Technophiles who think that the Internet is going to topple Hollywood studios, TV networks, and cable companies have their heads up their asses. That’s what the analysts at Bernstein Research say — in more polite language, of course — inside the 80-page transcript out today from their confab this past Monday called “Web Video… Friend or Foe And To Whom?” The answer, it seems, is that Big Media can put the brakes on progress long enough to figure out how they’ll get paid.
For example, Hollywood won’t give its best stuff to web video on demand services such as Apple or Amazon. Cable VOD pays the studios more. So they’ll also protect the premium network business because “getting a check every month from HBO or Starz or Showtime is a nice way to adjust your risk in every movie,” Bernstein’s programming analyst Michael Nathanson says. Cable operators will slow the migration to Web video by ditching the flat monthly Internet fee and charging people for how much they use. “Consumers would lose the economic incentive to undermine the old models,” Bernstein’s cable and telecom analyst Craig Moffett says.
Right now, the average American family spends about 35 cents per hour to watch TV. That would rise to “hundreds of dollars a month,” Moffett says, if families had to pay the prices that iTunes charges for each show. Meanwhile, the rush in media to put everything on the Web is subsiding. “A year and a half ago, everybody was talking about, what did we learn from music? And the lesson seems to be we’ve got to get out there quickly,” Moffett says. “Suddenly, in the last six months, the debate and the conversation has shifted to: what did we learn from newspapers? — and God help us if we go down that same path. Let’s not make those same mistakes.”