Two big announcements – HBO and CBS, two major media companies that create original content, will both offer OTT streaming services.

Consumers won’t need a cable subscription to get either of them. Sports are excluded of the service. More on that below.

As a Canadian, it’s even more interesting because the CRTC has been holding hearings on another consumer friendly initiative, Pick-And-Pay.

It’s pleasing to see HBO and CBS work at offering audiences the entertainment they want, and how they want it. It’s the beginning of the flip from a content-centric to a consumer-centric paradigm. And that’s a lot deeper than just a set of buzzwords. It manifests itself in the activities at the media company.

I was impressed with Netflix data scientists obsess about reducing churn by matching audiences with content at the recent ACM RecSys conference. They’ve refined search. They’ve refined procurement. And they’re refining content production. They talk about 3.5 million channels instead of programming a single one. It infuses their work and the audience experiences.

I hope it infuses CBS and HBO.

And there’s sustainable competitive advantage in a consumer centric approach.

And what of the current business model at cable? How does big cable retain audience?

They’re with Bill O. THEY’LL DO IT LIVE.


Live sports.

Live sports are great to capture because they have audiences and the product on the field isn’t subject to creative fluctuations.

And that’s why cable can persist. When a handful of people control access to a product with deep cultural significance, and another handful of people control a lot of fiber optic cable, natural alliances can form.

Audiences are deeply locked into specific sports. Those audiences can be effectively monetized for a good long time. And that triple alliance between cable distribution, leagues, and marketers can persist. It has some real legs.

Those natural alliances is well solidified in Canada.

It’s a terrific hedge for cable, given that creating domestic content that Canadians will watch is pretty tough.

What of CanCon?

No, not Canadian Content, Canadian Consumers of entertainment.

Netflix is already funding Canadian content on their own, independent of mandate. Technology is enabling niche audiences to discover niche content, and those audiences will be able to get matched exquisitely by the current generation of data scientists. There’s no problem there. Canadian content has a great future.

That, however, is odds at the policy aspirations of some. Canadian identity, as expressed through media, doesn’t appear to be valued by the population. Of course, everybody loves the idea of eating asparagus. So long as it’s somebody else eating it. The notion of a mass Canadian spanning East-West has been completely taken over by a North-South influence axis.

To newspaper over the problem, Canadian consumers are aging. Aging populations watch more broadcast television. And that’s great for the mass audiences for NCIS Miami, NCIS New York, NCIS New Orleans, and the Big Bang Theory. That’s going to give a nice pump to the 2+ numbers. It’ll nominally conceal some of the rot. And that’s great news for the resellers of US content in Canada. That’s great business. Much of this disruption at the bottom edge likely won’t impact the older reaches. The future will be blunted as the demographics gray it.

HBO and CBS going direct to the consumer is a big move. Here’s hoping that it changes their DNA for the better.