TV Networks, Studios Sue Cablevision For Helping Them Attract Viewers

from the shooting-yourself-in-the-foot dept

After Cablevision announced its plans to create a network-based DVR, it wasn't surprising to see TV networks throw a fit over it. It's even less surprising to hear that three major networks and four TV studios have now sued Cablevision. They allege fair use doesn't apply to companies that have licensed their content only for simultaneous rebroadcast, a point with which Cablevision disagrees. The bigger issue, though, isn't the legality of the service, but the TV companies' need to shut down a service that will make the public's viewing experience of their shows easier and better. The problem seems to be that they think this is a zero-sum game, that only one party can, or perhaps should, benefit here, so of course they want to set up a system that only benefits them. That's short-sighted, and when they end up hurting the end user, all they're really hurting is themselves. The current broadcast TV model is broken, and networks are struggling to adapt. It's obvious, though, that trying to shut down services to make it easier for people to watch their shows isn't the way forward.


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  1.  
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    monkey!, May 25th, 2006 @ 9:24am

    where's

    Is there a published document to read or is it all just techdirt blog links? would like to comment, but without TFA, there's nothing much to say.

     

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  2.  
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    Gabriel Tane (profile), May 25th, 2006 @ 9:26am

    Industrial revolution?

    Makes you wonder, with the "digital age" making so many business models oboslete... did they have this problem at the dawn of the industrial revolution? Hmm...

     

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  3.  
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    Jeremy, May 25th, 2006 @ 9:38am

    I don't think TechDirt gets it.

    I wholeheartedly agree that the TV networks need to improve their business models and absolutely love getting Lost online because network schedules don't match mine. However here is the point that I think is being lost on the authors. TV networks don't make money from their TV shows, they make their money on the advertising. And when BitTorrent or apparently Cablevision makes it easy for the consumer to get the content without the advertising the advertisers (the guys paying the bills for these shows) stop paying as much for advertising because less people are seeing their advertising.
    We can read all the articles and comments from the shooting-yourself-in-the-foot department all we want but until we quit waiting around for the networks to come up with a solution let's figure it out for them.
    I once read that a hit prime time show like CSI or Friends brought in some crazy amount in advertising revenue per viewer (like $80 or something). So the networks see advertising-free content as missing that $80 in revenue (I'm not willing to pay $80 an episode for them to replace that lost revenue).

     

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    Carlo, May 25th, 2006 @ 9:46am

    Re: where's

    Sorry -- fixed that link.

     

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  5.  
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    Anton, May 25th, 2006 @ 9:48am

    Re: I don't think TechDirt gets it.

    And I for one would rather sit through 6 minutes of commercials per every shows 30 minute time slot, than fork over insane amounts of money.
    And don't give me the whole product placement thing either. It may work for a few products, but no advertiser would be willing to cough the same amount of money for a Coke can washed up onto the 'Lost' shore. Lets be serious here and just deal with it. After all, it's those of you who complain now about getting with the program, that will complain later when your pricing goes up.

     

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  6.  
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    Carlo, May 25th, 2006 @ 9:57am

    Re: I don't think TechDirt gets it.

    We do get it -- that these companies would rather shut down the Cablevision system, which gives users the ability to watch their shows, than try to devise a better system. Obviously these companies make money from advertising. Cablevision's plans don't cut out the ads, so instead of letting it serve a time-shifted copy of a show to a user who might watch the ads, it's better for them to not let the interested viewer see the show (and the ads) at all?

    No one is talking about removing ads. Skipping over them with a DVR (network-based or standalone) really is no different than getting up and leaving the room or flipping channels when they come on. That's the underlying problem here -- that advertisments aren't engaging users, and people aren't paying much attention to them, whether they're live or time-shifted. But, for the TV companies, shutting down services that cater to interested, dedicated users in the hope that they'll be able to cling on to their outmoded business model just a little longer is perferable to coming up with new revenue sources.

     

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  7.  
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    Nimic, May 25th, 2006 @ 10:02am

    Its greed, pure and simple.

    How do pure cable TV outfits like HBO make money, manage to produce top notch series, and forgoe advertisement? Viewer supported television works, and it doesn't have to cost $80 per show. Big media outlets are greedy pure and simple. It SHOULD be about the shows and not the advertisers. Not the other way around.

