Is it a Mad World? It seems so. Four examples from the last couple of weeks:
One. BT has joined in the mad house of Premier League rights. Fair enough, this means BSkyB has to pay more than otherwise and it satisfies the politician’s need for Sky not to have a monopoly. I don’t want to be a conspiracy theory fruitcake (Tory buddies fixing up the News takeover of Sky in return for newspaper support anyone?), but has BT secured a nod and a wink on something else in return for stumping up for soccer? There is no evidence of this, of course. But it would explain the move, where as the official version; “we’ll make a success of interactive TV in soccer because of our fibre network,” beggars belief. Do they know they said that out loud?
Chris in his blog relates the stories of others – Setanta, ESPN, ITV – who thought they could make high price soccer work and failed, miserably. To repeat the same behaviour and expect a different outcome is the medical definition of madness. Whatever the stunning innovations involved, and despite the price of over £72,000 a minute paid, it is ONLY 38 games. For anyone who wants to watch the League that’s not enough. The only way to gain subs is to virtually give it away as a loss leader, and the EPL is too smart to contractually let them do that and undermine the perceived value of the product.
Two. George Osborne, the Chancellor, explained to the Leveson Inquiry how the appointment of Jeremy Hunt to oversee the Sky bid came about. At one point he was asked if he knew what David Cameron thought about the bid, did he want it to succeed? He said he didn’t know. Not only are they senior cabinet colleagues but have been close friends for many years, and both have many close relationships with senior figures at News. Why the Chancellor was involved at all is one question – his prints are over all decisions of any consequence in this government – but having got involved, the subject of their separate or collective views never came up? Yeah, right. He said this with a straight face. Is he mad, or does he think we are? It’s a more or less irrelevant point in the context of the Inquiry, but it’s an insight to a relationship with the truth and the respect with which we, the audience, are regarded.
Three. The PM thought it was OK to have a close personal friendship with the CEO of News International – close as in meeting more or less every other weekend and signing off texts LOL (until she pointed out this meant Laugh Out Loud, not Lots of Love). Everyone’s entitled to friends and, of course, Rebekah Brooks, charged this week with conspiracy to pervert the course of justice in connection with hacking, denies any criminal behaviour. To have that closeness when he knew he could be running a government that would inevitably have to make the BSkyB decision (the bid was well forecast before the election – indeed its postponement until after the election in hope of a more sympathetic ear was well known), never mind all the other media policy decisions, displays a lack of wisdom that, admittedly in 20/20 hindsight, even he would now admit rises to the level of Madness.
Four. Facebook is worth more than $100 billion. See Off Message passim.