It's April Fool's Day, But This Is No Joke!

By Paul Maxwell Report Archives
Cover image for  article: It's April Fool's Day, But This Is No Joke!

The next decade for media means full on turmoil and a brand-new ecosystem! Are you ready?

Well, it's finally "infrastructure week," so it seems like a good time to look around and get ready for a new ecosystem that is just in progress, not at the mature game … yet.

So, there's time to think and to act.

On the one hand, "streaming" is the relatively new poster child that defines (I almost typed "divines") the future of the video (and data and e-mail and "publications") distribution system known as the "internet."

But, does streaming really define the internet?

To a large degree, yes … and there has been much tearing of garments agonizing over the death of local over-the-air TV because of the National Football League scoring a $100 billion, 11-year advertising deal with existing national nets and their local broadcast affiliates with reverse compensation (that is ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox, their owned and operated stations and affiliates). Does it really signal the end of television as we know it?

For today, not really. In 11 years or so? Yeah, maybe.

In the meantime, we've got today and today is not standing still. Next Gen 3.0 broadcasting is experimenting all over the place. A streaming package is being distributed over the local TV station's spectrum to consumers in Boise, Idaho, with a second market on the way (albeit a small adjacent one with its own spectrum). A number of 5G wireless deployments are being tested for the internet via broadcast towers. There's the proliferation of other channels such as broadcast channels for Scripps via "must carry" that dodges the retransmission question. And, speaking of retransmission consent, how much consent is too much as some NFL games will be streamed?

Local broadcasting is being set up for a years-long test of its business models. Look for more tests of B2B 5G.

Also feeling the heavy hand of change are traditional cable operators and networks and those traditional bundles that just kept getting bigger and bigger and more expensive with more tiers until … well, just yesterday. One solution for the cable folk could be dropping any channel with low ratings, cutting the bundle in half and charging a couple thirds … at a price likely to be lower than the mass of streamers the average TV household will have by the end of next year.

All that, of course, takes us back to the most basic questions of all: Who pays whom? What for? How much? What are my costs?

The answer to those questions will help determine what happens to, well, everything: Retransmission consent, the broadcasters' future in retail, the existence (or non-existence) of program aggregators and on and on.

In any case, my personal bet is that the players once called cable all come out on the winning end … joined by those one-time telcos. We'll all be ISPs! (For the forgetful, what internet service providers were once labeled. RIP "cable.")

Meanwhile, whatever the government and big tech land on just might throw another wrench or two in the mix! There always has to be a spoiler somewhere.

But I'll bet we'll have most of the answers about halfway through this decade. By which time, even newer technologies will be raising newer questions … and so it goes.

Random Notes

Well, as long as it is still April 1st, I'd like to point out the senior executives at AT&T have really -- no kidding! -- made a brilliant decision -- Comcast is bidding for Charter and Altice while talking to the Justice Department about an original "Bell Market" being created -- Discovery and ViacomCBS are threatening to verify and vet each stockholder as to their fiscal soundness -- Internetwork Neutrality is back and everything Ajit Pai did (including those bad jokes) has been censored (thanks go to Mozilla) -- Democrats and Republicans will unveil their new animal kingdom mascots soon … guess which is which? Gorilla or quarter horse? -- All of the set-top-box (really, why couldn't cable operators have made them so small before?) sellers will go to a monthly fee.

You probably noticed that AT&T dropped its non-charge of bandwidth for its own HBO Max streamer … that California version of Network Neutrality law prohibits that kind of gifting … but that law doesn't apply to T-Mobile so it is expanding special $10/month pricing for Philo, the base streaming service, to include special discounted premium pricing for YouTube TV.

On the good news in April side, Adaptive Spirit (one of the winter U.S. Paralympic ski and snowboard teams' major fundraisers brought to you by cable plus) starts again on Wednesday, April 7 for a virtual two-fest including speakers, a keynote by Discovery's David Zaslav, sponsors and a silent auction (highly recommended). More at

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