifting from channel programming to personal programming and further erosion of “live” events as people record sporting events.
If we look to younger demographics, broadcast tv is simply one of many many entertainment choices (music, dvd, video games, web, instant messaging). The splintering of content has ripped apart the cultural bonds of what past generations held in common (e.g. the theme song to Giligan’s Island). We only hear the faint echoes of that unity in Hollywood remakes who see the quick hit of market share akin to Madison avenue co-opting the music of their target demo for a commercial.
The remarks by Gilder (above), he appears to be speaking about the traditional tv business model (with advertising) and not specifically about a delivery medium. If that is the case, I agree with him. I also think that the “Super Bowl Scenario” has a compelling allure as a socialized behavior, but when people are watching what they want to watch, 80mm people aren’t going to watch the Super Bowl and the ones that do will pay for it.