Sunday, December 17th, 2017
DISNEY BUYS MURDOCH
A. Michael Noll
December 16, 2017
© Copyright 2017 AMN
Walt Disney is purchasing Murdoch’s entertainment empire for over $50 billion. Is this a great deal – or a huge challenge for the future of Disney?
The vision is a future in which video entertainment (and sports) is downloaded over the Internet directly from the source, bypassing the middle distributors, such as the cable TV company, the satellite company, or the phone company. This vision has been known as cable bypass. But it assumes an Internet that is “free.”
Disney, and its Bob Eger, should be frightened that the FCC just terminated “net-neutrality,” which means that the middle distributors can charge different Internet rates depending upon the source and the content.
Rubert Murdoch is known as a very shrewd businessman. The fact that he wants to sell his entertainment properties should be the cause of suspicion. If it looks like a good deal, it most likely is a good deal – for Murdoch.
Indeed, the Internet was not designed for the delivery of broadband video. The bandwidth (or data capacity) and need for instantaneous delivery, coupled with the one-way nature, of video is costly. One solution is to charge more, as now allowed by the elimination of net-neutrality. Another solution would be a network optimized for the technological demands of video – but that would require technological innovation. Unfortunately, the Bell Labs of the past that used to give us such innovation is no more, and the telephone companies, such as AT&T, simply are not innovative.
A. Michael Noll is Professor Emeritus of Communications at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California. He has written many articles and opinion pieces about the telecommunications industry and technology.
Wednesday, November 22nd, 2017
AT&T Goes Hollywood
A. Michael Noll
© Copyright 2017 AMN
AT&T wants to purchase Time Warner — the White House and the Justice Department correctly oppose the acquisition. The acquisition would create a huge vertical integration of content and conduit that would not benefit consumers, in my opinion. But the local telephone companies have a long history of lusting after content and Hollywood.
Today’s AT&T is really a former local Bell company: the past Southwestern Bell that then became SBC Communications which then acquired AT&T and then wrapped itself in the AT&T identity.
Over two decades ago, the local Bell companies chased after the entertainment industry. And now again one of the remaining of the two super Bells – AT&T – is again inflicted with Hollywood fever.
AT&T is a conduit company, providing the cables and wireless paths over which consumer access various services. In 2015, AT&T extended its control over conduit through its acquisition of DirecTV for nearly $50 billion, delivering video over satellite to homes. But throughout history, the old Bell operating companies have lusted after also providing the content that their customers want to access over the conduits.
The telecommunication conduit business in the United States has become mostly a duopoly. AT&T and Verizon dominate wireless. Either AT&T or Verizon and a CATV company dominate wired access. Duopolies inherently adjust “competition” so that markets are shared and profits maximized, without attracting government attention. In the late 1940s, the studios were forced to divest their vertical integration of movie theaters. So today If AT&T wants to become a content company, it should be required to divest its wireless and wireline conduit businesses.
AT&T knows little of Hollywood and the news and entertainment businesses. It should stick with its strengths in providing wired and wireless conduits, as I wrote in 1993.* One might argue that if AT&T wants to lose its shirt chasing Hollywood, then let it. However, like decades ago, now is still not the time for AT&T to go Hollywood.** “Hollywood” might well end up as “Follywood” for AT&T.
*“Baby Bells Should Stick With Strengths,” by A. Michael Noll, Los Angeles Times, October 22, 19933, p. B15.
**“The phone company has gone Hollywood,” by A. Michael Noll, Morris County Daily Record, January 7, 1994, p. A11.
November 22, 2017
Friday, November 10th, 2017
My colleagues and I had a wonderful conversation with Tommy Edison, host of The Blind Film Critic, yesterday afternoon, following his presentation at UARC’s (MSU Usability/Accessibility Research and Consulting) World Usability Day conference. Blind from birth, Tommy’s website describes him as the ‘Blind Film Critic, YouTuber, Radio Personality, Public Speaker’, and he truly is a master of all. We organized this conversation to discuss his life and work and particularly the lessons he has learned about disabilities and access to the Internet. As Tommy said, ‘too few people have any experience with a blind person’, and even fewer with how a blind person uses the Internet.
The most important insight he provided was on the centrality of the mobile smartphone for enabling better access to the Internet for the blind. As he argued, computers, such as laptops, and the Internet have become more accessible since the early days for those born blind or having lost their eyesight, but there are still major hurdles. He had always found it difficult to deal with the computer screen, for example, even though the graphical user interface has of course been one of the key breakthroughs in helping sighted people use the Internet.
