Mark Cuban: It's Okay For Broadcasters To Block Access Based On Browsers, Because They're Making Billions

from the ok,-let's-tackle-this-one dept

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 ?

thats moronic

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.

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Comments on “Mark Cuban: It's Okay For Broadcasters To Block Access Based On Browsers, Because They're Making Billions”

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Ima Fish (profile) says:

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 ?

I’m imagining a conversation which occurred in about 1995. Someone suggested that maybe the labels should start selling music online in portable formats. The labels would point out that they make millions selling music encoded on plastic discs, and why the frick would they ever want to upset the apple cart?

Well, sometimes the apple cart gets bypassed by consumers looking for better deals. Despite numerous attempts to protect the sales of music encoded on plastic, they all failed.

ofb2632 (profile) says:

f the tv industry

As i sit here with my laptop plugged into my 60 inch flat screen with my firefox browser on, i am laughing at the ignorance and arrogance of Mark Cuban.
It is because of people exactly like him that disenfranchise the typical person, that people run to torrent sites. Why let them get paid by me watching their commercials when i can torrent the show the very next day and watch it commercial free.
If they were more consumer friendly, i would watch tv, but they are not, so oh well.

Steven (profile) says:

Re: f the tv industry

I’ll be honest. There are shows that I regularly download via torrents to watch later. Usually because at the time they are on I’m not at the TV, or they conflict with something my wife wants to watch.

I use Boxee and if I miss downloading an episode it will fill it in from one of the available online network sites. The last time this happened (I think it was a show from the CW) the experience was so bad I stopped watching it, found the torrent, and waited to watch it later. Between all the commercials (must be more than the original TV showing) and the inability to skip ahead (at one point I paused it and accidentally stopped it instead of playing it again) I hated the experience so much that I will never even try to use another network site again.

TPBer (profile) says:

Re: Re: f the tv industry

I DL all the TV shows instead of reg TV, no commercials and unlimited reruns. Gotta love Uverse in my area, no stupid MPAA warning letters like Time Warner has been sending out. I get entire seasons in a matter of hours, depending on size but an average 500MB episode in HD takes about 15 min.

The networks should be very aware that they are no longer required for broadcast, The Logitec Revue with GTV worked on Hulu when I beta tested, but who really cares, just go to another site and watch. Remember just about any popular show is streaming somewhere with or without the networks permission.

All Your TVs are Belong To Us

Free Capitalist (profile) says:

If only Sony cared....

Too bad Sony is all IP these days. When the same people started blocking the PS3 browser at Hulu, and elsewhere, Sony could have used its legal horses to start the billion dollar process of getting a massive anti-trust issue resolved.

Any idea why they haven’t killed PlayOn yet? Is it because it still cannot auto-negotiate a display resolution different from the resolution set on the host computer? Or is this app part of the trust?

Berenerd (profile) says:

This is what comes next...

Several networks are working towards offering their content on line behind a paywall. Hulu is going to go away, not as in fail but as in, te company that owns Hulu (CBS I think?) is already doing a paywall if you want to watch content on things like phones and such. Fox has one in the works as does the TBS/FX/TNT group. People are turned away from the cable companies and Sat companies cause they charge outrageous prices. (I mean seriously? I could watch my local channels for free now I gotta pay $100 just to watch the station that is not even 6 miles away? Sha right.) The only thing I watch now is football. Fox has pissd me off for the last time by pulling this extortion crap wanting more money from my cable company in turn they will want more money from me. Currently my bill has not gone down even though there are 7 Fox channels I can’t watch because of this. pisses me off to no end. I hope they all DIaF (Die In A Fire)

The Devil's Coachman (profile) says:

Re: You are so right. Fox and Murdoch teabag donkeys.

The only thing I watch on Fox is football, and I am now thinking that I have wasted entirely too much of my time doing so. I think it has become time to cut the cable cord entirely, and like you, I sincerely hope they all die in a fire. I’d pay good money to see the video of that, and extra if they could pick up their screams on the audio. The bastards!

SuperSparky (user link) says:

Psst! You change policy by changing the market. In other words, if you want to watch on computer, then stop watching on TV. Companies make their money off of supply and demand. Currently, the demand on broadcast TV is dominant and it’s not wise to jeopardize that gravy train just because a few geeks demand otherwise.

The facts are that people still watch television. Television is the main market and will probably remain that way for a long time. look how many years it took to switch to HD on television. Switching the paradigm to digital distribution to computer will probably take just as long.

