Friday, November 6, 2009

Going it on their own - or - Will internet kill the television star?

Oprah Winfrey and Howard Stern lead the way for content producers to distribute directly to the viewer – maybe.

It appears Winfrey is ready to leave network TV and start her own (partially anyway) cable network - ( and If the move is successful, how long before she considers going solo? She already owns the production infrastructure, why rely on the cable companies for distribution. Video is quickly following radio down the internet rabbit hole – podcasting, Last FM, Pandora, Lala, HULU, Netflix streaming… I’m not talking about watching on a computer screen - as broadband penetration increases, internet streaming is becoming ubiquitous on living room electronics like TVs, DVD players and DVRs.

Will the audience follow, and more importantly could she monetize those eyeballs? Howard Stern has already proven the model by bucking the conventional wisdom that the audience will not pay for something that was once free. How many people do you know that keep a Sirius subscription primarily for Stern’s show?

Stern already left the terrestrial airwaves for Sirius in a huge deal that gave Sirius an instant audience and Stern a ton of money.  The latest rumblings are that Stern is considering completely cutting out the middleman and distributing directly to his audience over the internet (Jeff Jarvis discusses the possibilities here -

Of course this only leaves us with more questions. What does this mean for traditional TV and cable companies? Will they become channels on YouTube? Will the cable deliverers be content as internet providers?

More importantly, there are forces at work shaping this future right now that are happening pretty much under the radar. Most people probably don’t see the connection between the television they watch now and the FCC’s Net Neutrality rules (very, very basically – to stop providers from favoring some content over others). Nor do most people understand the future implications of John McCain’s completely misnamed “Internet Freedom Act,” that seeks to tie the FCC’s hands. Here is a good article from CNet’s Maggie Reardon explaining -

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