From VideoAge Daily NATPE Day 2

By Dom Serafini

In all these years I could never figure out how market organizers come up with conferences and seminar topics. The ones that I really liked were so rare and far apart that they were possibly scheduled by mistake.

Yesterday morning, at a meeting with our editorial team here at NATPE, we were trying to get some inspiration from the market’s seminars to come up with some front cover stories. And we did find two: One about U.S. syndication that is running today, the other, covering TV measurement tomorrow. These were singled out from a total of 57 sessions between seminars and conferences!

And yet, it would be so easy to come out with timely, challenging and educational seminars: It would just be sufficient to look at the many TV trade press headlines and select the more controversial topics.

Granted, certain subjects cannot be touched by a TV trade show (like DTT’s mux a few years back or today’s Comcast-NBC acquisition), but there are plenty of other safe and sound subjects to choose from.

For example, two topics that came to my mind were: DVD downloads and retrans. The first topic was covered in yesterday’s VideoAge Daily and the second issue is addressed in today’s Daily edition. Both topics have the power to change the way television business is conducted.

Just for the record, retrans, or retransmission consent, is the fee (or other forms of compensation) that U.S. broadcasters negotiate out of cable, satellite and broadband operators for carrying their TV signals.

Retrans could change the network-affiliate relationship; it could turn the cable-TV network business upside down and it could modify the development of the television of tomorrow. It has already changed the broadcast network business model, which now has three main revenue streams: Advertising, retrans fees and premium fees.

Retrans is an important issue not only for the U.S. TV industry, but for the international TV sector as well. Commented Alejandro Santo Domingo of Colombia’s Caracol in VideoAge’s January 2011 Issue: “It does not make much sense for cable and satellite companies in this country to give a re-transmission fee to [cable-TV] channels that have, at the most, a three percent share [while] nothing is given to those who hold a 30 percent share or more.”

Similarly, DVD downloads could change the business models of both the DVD and the VoD business, pitting cable systems against DVD online retailers and broadcasting against both cable and DVD.

The issue here is not just whether movies should be released day-and-date both in DVD and in VoD, but if DVD rights should also include downloads to own (purchase, download and burn videos on recordable DVDs). Up until recently, VoD came after the DVD window. The problem doesn’t exist for TV product, since DVD and other ancillary media tend to be released simultaneously.

The VoD and DVD Issue will certainly acerbate the relationship not only between theaters and content owners, but also between producers and cable companies.

As you can see, there are so many important issues to explore with just those two topics, that a trade event such as NATPE would pay for itself for many TV executives, if one could come out of a seminar with at least the issues well defined. We know that answers are difficult to come by, since there are so many sides, variables and interests involved, but, as they say, knowing the problem is half of the solution and a well-selected seminar topic could do that. And for this, no big names are needed, just people in the know that well represent every sector of the topic covered: For retrans, broadcasters and MVPDs (Multichannel Video Programming Distributors) and cable-TV networks. For DVD downloads, content owners, MVPDs, broadcasters and DVD retailers (both virtual and brick-and-mortar).

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