Stop your whining. Business goes where the market is, and damaging the top profiting market for the sake of a nitch market makes no business sense.

vivaelamor (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“if you want to watch on computer, then stop watching on TV”

This old chestnut. I hope you realise that the only way they know whether you are watching TV or not is to ask you. Given that fact, it would make sense for them to also ask you whether you would prefer online services. The alternative is to stop watching TV, hoping that they’ll ask you whether you watch TV.

It’s the same backwards philosophy that those blaming piracy for the death of the recording industry tend to use: if you don’t pirate and don’t buy their music, that’ll show them what you really want. The fact is that if the companies cared then they’d have realised what people want a long time ago. It shouldn’t be up to the consumer to make sacrifices because companies want to avoid change by ignoring consumer demand.

Hephaestus (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“Business goes where the market is, and damaging the top profiting market for the sake of a nitch market makes no business sense.”

I heard the same thing from the record labels years ago … The TV studios are going to repeat the same mistake. Waiting to long to implement, or implementing based on not pissing business partners off. Both strategies are a recipie for failure.

Lauriel (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Me too, about 3-4 years ago. I watch less tv, and more of what I do watch is a deliberate choice, not mindless surfing simply because the tv is on.

Quote=SuperSparkey: “Stop your whining. Business goes where the market is, and damaging the top profiting market for the sake of a nitch market makes no business sense.”

A point to consider (which I believe has been pointed out) is that the market is changing. The shift in the music market also began as a niche market – just “a few geeks.”

sehlat (profile) says:

What? Again!

A number of years ago (>15), Comcast offered a special “five-pack” of premium programming, only one channel of which I wanted, the (then terrific) SciFi Channel. I asked about getting just that channel and was told “No.” Since the one channel was the ONLY thing I wanted to pay money for anyway, I canceled my cable. I have since torn down the cable which they tacked to my soffit, since it had gotten very saggy and ugly. I have since ignored all of the tree-spam they send me offering “really wonderful programming.”

What the TV moguls don’t understand is that once you drive away your audience, you’re not likely to get them back.

vastrightwing (profile) says:

Fear & Greed

This is the same thing that happens with the stock market: Fear & greed. In this case, the greed is making sure they ignore the signs to invest in a new platform. Once the money starts to significantly slow down, then the fear will take hold, at which point the executives will be in the same panic mode the music industry is in the middle of right now. They will then flounder around with paywalls and DRM and trying to lock up content long after people have shifted away from broadcast TV. By that time, people’s entertainment patterns will have shifted away from traditional models: perhaps favoring online games, socializing, reading, etc. The market will be very fragmented and the large amount of money they’re seeing now will be a distant memory. They will get the government to mandate all kinds of protectionist schemes, which won’t work because the old model is gone. They’ll blame consumers, google, microsoft, anyone they can grasp at. They’ll try to tax us saying that our culture is disappearing and it must be preserved, when in reality, they want to preserve the market they lost years ago because their greed wouldn’t let them recognize they were loosing sight of what consumers wanted. Just look at the music industry. It’s all right there, right now.

Vic B (profile) says:

The monthly fees paid by US customers to their cable and satellite providers has to be one of the highest in the world as a percentage of average income. In Europe the TV, phone and internet package costs $30…

Oh right, I forgot… Americans are angry at their government for medling “too much” in private business affairs. Oh well! suck it up then! wahahah

bob says:

Current Discussion

Most of the TV that I watch, I watch on my computer.
Heck the monitor I have is larger than my first color TV.

I have my system connected to the HD cable box, I use windows to record the shows that I like.

But I download most of the shows I like in 720P from file lockers. No commercials and I can watch them when I want to.

I just wish I could find a place to download Red Eye.

Cubans a smart guy, after all he did con someone into buying his company for millions just before the market tanked. But in this he is only right until the cash drys up.

Ryan Diederich says:

Service Providers are Done For...

We dont need them anymore. If fox was smart, it would have built its paywall forever ago. Imagine, buying ONLY the channels that you want, from each individual subscribers. Companies would pop up to bundle the bills into one payment, and it would be all set.

