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Opinion: TV – or Not TV: Is That Really The Question?

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013 by

Bob Alexander founded IndiePix Films and has a deep connection with and knowledge of the entertainment industry as a whole.

Evan Shapiro, in addition to being President of IFC, teaches a class on media at NYU.   There he sees the leading edge of the “unplug” movement, the idea of disconnecting and going straight internet.  Evan argues, in his piece this morning at MediaBizBloggers [http://www.mediabizbloggers.com/evan-shapiro] that it’s not “either/or” and urges us to embrace the power of “and”!

The death of television has been devoutly wished for by those who see it as a wasteland, by those who are frustrated with the packaging policies of cable television companies, and by those who are fans of the “next new thing” – among others.  But that doesn’t seem realistic.  Television has been and continues to be the single best audience aggregator in the media business.  Movies, for all the attention they get, are a distant runner up.  If you’re talking “advertiser supported”, then you’re talking audiences – and television has them.  And the big advertising markets in Spring and Fall show it.

And television content has bright spots that perhaps could not have been imagined earlier.  With the atrophying of television news (see CNN, Fox) and the loss of great journalists (RIP Mike Wallace), narrative product is more important on television now.  Launched by the great writing for such HBO episodic programs as “Sex In The City” and “Sopranos”, and supported by the success of “The Wire”, television (broadcast and pay cable) has demonstrated enough brilliance to display and call attention to its potential.

I would agree that television is in less danger of going away now than it ever was.  And it may even be getting better.

Shapiro argues that the likely future is a “both-and” kind of solution.  But the mechanisms by which old media and new media – like television (broadcast and cable) and the internet – can live side by side is totally an evolving story.  The issue – like the Cable VOD issue – is that Old Media is in the hands of lifetime practitioners who are less-than-average likely to explore possible connections; New Media is in the hands of less experienced souls who want only to disrupt and destroy.  Theater owner/operators in the face of CableVOD and Internet On Demand are a good example of this dichotomy. 

It’s not the technology that holds back a more productive and integrated future, it’s inflexible business models and practices on both sides.

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