     

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  8.  
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    anonymous coward, May 25th, 2006 @ 10:14am

    if i was advertising on television, wouldn't i call my network(s) and say "why are you suing to limit the distribution of the tv ad that I am paying to place in your show?"

     

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  9.  
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    ibeetle, May 25th, 2006 @ 10:18am

    Man... when are these companies going to learn...

    When are these companies going to learn that DVR's and services like Napster and iTunes are not the enemy.

    They are just another outlet for the consumer to consume. And for the companies that is a good thing.

    The entertainment industry needs to give up this idea of controlling every facet of the product and just get back to what they used to do best... making great movies, good T.V shows and enjoyable music... and let others worry about distribution.

     

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    Mike (profile), May 25th, 2006 @ 10:19am

    Re: I don't think TechDirt gets it.

    To back up Carlo further, I think Jeremy is discussing the wrong point:

    However here is the point that I think is being lost on the authors. TV networks don't make money from their TV shows, they make their money on the advertising. And when BitTorrent or apparently Cablevision makes it easy for the consumer to get the content without the advertising the advertisers (the guys paying the bills for these shows) stop paying as much for advertising because less people are seeing their advertising.

    We can read all the articles and comments from the shooting-yourself-in-the-foot department all we want but until we quit waiting around for the networks to come up with a solution let's figure it out for them.


    That's like saying that buggy makers make their money from selling buggies and until we come up with a way for them to make money while everyone's buying automobiles instead, we shouldn't bring up the issue.

    The point is that consumers want the flexibility in their TV shows, and it's up to the companies to adjust to that reality. Trying to hold back what consumers want isn't a business strategy that makes sense.

    I once read that a hit prime time show like CSI or Friends brought in some crazy amount in advertising revenue per viewer (like $80 or something). So the networks see advertising-free content as missing that $80 in revenue (I'm not willing to pay $80 an episode for them to replace that lost revenue).

    You're missing the point. If the market won't support that much advertising, why should it remain? Making player piano rolls used to be a good revenue business, but the market went away. Yet, the music business lived on.

    Just because one business model fails, it doesn't mean the industry fails or that we need to prop up a single business model at the consumer's expense.

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 25th, 2006 @ 10:33am

    Re: Industrial revolution?

    did they have this problem at the dawn of the industrial revolution?

    Of course they did, and the people whose business models were made obsolete fought just as hard and used many of the same tactics as today. When automobiles were introduced, people with interests in horse-drawn transport got laws enacted to limit where, when and how fast cars could drive, in some cases getting crazy legislation like requiring a flag man to walk in front of the car and warn people it was coming. The excuse for these laws was public safety ("think of the children!") which in retrospect is an obvious farce, but lawmakers bought it at the time.

     

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    Clifford VanMeter, May 25th, 2006 @ 11:01am

    The

    I'm a partner in a small ad agency and I've been watching my industry drive itself into a full-fledged tizzy for the past few of years over the ability of Tivo users to skip commercials. Add to that the fact that the lucrative 18-35 year old demographic is deserting network and cable TV in favor of video games and the internet and you have set the stage for an industry-wide panic that is also at the core of small-minded legalistic efforts like this to limit the spread of technology.

    So while most of the big agencies, who are about as nimble as the Titanic was, are trying harder and harder to shove more and more ads down fewer and fewer throats, there are some agencies that are looking hard at alternatives. Sponsorships, product placement, viral marketing, buzz-marketing are all succeeding in getting customers without the unsolicited interruption of traditional commercial spots.

    Personally, I think we're headed back to a sponsorship model similar to shows of the '50s in the short term. How many of these "Brought to you without commercial interruption by..." have cropped up in the last couple of years.

    Over the long-term, we'll get to real interactive TV (more like a computer than an idiot box) you can also start adding direct ecommerce into the mix -- what we call V-Commerce. Like those jeans Sawyer is wearing in the latest episode, click on them and buy them. Want to book a vacation at the Hawaiian resort where they film Lost, click on any tree and order it up. These aren't pipe dreams, this can can be done right now with available technologies. We just need the right delivery systems.

    Advertising in its current form is mostly Spam -- unsolicited interruptions. We won't see a turn around in this downward spiral agencies and advertisers face until we can turn forced advertising into opportunities to buy by request.

    No amount of legal bitching and bullying is going to stop the roll of technology. Get over it, find new models or die the same slow lingering death as "commercial" television.

     

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  13.  
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    satan, May 25th, 2006 @ 2:22pm

    TV Sucks

     

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