The entertainment industry has a long, long history of claiming that if copyright law doesn't go their way, they'll all go out of business. It's the adult version of "if you don't do it my way, I'm taking my ball and going home." If court cases don't go their way, or if the law isn't changed, we've been told over and over and over again for the last century (and more frequently in the last two decades) that the industry will take its ball and go home, because they won't create under such awful circumstances (even if those circumstances really aren't particularly different than they've operated under for years). The latest? First, Fox's COO, Chase Carey, claims that if they lose the Aereo case
, they might shut down Fox, the network TV channel, and move all its content to cable TV channels
“If we can’t have our rights properly protected through legal and governmental solutions, we will pursue business solution. One solution would be to take the network and make it a subscription service. We’re not going to sit idly by and let people steal our content.”
That came out about the same time as another quote from a TV exec, Garth Ancier, who has worked at Fox, NBC and WB, basically saying the same thing, arguing that an unnamed "two" of the four major networks are considering shutting down
if the Aereo case (and possibly the Dish Auto Hopper
case) goes against them.
“I know two that are talking about it,” he says, leaving open the possibility that the others might be as well. He declines to specify which, saying he’d heard it in a “talking over coffee” setting and didn’t want to betray a confidence....
“To say it’s serious is probably an overstatement,” Ancier says. Rather, it’s a contingency plan the networks in question are keeping in their back pockets in case they can’t prevail over Aereo and Dish in court or find some other way to stave off the threat they represent.
Let's be the first to call bullshit on this. No networks are stupid enough to shut down over this, and if they are, good riddance. Put that spectrum to better use. First of all, network TV shows get a lot
more viewers. By a wide margin. Yes, there's an occasional cable show (Game of Thrones
) that sneaks in to the top ratings, but it's pretty rare. The cable shows that get the most viewers are still viewed a lot less often than most network shows. If you look at Nielsen's latest rankings for last week, the top 10 network shows all scored higher ratings
than the top cable show (Walking Dead). And by the time you're at the 4th most popular cable show, you're talking about a show that's getting just around half
of the tenth most popular network show.
No network with any business sense at all is going to give up that prime position for getting viewers, and shunt themselves off into the hinterlands of cable TV. And, seriously, if they do
want to cede that position, I'm sure there are plenty of smart folks willing to take over that position. And, of course, nothing that Aereo or Dish Hopper is trying to do does anything to threaten the traditional business model of network TV in the first place: ads. In fact, both serve to increase
viewers. The real issue is that the networks have gotten fat and happy off of the money they get from cable and satellite companies for carrying the networks, and they don't want that gravy train to go away. So, an artificial situation came up that let them get lots of money, and now that it might go away (and reality is that it won't go away for a long long time) they're threatening to take their ball and go home?
This is clearly bullshit whining from the networks hoping that lawmakers will protect their revenues from cable and satellite providers. It has nothing to do with "stealing content" as Carey claims. Policy makers would be well served to call the networks' bluff. Let the cases play out and let's see (1) if the networks really give up their prime real estate and (2) if others don't rush in to make use of it.