Broader-casting, what the…?

NAB logoWhen any industry is confronted with a disruptive innovation, its first response is denial in the form of a collective “so what?” The disruption counts on this, and when it advances to the point where it can no longer be ignored, the industry’s next response is an attempt to somehow assimilate the new concept into itself. Around here, we call that bolting the disruption onto the existing business model. What starts out as a logical Ries and Trout Marketing Warfaredefensive strategy turns into a disaster, because the disruptive innovation doesn’t need that which is being disrupted.

The local television industry is in an awful spot right now with so many things working against it that the future is really quite uncertain. The FCC wants its spectrum. The Internet wants its audience (and money). People want their content unbundled from the infrastructure that supports the industry. The economy sucks and seems to be getting suckier. Media companies are swimming in debt at a time when they can’t even afford the interest. Advertising is in a full blown revolution. The networks want more and more of the money earned from cable companies.

But perhaps the worst thing the industry has working against it is a trade association that seems bent on bolting new media onto the old. The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) has trademarked the word broader-casting® and provided a definition that positions multiplatform distribution as the new thing. I suppose they’ll next change their name to the National Association of Broader-casters®.

Broadercasting definition
The NAB has so embraced the multiple screen concept that its 2012 show in Las Vegasis being built around what the organization believes is a shift from broadcasting to this “broader-casting” environment…

From expectations to players to technologies to strategies, there’s a great shift taking place in broader-casting® — with or without you. Driven by the demand for content anytime, anywhere, this evolution has set in motion a kaleidoscope of consumption options with infinite new profit centers. To capitalize on yours, use our Limited Time Offer and register today… For more than 85 years, the NAB Show continues to be the essential destination for broader-casting® professionals who share a passion for bringing content to life on any platform — even if they have to invent it. From creation to consumption, this is the place where possibilities become realities.

The NAB is also helping to fund the Syncbaktechnology, which allows local stations to live stream their broadcast signals online to only those who can “see” their over-the-air signals, thereby shifting the broadcast model to the Web. Is there any demand for this? Perhaps in certain situations such as breaking news, weather and sports, but people are already fleeing the “lean-back” prime time advertising flood (one hour out of three is dedicated to marketing), and the reasons for doing so are only exacerbated in the “lean-forward” environment of the Web.

Theme for NAB 2012

The NAB’s “Great Content Shift,” redefining digital media and entertainment.

The weakness of the broader-casting® strategy is that it’s a brand-extension effort built around the value proposition of advertising adjacent to scarce content. However, this is precisely what’s being disrupted, so any effort to sustain that — or spread it to multiple screens — is highly problematic and shifts attention away from different businesses and business models that could actually position local broadcasters for the future.

When the core competency is disrupted, we have no choice but to shift to edge competencies, and there’s plenty of money to be made within the disruption by engaging in our edges. When brand-extension is your only strategy, then your competition remains those within the same space. In any of these multi-platform distribution plays, therefore, a television station’s competition is the other television stations, and this completely misses the point of what’s taking place.

The Web isn’t hurting TV by taking away its viewers; it’s hurting TV by taking away its money.

Perhaps the biggest issue with “the shift” strategy is that it is defense at a time when we must be playing offense. It sounds like it “might” be offense, but anything that attempts to maintain the status quo or sustain the broadcast business model is actually a defensive strategy. You cannot play offense within the paradigm of “casting,” whether it’s broad or broader.

This is all personally very sad to me, for local broadcasting was much more than just a job for me for a very long time. I still have many friends in the industry, and they’re mostly terrified of tomorrow and desperate for opportunities outside broadcasting. At AR&D, we’re about to launch a major initiative that we hope will lead broadcasters down a different path, and I certainly hope they have “ears to hear.”


  1. David Horton says

    Great article. TV thrown onto the web is still the same TV and I don’t plan to watch five minutes of commercials for every 10 minutes of programming just because it’s on the web.

  2. Hi, Terry: I greatly appreciate your thinking and would welcome an opportunity to share what my company is up to: TVHomesite. Your article is exactly what I and most of my colleagues have been thinking. Importantly, we believe we have at least one way for independent locally owned TV (content) to make a comeback via the Web. Your comments about how traditional broadcasters react to disruptive ideas is right on the money. When CBS invited us to visit with them, the reaction was to spend about 2 hours of a 3 hour meeting telling us that a) everything was OK and that CBS had floors full of lawyers to keep it that way (referring to Barry); b) its hands were tied because it didn’t own its own legacy programs (really?); and c) affiliates and advertisers would never agree to any changes, anyway!!! Cheers, cps

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