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Spectrum Lessons from the 2013 Emmys


As NAB engages in arguments with others about how many homes actually watch over-the-air (OTA) television, this week’s Emmy’s demonstrate some of the real problems the TV broadcast establishment is having with their nonspectrum-based competition for the hearts and minds of America.

Consider the outstanding series/program categories of awards:

  • Outstanding Comedy Series - Modern Family (ABC)
  • Outstanding Drama Series - Breaking Bad (AMC)
  • Outstanding Variety Series - The Colbert Report (Comedy Central)
  • Outstanding Miniseries or Movie - Behind the Candelabra (HBO)
  • Outstanding Reality - Competition Program - The Voice (NBC)

Also consider the outstanding actor/actress awards:
  • Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series - Jim Parsons as Dr. Sheldon Cooper on The Big Bang Theory (Episode: "The Habitation Configuration") (CBS)
  • Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series - Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Selina Meyer on Veep (Episode: "Running") (HBO)
  • Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series - Jeff Daniels as Will McAvoy on The Newsroom (Episode: "We Just Decided To") (HBO)
  • Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series - Claire Danes as Carrie Mathison on Homeland (Episode: "Q&A") (Showtime)
  • Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or Movie - Michael Douglas as Liberace on Behind the Candelabra (HBO)
  • Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or Movie - Laura Linney as Cathy Jamison on The Big C: Hereafter (Showtime)

Thus in voting by TV industry insiders (not the antibroadcast types at CEA or even CTIA), OTA TV won only 2 out of 5 outstanding program/series awards and only 1 out of 6 outstanding actor/actress awards.
Note that HBO alone got more of these awards than ALL of the traditional OTA networks! Sounds like today’s OTA TV is having trouble capturing the audiences it used to get. Maybe it can do better?

Or maybe the whole OTA TV business model is now flawed?

I was interested to read several times that Netflix has
outbid its competitors for new popular programming. One reason could be that Netflix has a vast database of user preference information compared to what OTA TV execs have. This allows Netflix to predict the success of new programming better and thus outbid networks and other video providers. GigaOm has written

Netflix didn’t have to spend millions of dollars advertising the new show hoping you would tune in — it knew you’d see it in the recommendations, it knew you’d give it a try and it knew you’d like it.

Readers may recall our “Zero TV” post last April. At that time we quoted Bloomberg which had stated

Together, the major broadcasters account for more than 21 percent of prime-time viewing in the current TV season, down from almost 75 percent in the early 1950s, before cable programmers emerged, according to Nielsen data.

Recently we stayed with a real “millennial” who had 15 Mbps service from Comcast, 2 computers, but no TV and no cable subscription either. For video she relied on Amazon, not the NAB membership. Time will tell how this trend evolves, but it probably should affect spectrum policy decisions in urbanized areas particularly if we can develop mechanisms to replace “free TV’ with universal video service. Actually the National Broadband Plan basically had that but it was too controversial with broadcasters to emphasize.

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