Why Broadcasters & Movie Companies Need to Watch Out

Movie projector on a dark background with light beam / high contrast image

Speaking at ad:tech Sydney earlier this week, Jeff Cole, founder and director at research and policy institute Center for the Digital Future, was not optimistic about the future of TV, radio and cinema.

According to Cole, the end of free-to-air television is near.

He said: “I think if we look at the future free-to-air television: CBS, ABC, NBC in America [or] Seven, Nine and Ten here … people have been talking about the death of free-to-air television since I was a little boy. I never believed in it. It’s still here.

“But I think we can now see the end of free-to-air television in the US and in Australia.

When discussing how he believed the end of free-to-air television would unfold, he spoke about Jeff Bezos – American tech entrepreneur and investor.

“Jeff Bezos decided he didn’t want to buy a studio, he could have bought any of them. He decided he wanted to build one.

“And he started putting money into programming and began winning Oscars and Emmy’s and now has a pretty impressive television and film operation.

“But Bezos has also decided he’s interested in sports. And he’s started to buy streaming rights. Little ones. So too has Facebook and Google (YouTube).

“I think when the next AFL contract or cricket contract, just as when basketball and NFL football in the US, I think Amazon is going to bid on those sports.

“As I said to CBS in America about the NFL, ‘when that comes up for biding, who is going to outbid the richest man in the world? Not you'”.

Cole said he believes when Amazon, Google and Facebook get American basketball and football, and cricket and rugby here, it will be the collapse of free-to-air television.

He continued: “They won’t go bankrupt and disappear. They may become on-demand, over-the-top services. But without sports, Seven, Nine and Ten just don’t work.

“You can only watch so much Married at First Sight”.

Cole said free-to-air television is already losing money on sports because “sports codes really know that they can’t get more money out of the free-to-airs”.

He added: “So I think that’s what finally brings down free-to-air in the UK, America and Australia”.

Cole also added that broadcasters and movie companies need to be aware of driverless car, suggesting the car is set to become “the second most important media environment in our lives”.

He said: “We’ll consume more media in our cars than anywhere else in our lives. That’s going to be a big problem for radio. If you’re listening to radio in your car now, [with driverless cars]you’re going to be watching television.

It’s also important to note the line between film and television has completely blurred, according to Cole.

He said: “Historically when somebody became a big television star, the first thing they wanted to do was to get out of television as quickly as possible and become a movie star.

“Today, there’s actually more status in television, and more money for production and television than film.

“Film used to have three major advantages over television: bigger stars, bigger stories and bigger screen.

“Today, the biggest stars you will find in over-the-top television. Big Little Lies part two premieres in two months with Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman and the addition for a season of Meryl Streep.

“Bigger stories? What could be a bigger story than The Crown?

“And bigger screen? A movie theatre is a bigger screen, but the average Australian household buying a television set is 55 inches or bigger. So the screen in the theatre is bigger and better. But it’s not as big and better as it used to be when we were watching 22 inch sets.

Cole added: “The line between television and film has blurred. If you look at people under the age of 16, they actually don’t see movies as a premium experience over television”.

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