Content WILL be King

A blog from T&T Capital Management argues – quite sensibly – that “content will once again prove to be King’. The author, Tim Travis, was extolling the virtues of Discovery Communications – as an investment opportunity – and arguing that its lack of celebrity actors meant that the broadcaster represented a “first class” media franchise at a “discount price”.

We cannot argue with the sentiment, and any investor who has backed Discovery over the past 20 years will have seen the sort of Returns on Investment (in terms of share value) that only the Warren Buffets of the world normally enjoy.

But it was the ‘Content is King’ thrust that really caught the eye. Because however you slice the viewing cake someone has to deliver the tasty slices to you. Few of us can live on self-prepared YouTube clips for long! In fact whether it is top-quality annual feasts from Netflix (a la House of Cards) or more regular meals from the expert content aggregators (Sky, Canal+, DISH, DirecTV or a cable MSO) we all crave broadcasting choice and excellence.

But barely a day goes by without some threat or other appealing to come from Regulators, or rivals attempting to tease us away from our established sources of entertainment (including sport, news and even Discovery’s temptations). And then Reed Hastings comes along as says that in a few year’s time broadcast TV will be dead, or in its death throes. Maybe, but I don’t think so.

His own very existence depends on him pulling far more rabbits out of the hat than just ‘Cards’ or ‘Breaking Bad’. And that sort of televisual quality is truly expensive. Ask HBO, or any of the US networks, or any of Europe’s public broadcasters. Good quality TV costs cash – lots of it. Hastings knows this only too well.

Which is not to say that our cake will stay the same. Tomorrow’s offering might be lighter in weight, or or more heavily biased towards this or that genre. And delivering up these different flavours is where content aggregators come in. If TV life just means non-stop Discovery we might become a little jaded despite the Turbo, Science, Investigation and other Discovery offerings. Even enthusiastic Oprah fans have not exactly rushed to her OWN offering (and part of the Discovery family).  The same might be said of Eurosport (now 51 percent Discovery owned).

Will the day come when Discovery offers us news as well as timely Current Affairs, and high-quality drama and drama series? Maybe.  Will Netflix start buying up top-drawer Sports rights? Maybe.

But who will supply the Olympic Games, or World Cup soccer, or any one of a hundred other compelling ‘national’ TV events?  It is unlikely to be Discovery, or Netflix, and not YouTube!

There is a role for a trusted aggregator, which might be a national broadcaster, plus a pay-TV supplier, and even for dependable brands from Discovery. But Content will always be King, and I for one sincerely hope that the day of broadcast linear TV – in all its forms – is still with us nor generations to come.

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