Friday, July 29, 2011

Spreading the Wealth - Networks & Studios expand access

When the TV and movie industries made the decision to jump into digital content distribution, the initial focus was on exclusivity.  Deals were made with emerging online video providers to market their content.  Downloads were often restricted to the network's (or studio's) own website, and perhaps one of the major digital content stores (iTunes, Amazon, etc.) On the streaming side, NBC, ABC and Fox signed deals with Hulu, while CBS made content available on 
There are benefits to exclusivity, at least to the online outlets and the content owners.  Content owners get better deals and higher per-unit returns from outlets and can, perhaps, also keep tighter control of content and distribution. Outlets drive potential consumers to their sites while minimizing competition, which gives them some ability to keep prices high, and capture all (or most) of the demand.  The downside of exclusivity is that it limits access and use - that impact is initially felt by potential users/consumers, who may pay higher prices or any entry costs to get into the "Walled Garden" that exclusivity constructs.  In the long term, though, the cost of reduced demand for product may outweigh the benefit of higher pricing when it comes to total revenues.  The history of media content sales in other formats strongly supports the idea that greater access will trump higher prices in terms of generating revenues and profits.

The last few months have seen a number of deals where content owners are working to expand the digital markets for their content.  Over the last few weeks, CBS and NBCUniversal both announced distribution deals with Amazon  Earlier, Netflix had announced a deal with NBCUniversal that expanded the movies and programs it could stream.  CBS & ABC are working on iPad apps for some of their TV shows. The content and offerings will mirror what they currently offer on their network websites, but will be.customized for the Apple tablet. BBC Worldwide has an iPad app that can provide global access to much of its current, and past, programming (For now the service is available in 12 European countries, but the BBC hopes to extend access to other countries as rights can be negotiated).   In addition, another major player has entered the online movie/video marketplace, as Walmart has repackaged online movie service Vudu (which it bought in February).
And then there's "TV Everywhere" - another expansion of accessibility from multichannel video providers.  At this point, there's some debate over rights and access - particularly whether content owners will benefit from offerings.  Those issues should get resolved fairly soon, providing additional ways for consumers to access content..

Sources: "Amazon Inks Deal with NBCUniversal To Stream 1,000 Movies & TV Shows",
"WSJ: CBS, ABC prepping free TV shows for Apple iPad users (with video)", Mac Daily News
"WalMart adds Streaming Video Rentals", DailyFinance
"BBC Worldwide Unveils Global iPad App",

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