Wednesday, January 25

Busy Day for the webs (& the Web?)

Synchronicity strikes the entertainment industry with two current news reports: that two of the few remaining broadcast networks are merging, and that Steve Jobs will soon be the single largest shareholder in Disney.

Of the latter: I expect the Disney/Pixar deal will likely play in the short-term as a movie thing, but that's old-century thinking. Having six hits in a row in the movie business is grand, but Pixar's not Harrison Ford. Don't get me wrong, Brad Bird is a freakin' genius; but the future of Pixar is in whatever today's image jockeys, code monkeys and interns happen to dream up over the next 10 years. If Pixar maintains a happy shop, they could be a powerhouse in producing short(er)-form film. Which brings us around to TV...

Of the former, I note the obvious short-term benefit to CBS and Warner television as producers of "content". Not long ago, networks were restricted in their ownership of the programs they ran; that seems odd, but it was presumably intended to promote diversity among producers. Well, that's all done now. With DVD releases starting to wake up TV the same way they're waking up the movie business, owners like the idea of making the network a big pipe for what the home office sends. Of course, 90% of television is crud -- so throwing CBS & TimeWarner together allows for some mutual support (until the back-stabbing begins).

Networks may benefit additionally from TV's strengths in the coming "content wars". TV has an edge in matching content to manageable blocks of attention: not only does TV break down the consumption of content to a variable set of up to a half-dozen or so parts (prime-time, lead-ins, etc.), but also TV builds-in an array of serial encounters (the season, the story arc, re-runs). These two strengths, the "stay tuned!" model and the "tune in tomorrow!" model, could rock the movie industry over the next generation or so. Why? Because most people don't remember which studio had a massive hit & a massive flop the same weekend, but they're likely to recall where the TV shows they watch are to be found.

P.S. Essay question: is it synchronicity that the cancellation of 7thHeaven was announced immediately before the WB/UPN merger, and that the WB/UPN merger announcement was immediately followed by a swift collapse in the share price of Sinclair Broadcast Group, Incorporated? If anyone in Birmingham, Nashville, Raleigh-Durham, or Milwaukee has an opinion, I'm all ears.

If it makes any difference, The WB's January 15th announcement by "top executive" Garth Ancier is oddly timed by any measure. How fresh is the "news" on CNN (a TimeWarner compay) these days, anyhow? E! Online had it in November! I guess this is what happens when you pit the home office against a relatively independent company. I never said the free market was all bad...


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