Is content still king? Or is Less Moonves Bluffing while steering the Titanic?

A colleague at Newseum in Washington paosted on Facebook:

Daily skirmishes between Legacy Media and New Media. Should there be an LM/NM Scoreboard at the end of each news cycle?

Bigger discussion here really than I have time for – but I have blogged it extensively in the past – see my ear;lioer posts here  on

The issue in the article is that the reporter was too credulous to Moonves’ coyness:

Content creation IS moving away from central productions. Period. CBS has never been in films, only TV. And TV is diversified and dying as a mass distribution channel, only a few steps behind newspapers and magazines. I myself have not really watched TV in over 2 years. All my choices about how to spend my entertainment time come from online now. And I am almost ,well, more than 25  years old, think about what kids are doing?

Truth is, money in CA has always been in distribution, at least post-1947 Paramount decision. And so CBS is in a tough spot – they don’t control distribution in any channel at all – that comes from  Northern CA now, the apples, the googles, and other tech companies.

CBS (and others) can bet the farm, or even an acre or two, that they will be able to find a way to create mass interest in small-screen stuff, and deliver it somehow while keeping a share of the profits.

Good luck to them on that – from  a production side, in a post-youtube era, video production and finance is mirroring the earliest developments in the film industry circa 100 years ago. We all know how that turned out, but the key factor was the limited distribution and consumption points – the theaters themselves.

There is scant evidence that if the finance of production and production models themselves recapitulate history that the end result will be the same, or that CBS (or others) have any grand claim to knowing how to make it work out.

If anything CBS is caught in the middle – a classic Michael Porter strategic trap – they don’t have the customers at the big screens that the movie studios are working hard to keep by inventing 3d, and they don’t have any particular brand loyalty among the non-tv crowd, while tv watchers are fading away or dying off.

Bottom line: Content NEVER was king. What was and still is king is the social experience, the interaction with the content and other human beings that the distribution and content consumption points engendered.

Why? Those things scale exponentially with the number of viewers, while the content itself only scales linearly. Google, Apple, everyone in the Bay Area (and the rest of the online world such as India and Eastern Europe) is familiar with the unrefuted research in this area, and they are focusing their innovations accordingly. All the while, as the research predicts, groups like CBS are rapidly losing discretionary market share to other content sources.

I say Moonves is full of nothing but Hubris here n this article . In the end, he is bluffing, and I would say CBS has no special knowhow at all in anything. No technical advantage, no cost advantage, no creative advantage, no brand advantage, nothing. He has had a fine career, don’t get me wrong, but the end of it is going to suck if he doesn’t retire soon.

And I am not picking on him personally – he has probably dozens if not hundreds of peers in the same boat, in the US alone.

Just sayin’ 🙂

PS – I guess it wasn’t more than I had time for 🙂

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