Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Future Fulminations

Last week I finally caught up with an old friend who runs a company investing in the TMT space out of France and a lively debate ensued about the future of paid for content.

Current wisdom has advertising paying for the lion's share of future content delivery, but he contended that cable and satellite companies were doing better than ever at getting money from the viewing public. This I could not dispute. Clever packaging has resulted in ever increasing revenues for companies such as BSkyB.

But we then reflected on the cable companies and noted that, despite a fantastic market position, Virgin Media had singularly failed to become the cash cow that it should be and that, in the US, Comcast had failed to use IP delivery to extend its reach beyond its FCC curtailed maximum. Why Comcast was not a partner in Fios or U-verse remains a mystery. It may be that Verizon and AT&T think they can cut it in the content world on their own.

For me, here's the rub. Existing broadcasters remain in a strong position to leverage and rebuild their audiences on new platforms, where they can monetise them through advertising, sponsorship and ecommerce. Other players will need to build content brands and that's easier said than done as Joost, Babblegum, Deutsche Telekom and BT have found

However, existing platforms will skillfully have to retain - and grow - audience share of pocket whilst delivering to new platforms and devices.

In a hugely disrupted market it's easy to see the upside for an upstart, but difficult to see this as anything other than a threat to existing businesses.

A lunchtime wasn't long enough to interpret the future of this complex industry, but the debate is one that must resonate through the boardrooms of many major media companies.

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