Thursday, December 31, 2009

TIme Warner V. News Corp...

Here in my part of Brooklyn it’s Time Warner country; thus, I am pretty eager to see how this whole pissing contest between the cable operator and News Corporation is going to turn out.

Personally, I want to see what cable will look like without Fox – I’m serious – because it will drive consumers absolutely crazy. We all know that Murdoch does not believe that ads bring in revenue for online news publications, and now it seems like he really doesn’t believe that ads are sufficient enough to cover the costs of a handful of his television networks. His solution: raise the fee News Corp. charges cable providers for the channels.

Where will these fees go? To Time Warner subscribers of course…

Why? Because corporations must answer to their shareholders first and thus maintain a certain profit margin.

So, back to why I want Fox to go away. It will basically shatter a horrible system that needs upgrading. While I am no anarchist, it’s time to see if this Ouroboros we’ve created will implode.

As the GF and I continue to count down to the ball drop, we'll be watching intently to see what will happen.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Last of the Davids...

I just received the following mass email from the Chicago based concert promoter Jam Productions, and I could not agree more.  I think this letter speaks for itself.

Fellow Concertgoers,

There's a train wreck about to happen and consumer groups say YOU will be the victim -  if the two most powerful corporate interests in the live concert business get their way.  But you can help stop the merger of Ticketmaster and Live Nation. The government needs to hear from music fans now.  Tell the Department of Justice that you're against these monopolies amassing illegal power over consumers, before it's too late.

As a concertgoer you have already felt the pain, and if Ticketmaster and Live Nation get their way, it'll get worse. In the last 12 years, since Live Nation and its predecessor started its widespread take over of the concert industry, concert tickets have shot up 82% while the consumer price index has gone up just 17%*.  We are concerned that if the two concert industry behemoths, Live Nation and Ticketmaster, were permitted to merge, the variety and quality of artists coming to local venues would be affected, and your prices could rise further and faster.

Five of the nation's most prominent public interest groups called on the Department of Justice to block the proposed merger of Ticketmaster and Live Nation.

In the consumer groups' and lawmakers' words:

 "Consumers deserve a fair deal in the entertainment marketplace, not the fewer choices and higher prices that would result from this merger," said Susan Grant, Director of Consumer Protection at Consumer Federation of America.

"This merger is an insult to both musicians and consumers," said James Love, Director of Knowledge Ecology International

"We cannot envision a remedy that would ease this chilling impediment to competition… In the absence of other effective, expeditious remedies, the proposed transaction should be prohibited."  American Antitrust Institute White Paper

As described by Senator Herb Kohl (WI) in the Senate Antitrust hearing, "This merger will not only expand Ticketmaster's control of the ticketing market by eliminating a competitor, but it is also creating an entity that will control the entire chain of the concert business – from artist management to concert promotion and production to ticketing and ticket resale."
"This merger would be a disaster for consumers. Nothing short of blocking this takeover of the ticket market by two industry behemoths will be acceptable," said National Consumers League Executive Director Sally Greenberg.

"As president, I will direct my administration to reinvigorate antitrust enforcement.  I will step up review of merger activity and take effective action to stop or restructure those mergers that are likely to harm consumer welfare…," said Senator Barak Obama when he was campaigning for the presidency.

If you agree with the consumer groups and lawmakers, make a difference and LET YOUR VOICE BE HEARD NOW.

If you are tired of paying exorbitant ticket prices and service charges and paying for parking on a per head basis and dealing with the gouging, unregulated secondary ticket market in an effort to get good seating. If you are disgusted with paying more and more every year for the live concert experience THEN ACT NOW, CLICK ON THE LINK IMMEDIATELY BELOW AND SEND A MESSAGE TO THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE URGING THEM TO STOP THIS MERGER!


Jam Productions, The 9:30 Club, Merriweather Post Pavilion, Metropolitan Talent, Another Planet, Frank Productions, Stone City Attractions, Rams Head Live, The Black Cat …… and independent concert promoters and venue operators nationwide.

*Study by Princeton University economist Alan Krueger

Saturday, December 19, 2009

QVC Goes All Web 2.0 On Us

Watch out, QVC – the shopping channel juggernaut – is finally pushing itself into web 2.0. Is this a good move?

QVC’s core audience is not that involved with social media; however, they have a large diehard base of bulletin board members. Plus, they love sharing YouTube videos of their favorite pitchmen and women messing up on TV. So, in a way, social media is a natural fit for these people.