I get 1000 channels with charter, and I watch less than 10 on a regular basis. Way too much waste, a waste of bandwith, a waste of money, a waste of my time. Charter already went bankcrupt once, it will happen again…

Mark Johannsen (user link) says:

Mark's Used to Be Smart

Mark’s gotten to old for his own ideologies. He’s like the doll that talks when you pull the string, except that in this case, there’s a Yo-Yo on the other end. It doesn’t take even a techie to see where the industry is going. Mark surely knows this but chooses instead to be like Yoko Ono. Oh, and Mark, you used to be one of those networks that you are now rebelling against. Idiot.

out_of_the_blue says:

Have you noticed this is *Google*, the all-devouring?

Seems like a wise policy to obstruct Google at every turn, because even if only a commercial entity, it’s GINORMOUS already, and getting larger. You can rummage online for an outline of the *many* areas it’s into, that have *nothing* to do with online search or advertising. One example is that Google invested into power transfer wiring from an off-shore windmill farm that hasn’t been built yet. HUH? WHY? — Yeah. A few such bizarre facts about Google should make you question where it came from and where it’s going.

Google is growing without obvious limits or obvious unifying purpose, except perhaps to literally be The Media Company. Remember, Orwell’s telescreens are two-way devices: Google is going to need some programming to amuse the proles. — In any case, Cuban and others rightly see Google as competition that they’re better off to not help, at the least.

Elvenrunelord (user link) says:

I have been watching TV online for about 3 years now. Before that time, I watched very little TV because I was at my computer doing something else.

Streaming provided an alternative to the other competing time wasters I did while at my computer.

If they want to withdraw from the competition then I guess I can install a couple of my old MMO’s that I never got around to finishing.

No big deal, you won’t be missed and will pretty much be forgotten in a week or two.

Also I can watch millions of clips on Youtube, more than a lifetimes worth.

I can also read over a million Ebooks available on the internet.

And I can do all of this without paying Cuban or any other fatcat bastard a damn dime!

Anonymous Coward says:

Hell yes I have a computer that does nothing but stay hooked up to a TV so I can download and watch the shows that I want. Cable got Congress to deny the consumer a choice in the channels that we wanted to pay for. Remember that bullshit when congress sided with the corporation over the people. I know they do that all the time, but this was the cable companies that won that one. So I buy a internet feed to download only the shows I want to watch. Plus I have a digital box for local channels. Who needs Dish or any of that expensive crap they sell with no choice.

The final kick in my ass of me paying for cable was watching Cable TV that I pay for on an early Sunday morning and the only shows available to watch were Paid Half Hour Commercials. That was the final kicker. To have to pay to watch paid half hour commercials was the biggest insult they have ever laid on me. The TV networks greed is overwhelming to me and overwhelmed me right out of being a paying customer. Like Dish says ‘Why pay more for TV?’ I say ‘Why pay at all?’

Nastybutler77 (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I say ‘Why pay at all?’

I’ll tell you why I pay for TV in one word: sports. Or more specifically, live sports.

I’ve gone to to try and watch over the net, but it was poor quality and more hassle to me than it’s worth. I’m basically paying $100 per month to be able to watch sporting events live and in HD. It sucks, but until I can get all the major sports, and MMA fights, in high quality live streaming I’m stuck paying for convenience.

ChronoFish (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

If it’s worth it to you it’s hard to argue.

In the mid-1990 you could get live college football on radio and sometimes video through Yahoo for free.

That all went away in the late 90’s early 2000s. Rather than paying to have it (the occasional ESPN or PSN game), I lost interest in following college football all together. They could have counted on me being an avid consumer of all thing CSU Rams – now I barely look up their scores.


TJGeezer (profile) says:

It's all in what you get used to

Wife and I moved to Mexico after I retired and we discovered the satellite TV people didn’t want us as customers and the MPAA/RIAA thugs have locked the door against Mexico IP addresses. So I bought a $10 a month Usenet subscription and now only watch the shows we choose to watch, by downloading them a few hours after the networks broadcast them. No commercials, no mind-numbing cable channel flipping.

After many years of thinking we couldn’t live without the networks or cable companies, we have discovered we don’t even miss them. Okay, they drove us away originally by excluding us as customers in the area where we moved, just as they are now driving away a LOT of consumers (a million-customers-a-year burn rate is not trivial, all you “don’t piss off the big money makers” people) by overpricing a mediocre product. Just like the RIAA companies.

All you free market capitalists who also support legislated monopolies like cable companies, as they gouge their own customers, need to come back through the looking glass to the real world.

Here’s a hint: When you drive off customers who then quickly discover they don’t miss you, your odds for survival do not look good.

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