As a PR broadside, it was pretty impressive: the big guns of broadcasting wheeled out for the TV and radio industry’s national convention in Las Vegas last week. There they were: Eddie Fritts, president and CEO of the National Association of Broadcasters, and Sumner Redstone, chairman and CEO of Viacom.
As a PR broadside, it was pretty impressive: the big guns of
broadcasting wheeled out for the TV and radio industry’s national
convention in Las Vegas last week. There they were: Eddie Fritts,
president and CEO of the National Association of Broadcasters, and
Sumner Redstone, chairman and CEO of Viacom.
Their message? Whatever challenges digital media throws up, no matter
how attractive the interactivity and range of choice offered by the
Internet, no matter how many upstart new dot-com media owners there are,
the established broadcasters will still have the whip hand. The reason:
as bandwidth increases and as ordinary Internet users are able to
receive radio and TV-like streaming audio and video, they are going to
want the content to fill it. And the established radio and TV
broadcasters are the ones that have that content - the music, the
pictures, the stories and the stars that people really want - no matter
what the medium.
’Technology paves the way, but make no mistake, content is the fuel that
drives this industry forward. Broadcasting makes money!’ Redstone
Fritts, for his part, conveyed exactly the same message - that rumors of
the death of traditional TV and radio are greatly exaggerated.
So that’s all right then, if Fritts’ and Redstone’s widely reported
speeches are to be taken at face value. Nothing to worry about. Just
wait for the tech innovators and dot-com upstarts to come to their
senses and then come cash-in-hand begging for content.
They’re right about some things. Broadband, interactive media are going
to be gasping for content. But things are not as simple as they make
The established producers of radio and TV content are not going to be
the only players in town. The Net is breeding broadband content of its
There’s Atom Films (www.atomfilms.com), which streams short films over
the Internet and is building up an impressive array of distribution
alliances with the likes of Blockbuster and Apple’s QuickTime TV. And
take a look at Spumco (www.spumco.com), a Web site showing the work of
John Kricfalusi, the creator of Ren & Stimpy - work which, by the way,
TV didn’t want anyway.
And hey, Blockbuster has content too. It is readying itself to deliver
movies on demand to people’s living rooms, via TiVo set-top boxes.
Meanwhile, Sony has announced it is setting up a broadband division to
make entertainment content available over the Net.
What all this says is that perhaps it’s not the technology companies and
the dot-com wannabe media moguls that the established broadcasters have
to watch out for - it’s other established entertainment companies who
fancy moving in on their space.
There are other factors that will force big changes on TV and radio
As a generation brought up on the Web increasingly gets used to taking
control of its media diet, and used to picking and choosing the bits
that it wants in bite-sized chunks, established concepts of programming
will be challenged, and along with them the business model they
The idea that people will sit patiently while chunks of their viewing
time are interrupted by ads they don’t want to see is a very
old-fashioned one. It would have been interesting to hear Eddie Fitts
and Sumner Redstone address that particular issue.
Stovin Hayter is editor-in-chief of Revolution. He can be contacted at