Earlier today, at the Cable Show in Los Angeles, former FCC Chairman Michael Powell chaired a panel of media bigwigs (plus Marc Andreessen) to discuss content on the Internet. The other panelists were Brian Roberts of Comcast, Tom Rothman of Fox, Les Moonves of CBS and Jeffrey Bewkes of Time Warner. The consensus of the media executives is that they've got this Internet thing all figured out. Their content will be on whatever devices consumers want to use, so long as they (the content providers and distributors) get paid for it. By and large, it sounded like a bunch of guys sitting around using buzzwords that they've heard but don't quite understand.
The executives clearly want to maintain the status quo, just on a larger variety of delivery platforms. They still want release windows so that they can maximize revenues from each platform. They see new technology simply as an extension of their old technology. For example, Brian Roberts demonstrated an application that turns a $600 iPad into a glorified remote control for your ten-year-old cable box. It can show program schedules, allow you to browse VOD content and even invite your friends to watch, but you watch the content on your TV screen through your set-top box, not on the iPad that you have in front of you.
What disappointed but didn't surprise me about the panel is that there was really no "outside the box" thinking from anyone, even Andreessen. He pitched integrating Facebook and Twitter with the services that the big media companies already have in place, and talked about Zygna's model of free games with in-game transactions, but didn't really explain how the media companies could take advantage of that model. Comcast's Roberts pitched using an iPad as a peripheral to its set-top boxes, not as a legitimate delivery platform. Thar was about as far as the envelope got stretched.
The incumbent content and service providers will never fundamentally change the economics of content production, distribution and purchase. It runs counter to their business interests. It's up to a new generation of content producers and distributors to convince a critical mass of consumer/producers to get on board.