Media owners adapt approach

11 January 2011

NEW YORK: Major media companies are increasing their collaborative efforts, drawing partners from the technology and IT sectors, in recognition of the changing habits observable among viewers.

According to the Wall Street Journal, News Corp is involved in on-going talks with manufacturers like Samsung to bring Fox programmes to tablet devices.

However, Jonathan Miller, News Corp's chief digital officer, warned the sheer number of possible allies available, as demonstrated by the wide variety of mobiles and slates using Google's Android, could prove problematic.

"Who am I to deal with for different aspects of what we create? A big thing for us is to really get that map in place," he said.

Verizon has sought to move quickly into this space, having signed a $720m (€558m; £464m) agreement with the NFL for sole rights to air live match footage early last year.

It is also planning similar initiatives covering tablets such as Motorola's Xoom, in a bid to secure an advantage on this emerging medium.

"The 2bn internet users and 5bn wireless users around the globe constitute the biggest market for technology the world has ever known," Ivan Seidenberg, Verizon's ceo, said at the recent Consumer Electronics Show.

"The answer … will come from partnerships between hardware and software, computing and communications, technology giants, and the thousands of entrepreneurs who are collaborating to make this one of the most innovative years in the history of technology."

Time Warner's TV Everywhere scheme aims to offer customers access to its output across multiple channels, but Jeff Bewkes, the organisation's chief executive, argued the challenge is growing in scale.

"We've got to get the infrastructure to be capable of delivering video, and soon high-def and maybe even 3-D, even on broadband, so that's a lot," he said.

"You shouldn't have to have a PhD as a consumer to be able to figure out how to get this stuff … We've got to keep it simple. We've got to make it easy to use."

Samsung, the Korean electronics group, already sells 3DTV sets, alongside web-enabled alternatives produced using software developed by Google.

Kevin Lee, Samsung's vp, Smart TV partnerships, revealed the company has not experienced any difficulties with potential sources of material.

"Finding a winning strategy is the key. Samsung has an open platform and provides great opportunities. We're not running into any concerns. Internet TVs aren't a big issue with our content providers," he said.

"Samsung is currently working on making more local content in other countries … We're willing to take on more partners in other countries. We welcome any partner who can provide attractive content."

Tom Rogers, chief executive of TiVo, suggested the advertising recovery could also be encouraging media owners to delay essential modernisation, including embracing TVs boasting online capabilities.

"Media companies are not really getting ahead of it," he said. "We evangelised this for a long time. Everyone thought this was a nice little hobby for people. Now it's clear this is where television is going."

Broadcaster CBS is one firm active in this arena, having forged a tie-up with streaming service Boxee to sell full-length contemporary and classic shows, beginning later this year.

"We are excited about the opportunity to work with a major network on offering premium content to Boxee users, as well as create new revenue opportunities for both sides," said Avner Ronen, founder of Boxee.

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal, Verizon, Paid Content, Boxee; additional content by Warc staff