A boring rant

In the interest of keeping items brief I’ve cut the previous post and put the boring stuff here. Enjoy. Or don’t enjoy, as the case may be. Skip over it. Whatever.

It’s not just Disney and ABC that are out of touch. Look at the management team at NBC Universal. Look at the GE board of directors. Do these people scare the living shit out of you? They sure scare the hell out of me. They’re all buffed and polished and about a hundred and fourteen years old. They look like cadavers who’ve been done up by the world’s best funeral home makeup artist. A lot of them are just GE lifers who did time in plastics and then airplane engines and then somehow got dropped into the TV group.

Here’s what I tell them. Friends, you run a television network. Now let’s think about this. What the fuck is a television network? It’s a system of affiliates designed to help carry a broadcast signal across the wide continent of America on airwaves and into television sets owned by millions of people. In essence, you are in the distribution business. In the second half of the twentieth century you had the great good fortune to be granted a kind of limited monopoly over the distribution of a very valuable commodity. There were only so many airwaves, hence only so many networks. There were way more advertisers than there were channels to carry their advertising. So you sat there with your choke-hold on the garden hose, controlling the flow of programming and getting fatter and fatter and fatter.

It was a wonderful system. For you anyway. Except that it had one huge flaw. Which is that for you guys, the middlemen, to get rich, you needed to fuck over the people at both ends of the value chain — the consumers who had no choice in what they watched and spent years being fed mountains of dog shit, and the producers of content who were at your mercy and had to negotiate with this tiny number of networks who operated, let’s be honest here, as a kind of cartel.

It’s over now. Your business model was a historical anomaly built on scarcity of a valuable resource and the willingness of a small group of network operators to not slit each other’s throats and to collaborate in exploiting the content producers. Sort of like the Five Families in New York. Wars are bad for business.

You know what the new network is? It’s me. I don’t think people have quite figured this out yet, but just as Pixar was once a medical imaging company until I decided to make it into something completely different — ie, the most important entertainment company of the 21st century — so Apple is not really a computer company anymore, or even a consumer electronics company. We’re a network. We take content and distribute it out to millions of people, who play it on handhelds (sold by me) and computer screens (ditto) and yes, maybe, sometimes, on actual TV sets. At one end of the value chain, the consumer end, people have already voted. They like my system better than yours.

At the other end it’s trickier. We don’t deal directly with the content producers. Instead, we have to deal with these network gatekeepers. But why? What value are they adding? As far as I can see the only thing the networks add is an extra step and a big scoop off the margin.

The producers of content don’t like the TV network system but can’t quite see the way across the divide into my digital world. Some musical artists, like Prince, are figuring it out, but they’re isolated examples. Trust me, however, when I tell you that TV and movie people will figure it out too. These are not stupid people. And they are not un-greedy. Which means their desire for more money and more control and more freedom will lead them to apply their energy into figuring out how to get out of the plantation the TV networks have created for them. They will break free. Mark my words.

The talented ones will go first. Bad news for you, TV networks. You’ll be stuck with the shittiest creators, the timid ones who don’t dare cross the chasm. Your shows will get worse and worse. Your sitcoms will grow lamer, if that’s possible. Your reality shows will grow stupider.

What’s left? You’ve already gutted your news divisions, which was a truly moronic move since that was the only place where you really could continue to add value. Your news shows will continue to devolve into not-really-news Fox-style argument shows where retarded bullies like Bill O’Reilly come on the air and shout at people because some gangsta rapper has a deal with Pepsi, or argue with straw men about whether we should put more troops into Iraq. Where once we had Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite, we’ll instead have John Gibson and Sean Hannity ranting about patriotism and calling people names. All heat, no light. Well done, TV networks. When you finally die, the world will celebrate. Because you’ll deserve it. Totally.

For now, when these bastards come threatening me and demanding that I join them in fucking over consumers and also allow them to grab a bigger slice of the pie, my standard response remains this: Siooma, ass-munchers. Siooma.