Saturday, November 11, 2006

The long tail effect is well document by now and is one of those seminal thoughts that has spawned many books and even more powerpoint slides. But, there is another element of Web 2.0 that is equally a truism. There are only ever a few true winners in any industry. Look at eBay, Dell, Amazon and Google.

The proposed acquisition of ITV by NTL produces a consolidation in the UK TV industry that would have been impossible even a decade ago. Regulation was so tight that the London commercial TV franchise was split in two (Thames, then Carlton and my former employers, LWT) and even morning TV had its own franchise.

Now, it's the time of giants. In the UK this means Sky, the BBC, ITV and then RTL's five and Channel 4 as the smaller players in the oligopoly, with BT, Carphone Warehouse, France Telecom/Orange and Tiscali as the wannabes.

Even production companies are amalgamated with large companies such as Tinopolis and Endemol aggregating smaller players.

So, even as the tail grows longer, the 'head' grows bigger. In fact, I believe that the long tail is a bit of a misrepresentation - the branchiosaurus effect is closer to the truth. There are giants, there are mid market players (like the production companies listed above and C4 and five) and then there's the long tail.

Will technology prove enough of an advantage for the smaller players ? Well, it's difficult to see why, if you have NTL or Sky why you should switch and the joker in the pack is Freeview.

My conclusion ? Run channels, not delivery services - that's the land of the giants.

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