This wasn’t a good week to be a traditional TV network.
The business took two big smacks in the head: Netflix’s announcement today that it would launch “House of Cards” with director David Fincher and actor Kevin Spacey, the first made-for-connected television long form series; and the wild success of Time Warner Cable’s new app that runs 32 channels of cable television on iPads.
The message? The Internet is ineluctably destroying TV’s traditional business model…and a lot of TV execs are somehow still managing to get caught with their pants down.
The Internet smashing traditional TV isn’t exactly news.
But you’d think it was by the way an aggrieved spokesman for Scripps Networks, owner of HGTV and Food Network, complained to the Wall Street Journal: “[Scripps] has not granted iPad video-streaming rights to any distributor and is actively addressing any misunderstandings on this issue” (read: we will sue you if you don’t stop). Discovery and Viacom are also said to be “privately steamed”.
Time Warner, meanwhile, has been talking about doing exactly what it’s doing now at least since 2009, when CEO Jeff Bewkes started talking about “TV Everywhere” — TV programming on every information appliance.
If Scripps, Viacom and Discovery are steamed, why in the world aren’t they banding together on the iPad to outflank Time Warner? Why didn’t they meet Time Warner executives when the iPad first came out to extract the best possible terms for the inevitable? Haven’t they learned anything from the music industry’s bull-headed defense of CDs?
As for “House of Cards”, it’s been clear from the moment Netflix started dominating broadband usage during prime-time that consumers gobble up ever-more Internet video on their connected TVs. Why is a technology company beating the TV networks to the punch in producing long-form content for that medium? Isn’t programming what networks are supposed to be good at?
If TV network executives spent as much time and money embracing new technologies as they do on lawyers to protect their turf, maybe they wouldn’t need Time Warner and Netflix to show them how to do their jobs.