PBS NewsHour Looks at Future of Television

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by: Josh Hawkins

Determined not to make the same mistakes as the music industry, television networks are scrambling to experiment with new Internet distribution models. And some are making money along the way.

A NewsHour interview highlights perspectives from two of the leading thinkers in this space, Walt Mossberg from The Wall Street Journal and Josh Bernoff from Forrester Research. Here are some highlights (full transcripts can be found at PBS's Online NewsHour site):

WALT MOSSBERG: Well, Jeff, the mass market is fracturing; the TV networks are acutely aware that their viewership is down and that the Internet is providing tremendous competition. At the same time they've seen the music companies really lose a lot of sales to illegal distribution of their programming, and there's some of that going on with TV.

So they're anxious to try to find a way to participate in this Internet model and to see kind of experimentally what might work and what might not work.

JOSHUA BERNOFF: Well, I think a lot of the broadcast networks and other networks are concerned because of digital video recorders which make it pretty easy to watch TV on your own schedule and to skip commercials whenever you want.

The prudent thing to do here is to find as many new ways to distribute your content as possible especially if you can make some money. And with news that, for example, Apple has now gotten three million downloads of video shows on their video itunes service you begin to see there is money to be made by distributing in ways beyond the normal television distribution.

WALT MOSSBERG: Yeah, I mean, what we found in the music industry was that the product they were selling, which was the CD that cost 15, 16, 17 dollars and had only two songs you wanted in the first place but forced to buy it in this form, is not the product consumers primarily want. They want the song.

Similarly, I think in television what we're going to see is the networks have no brand that means anything to people, the big broadcast networks.

You stop people on the street, they can't tell you what is really different between NBC, ABC, or CBS — it is the programs, the individual shows that they have some loyalty to.

JEFFREY BROWN: They know CSI but they might not know what network it's on.

WALT MOSSBERG: They want Desperate Housewives, and I assure you that if Desperate Housewives moved, lock, stock and barrel with its producers and its writers and its stars and its budget to some other network, it wouldn't make much difference.

So taking that show and making that the thing you sell will have, I think, increasing appeal to people, and by the way, including the people watching on the 42-inch television because they're also going to be able, I bet by the end of next year, there will be a way for them to buy these shows for that $1.99 and not watch them on the iPod but watch them on the full blown TV.

Original Post: http://splinteredchannels.blogs.com/weblog/2005/12/pbs_newshour_lo.html