HBO Is the First Domino

Today, the major headline in the cable business is HBO and how 2015 will be the year that HBO will be available without an actually cable subscription. This announcement came quickly on the heels of the launch of an HBO only bundle available via Broadband on AT&T U-Verse.

When the U-Verse news came out, I noted to many friends and collegues that “As goes HBO, so goes the cable industry.” After all, HBO was the leader in “TV Everywhere” when it launched HBO Go in early 2010.

HBO Go is an interesting case study: it appeals to cord-cutters without actually letting them cut the cord. Until the AT&T deal, a cable subscription (whether you got it through Comcast, Time Warner or Fios) was still required. In 2015, this might no longer be the case.

Why “might”? Well, very few details have been given about what the 2015 HBO service will be. Will subscribers have access to HBO’s full library of programming, as they do with HBO Go? Or will it more select and older content like HBO now provides via Amazon Prime?

Multi-System Operators (or MSO’s) like Comcast and Time Warner still have tremendous power in the industry and also happen to control a majority of the broadband connections that consumers would have to use to access the new HBO service. Additionally, net neutrality issues have not yet been resolved. Clearly, HBO can’t go at this new venture alone and will have to have some cooperation from their partner MSO’s. For this reason, my money is on an HBO Go Light. I just don’t see how the MSO’s can stand back and watch HBO provide its full library via Internet, ultimately pushing cable distribution out of the value chain in the process.

Would you cancel your cable service if you could get HBO via an alternate method? What other channels are mandatory for you and your family?

For more of my research on cable economics and how a la carte channel access could affect business models, please read my 2010 paper on the subject, available here.

In House Creative?

Adam Kleinberg recently wrote on about the phenomenon of in-house creative teams. Mr. Kleinberg starts his piece by talking about digital media buys, which force advertisers to create hundreds to thousands of deliverables, many of which are simple resizes of a piece of key creative art.

Of course companies are finding it difficult to rationalize paying agencies $2000 for banner ad resizes (Mr. Kleinberg’s example) when a freelancer designer right out of college can do the same for a day rate of a few hundred big ones. So they are starting to build their own teams. However, Kleinberg comes to the conclusion that the ideal situation might be that in-house teams work in conjunction with agencies.

Kleinberg’s assertion makes sense. After all, building an in-house creative team isn’t simple and certainly involves some investment. Therefore, it doesn’t always make sense strategically for companies, especially ones that might not be in the media or creative industries, to go into the creative production business.

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Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

One of the main functions of a project manager is to act as a medium between the project sponsor (whether this is a client or internal executive) and the project team. The PM should act as the glue that holds together the why of the project and the how.

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An understanding of both sides of the coin will allow the PM to make recommendations that best serve all parties and give all stakeholders confidence that their interests are being represented during each detailed stage of a project.

Managing creative projects offers unique challenges. Because the creative process is so fluid, project managers rarely have a clear-cut and sustainable project plan to work from. Changes in every aspect of the project are inevitable, and therefore it is essential that the project manager efficiently and effectively keeps all stakeholders up-to-date. For this reason, a successful creative endeavor must have a capable and communicative project manager at its center. A good project manager will make it her business to know everything about a project and will quickly distribute information appropriately. Continue reading

MBA In 62 Episodes?

In this week’s Bloomberg Business Week, Ben Wasserstein writes about the business behind Breaking Bad. There are lessons about leadership, management, negotiation, handling power and especially strategy.

It’s a very interesting read, available here: Breaking Bad’s Management Lessons

With similar themes in Sons of Anarchy and its Hamlet parallel storyline, FX has got something for the dual majors out there!

And they said TV would rot our brains!

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Response To CBS Going Black

After a few weeks of seeing negative promos and big red lower-thirds on my TV while watching Under the Dome, Time Warner finally pulled the plug on CBS and its affiliate Showtime in three major markets today. I live in Cablevision-land so I haven’t been affected but have definitely experienced similar situations as the Dolans went head-to-head with Viacom (and others). These disputes are becoming more and more common in all markets.

Now, while this is a bit off-point for this blog, the questions these conflicts raise (over retransmission fees as the industry calls them) are critical to the business models of both cable and network TV. I wrote a paper about the subject while getting my MBA and wanted to comment.

Consumers are angry with their cable providers: their monthly bills keep increasing and they don’t feel like they are getting added value for that money. Without understanding the economics behind bundled pricing, which the entire cable fee structure is built around, consumers are praying for a la carte programming. Why can’t every channel be like HBO? Well, it’s not that simple. My 2010 research into studies done by the General Accounting Office (GAO) showed that a la carte could very easily drive cable fees even higher while at the same time limit consumer choice. Continue reading

What Is Producing?

After a session at PromaxBDA got changed from one about project management to one about producing, I began to wonder what others thought about the role of project manager vis a vis producer in the advertising/promo business.

A few months ago, in the spring, I got an email from PromaxBDA (“The international association for entertainment and marketing professionals.”) that listed a few of the “Boot Camp” sessions for the 2013 conference. One of them was about Project Management, which, as a PMP who happens to work in broadcast and network promotion, excited me tremendously. Rarely is the project management side of the business acknowledged by the “industry.” The production folks rarely get any credit or acknowledgement. We’re always lost in favor of the awe-inspiring creative of that year.

So the Project Management panel was at the top of my list for Promax 2013. However, once I got to the conference, I discovered that the name of the session was changed to one about Producing. I checked out the session regardless, and it seemed to me that the basics of what they were talking about regarding producing bore a striking resemblance to project management, Gantt chart and all. Continue reading