Welcome to a la Carte. Get Ready to Pay Up!

By Paul Maxwell Report Archives
Cover image for  article: Welcome to a la Carte.  Get Ready to Pay Up!

Consumer Reportswants it.  So do a whole lot of consumers.  But, get ready for some "bad" news.  We're all going to be paying a whole lot more for our video entertainment.  Count on it.  On top of that, there's more video in a head-spinning array of options.

For starters, there's linear video via your local MVPD (Multichannel Video Programming Distributor, a.k.a. your local cable operator or local telco or both as well as the two satellite purveyors and even a couple of fiber-only players -- Google, for example, and a couple of fixed wireless attempts plus some almost broadband cellular operators).  Then there's linear and short form video on demand from the same MVPDs … to say nothing of linear video from streamers (a.k.a. vMVPDs or "virtual" versions of the program aggregators which distribute via broadband providers but charge customers directly for their programming and ride free or almost free* over the Internet (*see Random Notes below).

Plus, we have linear and streamed video on demand riding over all of the Internet providers charging the viewer/consumer directly … and free and paid short-form video from YouTube, Google, Facebook and more via all the above broadband and/or almost broadband Internet providers.  So, instead of the four video providers around when I was a kid (ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS) we now have an exploding array of choices vying for our subscription dollars.

As MediaVillage.com Editor Ed Martin so vividly reported from the Television Critics Association (TCA) tour in a few days ago, there's a "new world order."  He quoted FX's John Landgraf, who said: " … we are all watching an epic battle unfold for who will control human attention, which is both a finite resource and the most economically valuable commodity on Earth, because who controls your attention controls the ability to monetize that attention.  This is the root of the battle between Walmart and Amazon, between Facebook and Google and Apple, between Instagram and Snapchat, between Netflix and Amazon and the legacy television brands."

Or: linear vs. non-linear with the real question being how to sensibly monetize all the steps from creation thru production and distribution to consumption.

This, as many of you readers will know, is not so easy.  Which is why I've been writing and thinking about the coming wars between distributors (the infrastructure) and the free-riders (Silicon Valley's geniuses backed by the previous administration's tilt to California).  I wonder who will back which side for what reason.

For now, so-called cord-cutting is accelerating in that legacy linear cable channel subscriptions are melting away (almost a million last quarter!).  That, of course, doesn't mean the cord was really cut, seeing as the Internet is the vehicle that distributes almost all of the moving pictures today.  The connection via the infrastructure (whether cable, fiber, satellite, wireless, etc.) still is the common denominator between the programmer and the consumer.

Random Notes:

*Free?  Well, almost.  Many MVPDs and vMVPDs contract with companies such as Layer 3 to high speed it to nodes in order to deliver a better signal to the consumer.  Another method is to do the same, but lease space from the non-Internet spectrum within the cable operator; same result, but companies such as Layer 3 TV do that to beat the service and on-screen delivery of the cable system they ride on!

Just for clarity I suggest we might start considering how to re-christen differing distribution and consumption methodologies.  What's a broadcaster? … a "cable" operator? … a telco?  … an MVPD?  … a vMVPD?  … a cellular operator?  … a programmer?

Stay tuned!

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