Ex TV Exec Says Fear Not, “Internet” Nothing But Flash in Pan: A “Bamboo Raft” Compared to the Warship of TV

Itll Take a Lot More than the Internet to Sink This Baby

It'll Take a Lot More than the "Internet" to Sink This Baby

This “future” you keep hearing about? You know, the one where the “internet” is important? Well, good news, local television professionals:  false alarm! You can just forget about all that madness about competing across multiple platforms and just get back to work. The “internet” isn’t worth your time and you can stop worrying about how to make money there.  Just do what you’ve been doing and you’ll be right as rain.  So argues Kevin Mirek in a post on tvnewsday entitled, “Web Needs TV, But TV Doesn’t Need Web.”

If the idea of a transformational moment in journalism and the television business keeps you up at night and you really, truly, want it simply to go away, then stop reading now and let Mr. Mirek’s comforting words wrap you up in a cuddly embrace as you drift off.  But trust me, you will be dreaming, because no matter what Kevin Mirek may believe, the “internet industry,” as he calls it, will not get tired and go away.

Yes, he said “internet industry.”  Best I can figure, Mirek believes there’s a bunch of these internet companies and they’re competing with the good old television companies, and since we all work for the TV companies, it’s nuts to be doing anything to help the internet companies that intend to run us good guys out of business: “Every day we read or hear of Internet chieftains declaring that TV must restructure itself to become more Internet intensive or warning that TV is going to lose out if it doesn’t put more resources into Internet and mobile. What else would we expect to hear from the Internet industry that creates no viable video content, that pirates 90 percent of its offerings from sleeping TV owners and that intends to replace TV in the end?”

Mr. Murdoch:  TV Boss.  No, Internet Chieftan.  Wait.

Mr. Murdoch: TV Boss. No, Internet Chieftan. Wait.

Maybe it’s different at the television station where you work, but I don’t recall any of the “Internet” bullies showing up at the station threatening to destroy us if we didn’t hand over our local content.  In fact, thinking back, I’d have to say the “TV owners” I worked for–people with names like Rupert Murdoch, for instance–could also be described as “Internet chieftans,” which really messes up the Mirek math.

Mirek’s convinced that since television viewership remains high–and American Idol reminds us all of the shared-community viewing events that were common before time-shifting and DVRs–that TV’s as strong now as it ever was, and that those dimwit TV bosses need to wake up and smell the profits:  “Whenever an Internet guru refers to Internet video platforms, the image that comes to mind is that of a bamboo raft drifting aimlessly in the same waters as TV’s aircraft carrier. The impoverished skipper of the raft is saying to the aircraft carrier commander, ‘You better share your weapons with us for free, or some day we will destroy you.’ The aircraft commander is saying, ‘Uh, okay, I don’t want to be left behind.'”

It’s clearly comforting to think back to the five-channel universe and God-like local news anchor days of TV and pretend that’s the world we still live in, with television stations as ironclad and powerful as aircraft carriers (yes, Mirek sees stations as the real powerbrokers, since they “mostly rely on the affiliates to deliver the 153 hours per month of the average American’s video viewing”).  But Kevin, even mighty carriers can sink, and those bamboo rafts may be better described as “life rafts.”

Mr. Malone:  TV?  Isnt that for Old People?

Mr. Malone: "TV?" Isn't that for Old People?

Today, Liberty Media CEO John Malone was asked if the word “television” would even exist in a few years’ time.  His answer?  Well, yes, but folks who say it may smell of mothballs:  “Probably in five years old guys like me will still be calling it television,” Malone said.

And, of course, guys like Kevin Mirek.

You know, the angry guy at the end of the block with the big TV antenna on his house who’s always shouting at kids and complaining about this evil “Internet” contraption?

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4 Comments

Filed under Local News 2.0

4 responses to “Ex TV Exec Says Fear Not, “Internet” Nothing But Flash in Pan: A “Bamboo Raft” Compared to the Warship of TV

  1. Ben

    I think this guy’s points should not be totally discounted. Yes, the internet, especially in the past 4 or 5 years with the wide availablity of broadband, has changed how people consume information and entertainment but it’s foolish to think the internet will replace television. The internet is the great aggregate. Think about it, how much original online video content is just screaming to be watched? Not much, and certainly not anything at the level of sophistication you’ll find on television. Hulu is the perfect example of the internet being a tool of convenience, not content. There are exceptions to this content vs convenience argument, but the tv experience is why the medium will endure. No one kicks their feet up on the couch on a Tuesday night or invites their friends over for a watch party around their 15-inch computer monitor.

    Journalism is where things get hairy for television. As an aggregate, it’s exponentially easier to stay informed online and grab from a diverse array of sources anyone could have imagined 15 years ago. Even if you don’t “watch” a report, you’re getting the overall gist of what’s happening in the world. And while you didn’t get it in moving pictures, your intellectual curiosity is satisfied enough to the point where you might go to the gym at 6pm rather than watch the local news. In my view, what will happen is we’ll reach a point where the strong will survive and evolve. In 10 years we will have maybe half the number of local newsrooms we see today. They’ll also be doing fewer newscasts. This will give crews more time to do quality work and usher in a new era of journalism. Managers will also get to pick and choose better talent because they aren’t worried about filling a 7 hour daily newshole. Maybe I’m dreaming but I think this could happen. It’s just gonna be ugly until we get there.

    • Ben,

      Thanks for your comment. I agree that the internet’s not going to “replace” TV. My objection is to Kevin Mirek’s either/or proposition, that it’s the internet OR TV. That, to me, misses the point entirely.

      Brands like NBC, FOX and HBO will endure, in my view. The question is how their programming will get to my big screen HDTV. Mirek believes there’s only one path: through the same terrestrial television stations that have been carrying network programming since the networks included names like DuMont. I see that as a dated and dangerously out of touch proposition.

      As you point out, as much as broadband has expanded, people still watch the Super Bowl in front of a TV. But recently, I got turned on to Fox’s “Lie to Me” not on my local Fox station, WNYW, but on Hulu, watching the episodes I’d missed on my large format computer monitor.

      And I can easily see doing the same thing with downloaded programming that gets to my big screen TV via Apple TV.

      The question in all of this remains: where does local TV fit in? Mirek suggests that station owners sit back and bliss out on their “powerful” position as the “only way” networks can deliver their programming, and to stop “wasting” money on building up their content offerings online.

      To me, that’s advice that will accelerate the possibility of local news coming from another source–from the evolving local newspaper, perhaps, which IS investing in online and video and may find a way to get ITS content onto my big screen while the local TV station delivers the same old thing the same old way to fewer and fewer people.

      Mark

  2. Karen

    Ben,

    I think you are missing a bit of the point. There will be a point when your TV and your computer become one. Then there will be no need for an MSO, which is what Comcast, TimeWarner cable, Charter, etc ought to be bracing for. Something like Hulu will fill that void – and it’s owned by the networks, cutting out the middle man.

    Look at the Roku box – that’s one step removed from TV or computer – and you can get instant streaming video from Netflix (and soon Amazon.com on demand.)

    Ask a 14 year old how they watch TV. It’s very different from how a 45 year old watches it.

  3. Don Ennis

    Believe it or not, Mirek’s view is more prevalent among the TV anchors I know than among the managers.

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