Content owners and their different opinions about screen size

First, let me get one thing perfectly clear: I dont hold the view that big media companies are stupid, backwards or they “don’t get it”.

Many of these companies are creating amazing content and they want to profit for that content. And I am all for that.

Recently i met up with a senior exec at a big media company.

We talked about content distribution across all types of networks: closed (MSO and carriers), online retail (itunes, amazon), public (broadband) and semi-public (broadband).

I could easily make the argument (although one I wouldn’t agree with) that content owners should take down their best stuff from the web. Make it available only behind the paywall of cable. Period & end of story. Some content owners take this position. Again, I don’t agree with it but it’s a strategy and it’s consistent.

Other big media companies distribute their content everywhere and anywhere. Consider Netflix: you can get netflix on your xbox, roku, browser, plastic disks, embedded CE, iPad, etc. Multiplatform and multinetwork. Done. 

And still other big media companies have a different strategy per screen size. So for mobile phones, they cut special one off deals for mobile (small screens). Then for the medium sized screens (PC), they make their content available with ads (free and open to the user) and then for the big screen (TV) they charge distribution and limit supply. 

You think that’s confusing, just wait. The iPad makes their heads spin. It ain’t about Flash vs HTML 5. The question is the following: should their content strategy for iPad (ie little/medium screen?) resemble their closed mobile biz model or their open PC biz model. 

The problem with the per screen size business model is that it’s inconsistent and makes users frustrated. And that’s not a good combination. 

Every chance I get, I encourage content owners to build a content business assuming every device has an IP connection because that is where we are going. Hundreds of millions of people have (at least) one device that talks to the broadband network. Tomorrow each of us will have several IP devices if not more. That’s amazing reach that no one service provider can compete with.

Build a relationship with your users. Make your content work everywhere. Experiment with business models (pay per show vs ads vs subscription) but don’t keep your content away from users. 

Those that maintain the little screen vs medium screen vs big screen vs little/medium screen rationale tell me that the TV business is great. There is no problem and consumers watch more tv than ever. 

And I know there are plenty of studies to suggest this is true but I just don’t buy it especially in the medium and long term with DVR usuage on the rise and it will continue. And DVRs mean ad skipping – plain & simple.

TV is starting to feel like the background music in an elevator. Yes, it’s on but are we paying attention or are we mostly engaging with services that engage with us?