Battle Lines are Drawn: Media "Wars" Extend Beyond Trump

By Paul Maxwell Report Archives
Cover image for  article: Battle Lines are Drawn:  Media "Wars" Extend Beyond Trump

It ain't just Trump, Trump, Trump all of the time.  There are media wars and media rumors of media wars breaking out all over the world. But first, let's look at some other hot, looming and even cold wars in the media eco-systems today.

The Ad War: Major newspaper groups (i.e. The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and others) announced in a WSJ op-ed they were petitioning Congress via the National Media Alliance to loosen antitrust restrictions on collaboration so they could better negotiate with Google and Facebook.  Why?  Because of this:

Newspapers are failing in the fight for advertising dollars.  Google and Facebook alone account for the vast bulk of digital advertising and most of the growth … even in mobile.

Makes sense.  But not to the Local Media Consortium (i.e. The Seattle Times, The McClatchy Company and Cox Media Group, et al.) which says they're "partners, not adversaries."

It's all kind of big versus small within the newspaper world now -- but what if broadcasters, cable nets and other content creators move to join in changing the battlegrounds?

The Net/Neut War:  Last week the Internet Association (a.k.a. the fringe group -- that is, all the very large companies that use the Internet) ballyhooed Wednesday, July 12 as a day to tell Federal Confusion Commission Chairman Ajit Pai that he shouldn't kill the Title II Network Neutrality rules … something he is in the midst of doing and is not likely to stop.  From the other side, the major infrastructure providers (telecoms and cable ops; really the media nexus) argued online the opposite: Kill it already!  These are the formal opening shots of tech versusinfrastructure … that is, who pays for the pipes?  One side says only those who connect.  The other says, yeah, but so should the mega-users, you know, FANG+ (Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, Google and others).  Stay tuned.  Really, so far it's just a lot of finger-pointing.

The Privacy Wars:  This is partly driven by the Net/Neut argument, but this time it is about who can use the data that gets accumulated by whom.  In the U.S. the fringe can track, use and sell; the infrastructure can't (yet).  The other privacy war is the EU versus the U.S.  The EU tilts to the user (witness the fines against Google and others) while the U.S. mostly tilts to the collector.  The exception is the collective constraints on the infrastructure providers who cannot sell the data they collect now.

The Anti-Trust Battles:  Or, the mini-Trump tempest in a teapot!  Will Trump try to stop AT&T from acquiring Time Warner because he hates (for now) CNN's Jeff Zucker?

The How Big Is Big War:  Sinclair wants to rewrite the definition of big for broadcasters … as well as create a national force out of local stations.  Looks like it will prevail.  If so, the retransmission consent provisions for local broadcasters will come under more and more pressures from MVPDs (the infrastructure again) and more than a few politicians.

The Bundle War:  Over-the-top (OTT) streamers versus incumbent linear cable network channels (too many of them!).  We're at the end of the road for incumbent cable, satellite and telecom linear video packages raising rates every year.  There are too many that don't earn their costs back for distributors.  OTT packages (a new euphemism for bundle) are mini-bundles that attempt to either cut out sports or long tail costs and distribute via the Internet.  While those OTT channels use the same pipes as cable bundles, they use a different part of the pipe's spectrum.  This one will be interesting.  For every very successful OTT mini-bundle, watch how the linear bundle changes resulting in a more robust spectrum within the pipe dedicated to the Internet.  A side benefit of sorts means cord-cutters will be keeping the same cable or fiber or satellite or (soon) 5G wireless connection and will face new annual rate hikes for pipe usage on top of direct OTT payments (at least two bills instead of one).

The Rural Broadband War(s):  Microsoft wants to use so-called white spaces to create a new rural broadband distribution system that bypasses land lines and other infill projects.  The National Association of Broadcasters doesn't like that … says Microsoft wants to get spectrum for free while others have to pay.  Cue the Internet meme: hahahah!  (Pretty funny coming from folks who have used extremely valuable spectrum for decades without paying a penny because of, you know, free TV.)  The other infrastructure players don't like it either as they apply for federal grants for rural service.

Random Notes

Meanwhile, media moguls are camping out at Sun Valley … the annual "who's-going-to-buy-whom-next" retreat.

Given Nielsen versus comScore (w/Rentrak) and complications of simply measuring who watches what, is it time for another challenger to come out of left (or right) field?

Want to cut a cord?  There's an app for that: suppose.tv.

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