Over the last few weeks a low level media brawl erupted when Time Warner cable released an iPad app with a nice lineup of 32 channels. Time Warner said it was within their rights to beam the channels to Apple, Inc. without asking permission. Viacom countered that contractually Time Warner had violated the spirit of the contract.
The issues are complicated and many are below the surface. Will cable companies be able to charge more for new distribution rights such as the iPad tablet? How does this affect the advertising billing? Nielsen, always behind the curve, is now really struggling. It is one thing to try and monitor Hulu.com and Netflix.com TV, but new apps are mushrooming and it could be several years before they can monitor any of them adequately.
By March 31st, Time Warner took a dozen channels off the app but then News Corp. weighed in and wanted theirs removed as well.
A lawsuit has been filed which may sort things out depending on how the judge rules.
All this is great but it ignores the key issue that we as advertisers or agencies need to keep in mind. Things keep changing and they keep changing fast. To my mind, no one at Time Warner was trying to pull a fast one. They wrote a contract in good faith and the channels approved it. No one at the time considered the deal with Apple. All of us know it is exhausting to keep up with the rate of change and the emerging technologies in our business.
Should Time Warner have asked permission? Perhaps. But was the iPad app even considered as a possibility when the deal was cut?
To us in marketing or advertising, this is one more warning bell that fragmentation continues to march. There is no doubt that people will be watching more TV on tablets in the future. And, our jobs will get only more complicated going forward as more new technologies emerge. Don’t forget Apple TV and Google TV. Those two shoes will one day drop.
So, let the networks fight with the cable companies. Keep your eye on the ball. How do we reach people as the fragmentation exceeds our wildest dreams of even a few years ago?
If you would like to contact Don Cole directly, you may reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org