Like many tech sites, we recently wrote about the fact that the various TV networks were discriminating based on the browser
, blocking access to Google TV's browser, because they don't want people to watch the shows they're already giving away for free online on their TV (even though it's easy enough to just hook up a computer to a TV and watch via your preferred browser of choice). Marshall Kirkpatrick
pointed us to the fact that Mark Cuban decided to respond to Newteevee's article on the subject
, in which the author of the original article reasonably pointed out that this was a braindead strategy by the networks, who were shooting themselves in the foot.
Cuban called this analysis "moronic," noting that the networks are making billions in fees from cable and satellite companies, and why should they put that at risk:
What is at stake is the financial relationships between broadcast networks and tv providers and broadcast networks and their affiliates.
Broadcast nets are now getting BILLIONS of dollars from TV providers. Money they didnt get just 3 years ago. For some, just 2 years ago.
So in the last 24 months they take billions from tv providers (directv,comcast, etc) and you think its smart to give those customers of their the finger and offer the same product online ?
Now, that's a very similar argument to the one made by venture capitalist Bill Gurley earlier this year, who suggested that TV would beat the internet
because of the amount of money the networks were making from cable and satellite providers. The amounts were just too high.
And while Mark Cuban is a billionaire owner of a TV network, I think he's blinded by his own prejudices here. Yes, it's true that the networks are making mad cash from cable and satellite TV providers. But the fallacy is believing that these numbers are sustainable and
ignoring consumer preference. While the TV folks are living in a world of denial
that people won't shift to using the internet to watch TV, consumers are actually moving away from expensive TV deals, and the more they do that, the less willing cable and satellite providers will be to pay huge dollar amounts for programming. The billions of dollars are a blip. A hugely profitable, impossible-to-want-to-lose blip but a blip nonetheless. It's not sustainable because it goes against what consumers want, and in the long term, it'll go away. The reason the billions of dollars are there is because consumers paid that money, but they're increasingly unhappy with what they're getting for it, and they'll increasingly seek alternatives, and then that billion dollars goes elsewhere.
In a separate blog post, Cuban complains that it's "the dumbest idea ever" that networks should give Google its shows for free
. Except, um, that shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the situation. Google's not taking the shows. Google is providing a browser
to the internet
. The same thing that you could do with Firefox if you hooked up your computer to your TV.
So, yes, for now the folks in the TV world want to milk it, but at some point they need to realize that the more they do to piss off their viewers, the more trouble they'll be in down the road.