In addition to the new channels for current fans, this could be the best way to introduce the QVC brand to a younger generation who still thinks that the channel is for Grandma. It will all come down to two things for this to be successful for this new demo/psychographic: 1) product offerings 2) online experience.

Some of the on-air products will work for younger aged women who are on social media and like to shop on the web, but there has to be more than the occasional product to maintain their interest and repeat visits to the website.

This leads to the online experience. One of QVC’s core values to its customers is the perceived relationship between the hosts and the shoppers who watch. The retailer needs to figure out a way to transition that relationship to the digital universe without talking to them like they are the TV audience.

First and foremost, why not try to grow the core audience / consumer base with tactics that are more likely to appeal to them. I doubt that QVC will be able to move merchandise (they have an allegedly amazing inventory turnover rate) at the same pace with an online format without changing the channel itself.

Changing the channel will really anger the current base that is extremely loyal to the brand. This could be tantamount to slapping them across the face and saying that their time is over.

In addition, the wider product offerings could dilute their ability to create demand for the products that they are pushing that day. A key strength of QVC has been their ability to manufacture demand for products that may or may not be the best deal in the world.

I think the pros have it. Why? Because the brand needs to be introduced to a younger generation, who may or may not be watching television in the same way in ten or twenty years. If you can breed loyalty through good products, good deals, and good customer service young shoppers may flock to the Q.


A few months ago I criticized NBC for their decision to keep Jay Leno and move his show to 10 PM, mostly because I don’t find him funny.  However, it was also clear at the time that NBC did not want to put any more money into programming when they could be cheap.  Advertising dollars be damned, as long as something is profitable or not a massive loser.

The problem now is that the Leno show is a loser and it looks like the natives – in this case the affiliates – are getting restless.  10 PM programming leads into local news broadcasts which are huge sources of ad revenues.  Weak programming like Leno keeps viewers away from that network and their money.

On Monday, Ad Age ran an op-ed advising Comcast what to do, which includes firing Jay.  But they did not answer the question of what to replace his show with.  Here are my thoughts on what I would place in the 10 pm slot.

Here is a list of experiments that I would try:

The BBC Programming Model: 
Believe it or not, NBC has been stealing BBC programming long before The Office and most of them have failed.  Why?  Well, it’s simply that these programs – even The Office – have a definitive end.  Once all the good jokes dry up, a team of writers has to take over with characters that they did not create and expect the same results.  This phenomenon also occurs with 100% American products too, so why not go for broke?

There will be a large amount of front end marketing needed to bring in viewers and advertisers, but giving writers the ability to see a product from start to finish will create something that American network television has not had in ages, consistency.  This consistency will then help on the back end profits through DVD and download sales.  I feel like more people watched The Wire on DVD than when it was on HBO.

Take Advantage of Technology:
One might think that NBCU – co-owner of Hulu – would actually know something about digital media, but these are the people who wanted the Jay Leno show to be “un-Tivo-able,” which really means unwatchable (RIMSHOT!).

In the age of YouTube, it may be time to try something that has been done with a new spin.  Why not bring the best of Funny or Die (or something like it) to TV?  Rather than letting people make jerks of themselves on reality competitions, let them genuinely try to be creative.  There’s a reason that America’s Funniest Home Videos worked so well for so long.  While there may end up being writers’ guild issues with the show, I still think it’s a great idea.  After all, competitions like this brought us It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia.

Stop Caring About Mass Appeal:
Yes, NBCU is a major network but audiences are fracturing into microsegments of microsegments.  It’s time to completely own something, and the only way to do it is to create something that is divisive among demos. 

Bring Back Long Format Documentaries:
How awesome was Planet Earth?  How awesome would it have been to have it on a major network?  Educational television can pull in high ratings now – and this goes back to the technology stuff – because the video quality is so stunning that people cannot help but watch.

Documentary film – albeit opinion based - is having a bit of a comeback as of late and NBC news should take advantage by diving deep into a topic and presenting all the facts and history regarding a subject.  Rather than manufactured reality television, why not let journalists and documentarians tell the real life stories of interesting people?

Okay, so maybe this last one is a little nerdy.  But, there is no reason not to try it out. Besides, Sarah and Todd Palin have said in interviews that they love to watch shows like Most Dangerous Catch which illustrates that documentary television is not a red state / blue state issue.  (Yeah, I could have gone for a below the belt shot on that one, but I am trying to act like an adult and make a point.)

So NBCU the ball is your court.  Give us something worth our time.