I’ve always had a severe case of schadenfreude when anyone makes the movie studios, the television networks, and the record companies squirm. The three primary entertainment industries are the three most corrupt in the entire world, making phantom legal claims and getting courts to go along with them because the courts don’t want to mess with giants, claiming that they’re losing millions when reaping BILLIONS ( why hasn’t the Occupy movement focused on them yet? They should…).
Then Barry Diller enters the room and all hell breaks loose…and it’s always fun to watch.
Diller has been a maverick from day one, not to mention a genius – he pulled Paramount back from bankruptcy, turned Fox into a legitimate broadcast entity, and turned home shopping into a cable bonanza. He is no slouch when it comes to innovation, and once again, he’s hit on a brilliant idea, and it has driven the networks into a huddle, incorrectly (and possibly illegally) screaming “copyright infringement”. And I’m laughing my head off…
CBS prez Les Moonves became the latest broadcast network exec to make a total ass of himself this week, threatening to move the network to cable if Diller’s new Aereo retransmission service isn’t shot down by the courts, using the old “I’m gonna take my ball and go home” line of defense. Thankfully thus far, the courts have been laughing in the television executives faces, upholding Aereo’s right to operate with alarming swiftness for a court system usually so bogged down when it comes to these kinds of decisions.
What the networks are too stupid to either admit or (GASP!) realize is this single fact – THEY HAVE ALREADY LOST.
At stake here are the monies that the broadcast networks – for those 90% of you who forgot they exist because of cable, that’s ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, and CW, plus PBS and Univision– have been getting for decades known as “retransmission fees”, paid to them by cable networks and services that use their signal.
The fact that these very fees were allowed by Congress and the FCC in the first place starting back in the late 1950s – the airwaves are FREE, remember – is testament to how much government and the entertainment industry are in bed with each other. Last time I looked, radio doesn’t get the same kind of retransmission fees – why do the networks get it?
They are claiming that Diller’s service is illegal because while, sure, it grabs signals from the airwaves via old-fashioned antenna – like it has been done through the free airwaves for decades - it then transmits the signal through a private cable and to your tv and computer via the internet.The internet? GASP! NO WAY, DILLER! YOU CAN’T DO THAT!
Both Fox and CBS are now saying they’ll become cable networks if Aereo wins it’s court battles. Univision too.
In a word, BULLSHIT.
The networks will NEVER take their signal to cable. They’ll most likely be forced to swallow their pride, and lose fees on Aereo, but they won’t take their signal off the airwaves. And the reason is simple, one that they already know, and one that they desperately don’t want their opponents to grasp. Too bad they don’t seem to remember who they’re dealing with – a former Hollyweird exec – one of the few who actually has a brain - and one with an enormous amount of showbiz savvy.
Right now, for what it’s worth, the networks remain the top of the heap. They’re the mainstream networks whose programming reaches the largest amount of potential viewers because they’re available to anyone with an antenna. They can generate millions of dollars in ad revenue (greedy bastards that they are) on regular programming and event television like sporting events and specials. Can you imagine the NFL actually agreeing to take the Superbowl to CABLE?
Telling you right now, ain’t gonna happen. And anyone who believes the networks is either truly gullible (not likely) or a stark raving idiot (more likely).
Let’s use Mr. Moonves’ precious Columbia Broadcasting System as an example, shall we?
If CBS (or Fox, or any of the broadcast nets, except possibly CW, who’s ratings are so low it probably doesn’t matter) were to suddenly move their signal from the free airwaves to cable only, they would suddenly find themselves moving from competing for with just three other major entities (ABC, NBC, and Fox), two minor entities (CW and Univision) and the lesser level of standard cable to being a very small fish in a 400+ channel pond – their ratings, their ad revenues, their brand names, and most importantly, their VIABILTY – would PLUMMET DRAMATICALLY, possibly to the point where they could easily cease to exist inside of a year after making the change. The always-snooty, sterling- silverware-using, clueless executives at CBS would be EATEN ALIVE by their cable counterparts. Sure, Big Bang Theory gets great ratings in the weekly BROADCAST Nielsens – it competes against five other networks. But if it suddenly finds itself competing with hundreds of other networks for that viewer on Thursday nights at 8 PM, it might find itself in 83rd place, and still be CBS’ biggest hit.
Most importantly, they’d have to cut their advertising rates by 70%-90% to be able to compete with their new cable brethren. Again using CBS’ Big Bang Theory as the model, can you imagine what will happen when CBS enters the advertising broker’s room and realize that in order to get even a fucking infomercial as a client for their show, they’ll have to cut what they charge from $900,000 for a 30-second ad to as little as $90,000? Talk about a collective aneurysm in the board room at CBS, et al.
We won’t even get into the huge number of expensive lawsuits they’d no doubt end up getting from hundreds of affiliated stations who suddenly would find themselves without network programming, and losing hundreds of dollars themselves.
And even if CBS or one of the other broadcast networks should try the cable-only tactic – and find themselves swimming upstream without the smarts of a salmon returning to its spawning ground – the courts would almost certainly block it, as might the FCC. You see, the networks have been free, over the air networks for over 60 years now. And the FCC – and Congress – might not take kindly to having their constituents in rural America suddenly screaming “Reba! I can’t watch my CSI anymore! What’s up with these commie networks? Call up the Congressman – we gotta stop this right now!”
Not to mention that CBS’ longtime chairman Bill Paley is rolling over in his grave right now. Paley was a genius. He wouldn’t be fighting in court with ridiculous arguments – he would step up, take it like a man, and then figure out a way that CBS could monetize the entire situation. Mr. Moonves, you are NO William Paley. You (ahem) “paley” in comparison….(Ooo, I’m DYIN’….).
Trust me my fellow TV viewers, they’re gonna make a lot of noise, they’re gonna try and get Congress to protect THEM over the viewers and businessmen who might come up with new innovative ideas, they’re gonna whine and piss and moan, whether it’s because they finally wake up and smell the coffee, or because the courts, the FCC, or Congress act in a way they don’t like and don’t want, but you have to know the truth: the broadcast networks aren’t going anywhere. They’ll be available – for FREE- to people with antennas for decades to come. Because if they’re not…they won’t be around for very long in the time we’ll end up calling A.D. – as in After Diller….
For pete’s sake, networks…grow a set of balls, will you? Stop your whining and MAN UP. You’re embarrassing yourselves…nothing new, I realize, but still…
‘Nuff Said, I think…