Curse Of The Control Freaks

Perhaps you've heard about the new plan Fox has come up with that will allow its TV affiliates to make Fox programming available in their DMA on local broadband. The affiliates either charge the viewer a fee or use pre-roll revenue which is then split 50/5o down the middle with Fox. Such a deal!

This is just the latest in a series of moves by traditional media to take back its power to control the distribution channels for programming and product. It sounds like a great deal for everyone all around. Or is it?

One view is that traditional media companies are obsessed with locking the door to content distribution that they do not absolutely control. You can't blame them, right? But in terms of the next generation, these old line media companies may be making a big mistake and if you don't have the next generation you don't have the promise of future and sustained growth through their lifetime. And if you don't have the next generation with the promise of sustained growth through their life time, you have....well, you have...

Radio. Forgot about Gen Y and spent the last ten years programming to Wall Street money people in a sense.

You have the record labels. They're going nuts trying to contain the very Internet that should be leading their next growth spurt. Damn it, you're going to buy CDs one way or the other! No, they're not.

And you have satellite radio -- missing an opportunity to attract young listeners who they desperately need for growth even though these listeners cannot afford the subscription fees. Satellite operators want to control access to the delivery system when it should probably be free and supported by -- dare I say -- commercials! Not 12 minutes an hour, the load that helped kill terrestrial radio -- a few minutes an hour. Not all at once -- spread out here and there.

Viacom apparently has something against YouTube. Whatever it is -- not enough compensation for their programming or not enough control over who sees it -- they did a deal with Joost -- a company that has no operating web site yet. Viacom's CBS followed suit -- no surprise.

I could go on, but the point is: should traditional media be so obsessed with controlling the delivery of their products and programs or should they be focused on making better programs and selling the rights to various, interactive distributors.

On one hand you can appreciate the feeling all of humanity has to gain as much control as possible over our worlds. It's sure no different in business -- maybe even worse. But on the other hand is the disturbing reality that the Internet and the present generation that is forcing us to redefine our reasons for being is not at all about control.

It's about choice. About connectivity. About on-demand usage.

So I'm wondering if these traditional media companies who somehow strike me as getting ready to make yet another blunder might be wise to consider this old adage and avoid the next big mistake:

To gain control, you have to give up control.