The Media World Is Changing… And Setting Change on Fast Forward…

By Paul Maxwell Report Archives
Cover image for  article: The Media World Is Changing… And Setting Change on Fast Forward…

The American media landscape is changing in ways that were almost unimaginable a couple of years ago … Is it bifurcating? Splitting dramatically into digital conduit and digital content? … and leaving everything else behind? Is it going to morph into something we never ever imagined?

Who knows? But let's take a look at the situation today:

* Pre-packaged cable bundles are disappearing. Not all at once, mind you, but the vanishing act is speeding up. To replace those overpriced bundles we now have corporate-specific bundles of new and old programs that stream over the internet-specific bandwidth of the digital Internet Service Provider (ISP) … sometimes cable (with a lot of the same content often still in linear form), sometimes telco, sometimes overbuilds, sometimes satellite and sometimes even by what are mostly edge companies.

* That means your service could be coming from: telecom companies that were once cable only, once telco only, once wireless only, satellites - with maybe thousands more soon on the way - some new fixed wireless and even small wireless ISPs known as wisps are now also - and sometimes only - ISPs. Today's world is all about bandwidth …

* The entire media eco-system is now almost all digital. Well sure, there are still bound books, magazines, flyers, mail, junk mail, signs and even a few newspapers on paper. There are even printed out PowerPoint packs (well, only a few). And billboards that haven't converted to digital yet. But the direction is clear; and it's not making paper mills rich.

* Streaming has accelerated the demise of the once sacred, but over-priced, cable bundle. As noted earlier, the bundle ain't dead yet, but it will hit life support in a couple of years. Apple and Verizon made news last week by down-pricing programming and bundling it with wireless and fixed broadband connections. Verizon has Disney+ for a year free on unlimited wireless plans. Apple TV+ has a reduced price for CBS All Access plusShowtime for $9.99/month (50% off). Legacy media takes a hit as subscribers move to SVOD (subscription video on demand) … a product often without advertising putting other real and growing pressures on revenue. As a Verizon exec told CNBC, "The current value chain of the media business is not working." And, as Bruce Leichtman of Leichtman Research Group noted, last quarter was the sixth in a row showing so-called pay-TV subscriber losses of over a million. The startling growth of Roku, Apple TV and so on raises the question of what in the world to do with all the cable set-top boxes in use now!?

* Today's "pandamndemic" is adding to the chaos and to the speed of change … for too many working from home, takeout plus the television and streaming computers, pads, phones and replacement set-top boxes offer relief from the never-changing four walls and no place to go.

* The work from home (WFH) changes may be deep in the economic dumps now but that doesn't mean things will never get back to normal. In fact, we're seeing the beginnings of societal/business change that says if you don't require a daily hands-on experience, getting out might be a very good move. As a sideline to this, I live in a rather remote world as we get our eggs and produce directly from local farms. And we've seen a real uptick in real estate values out here in the boonies (not quite, but close) as folks who can afford it abandon full time city living.

* And then, on the subject of changes, we have regulation. There's pressure on Section 320 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act that attempts to guarantee internet free speech by shielding websites from liability for content posted on a website by another entity. The Section is under attack from both the left and right. The Department of Justice wants it to be interpreted substantially more narrowly and the President has pressured the Federal Confusion Commission to draft new rules. Two Acts have been introduced: The PACT and EARN IT. The former requires online platforms to better explain content moderation practices; the latter seeks to curb online sexual abuse of children. And then there's privacy restrictions that could be modeled on the European Union laws. Plus, the long shot suits by Indiana cities (Indianapolis, Evansville, Valparaiso, and Fishers) claiming franchise fees should be paid by streaming and satellite companies … because, of course, the signals from both cross city streets. Indiana's Video Service Franchise (VSF) Act sets payment of five percent (5%) of gross revenue. Cable companies pay because cable uses public rights of way. Interesting suits. Satellite and internet aren't in the letter of the law … yet.

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