A breakthrough on the computer-based Internet has been text-to-voice advances, which he uses. But in this respect, he has found the smartphone to be the most major breakthrough as he can envision the keyboard of a smart phone through touch and therefore navigate the Internet far more easily. And he can touch a key once to hear the function, and twice to complete it.
I asked about the use of voice search, and whether this provided a similar breakthrough for him. However, his concerns over privacy trumped the value of voice search. So, as we increasingly design Web sites and blogs for mobile first access, we are often making the Internet more usable for those with impaired sight.
Tommy Edison has been blind since birth and now producing videos online that reveal a glimpse into his life and the funny challenges that he faces daily. Tommy has showed us what it’s like for someone who is blind to use an ATM for the time and how some people who are visually impaired may organize their money. Plus, Tommy is living his dream of reviewing movies as the Blind Film Critic. With his unique and interesting perspective, Tommy says “I watch movies and pay attention to them in a different way than sighted people do. I’m not distracted by all the beautiful shots and attractive people. I watch a movie for the writing and acting.” In addition to being the Blind Film Critic, Tommy has been a radio professional for nearly 25 years, having spent the last 19 at STAR 99.9 FM in Connecticut as a traffic reporter. Tommy’s engaging personality, along with his on-air excellence and entertaining demeanor has garnered him much media attention.
The Center thanks the Quello Center’s Valeta Wensloff and Graham Pierce, the Assistant Director of Usability/Accessibility Research and Consulting at MSU for helping to bring this conversation together.
Tuesday, October 31st, 2017
We are delighted to announce that Vincent Curren, principal of Breakthrough Public Media Consulting, Inc., has accepted our invitation to join the Quello Center’s Advisory Board. Given his experience in public broadcasting and his current focus on the future of broadcasting standards and their implications for the industry, his appointment helps reinforce the Center’s broadcast legacy tied to James H. Quello.
Recently, Vinnie visited the Quello Center and provided his perspective on the future of public broadcasting. He focused on the new IP-based standard created by the Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC), called ATSC 3.0. As he argues, this new standard is likely to enable real synergies between the Internet and broadcasting, and much much more, even helping to usher in the next generation of television.
As principal of his firm, Breakthrough Public Media Consulting, Vinnie is helping public media companies navigate today’s dynamic and competitive media world. More concretely, he is working with the Public Media Company to help public television stations leverage the power of ATSC 3.0, the next generation, broadcast television standard.
Before leaving to start his own firm, Vinnie served as Chief Operating Officer of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), a position that he held for nearly a decade. While at CPB, Vincent Curren had overall responsibility for managing station policy, grant-making and station support activities, ensuring that all Americans receive robust public media services for free and commercial-free. Prior to being named Chief Operating Officer, Vinnie was the Senior Vice President for Radio at CPB.
Vinnie has been a major market station general manager (WXPN, Philadelphia), has held programming, fundraising, and engineering positions in radio, been a commercial television producer/director, and has served on the boards of the Development Exchange (now Greater Public) and the Station Resource Group.
Vinnie holds a BA from SUNY Buffalo (Psychology) and an MS from the University of Pennsylvania in Organizational Dynamics. After Vinnie was invited to accept our invitation to join the Board, and had a chance to review its members, he spoke of the quality of the Board. He added that, coincidentally, he happened to have been a fellow graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the 1970s, with another member of our Board, Bob Pepper, now at Facebook, but formerly at Cisco, and who was a major figure at the FCC. Vinnie said Bob was the ‘star Larry Lichty student’, referring to Professor Lawrence W. Lichty, one of the foremost scholars of the history of broadcasting. In fact, when I first met Dr Pepper, he was a professor at the University of Iowa, and focused on the history of public broadcasting.
So it is wonderful to have Vinnie Curren, one of the nation’s leading thinkers about the future of public broadcasting, as well as his former colleague at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Bob Pepper, along with all the other prominent figures on the Quello Center’s Advisory Board. We are honored.
Director and Professor of Media and Information Policy
Friday, October 6th, 2017
Vincent Curren, Principal at Breakthrough Public Media Consulting, Inc., provided his perspective on the future of public broadcasting, focusing on the new IP-based standard created by the Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC), called ATSC 3.0. This new standard will enable real synergies between the Internet and broadcasting, and much much more. So join us to learn about the future of public broadcasting, and the next generation of television, as well as developments on the ground here in East Lansing at WKAR.
Biographical Sketch of Speaker
Vincent Curren is principal of Breakthrough Public Media Consulting, a firm that helps public media companies navigate today’s dynamic and competitive media world. Vinnie is working with the Public Media Company to help public television stations leverage the power of ATSC 3.0, the next generation, broadcast television standard.
Before leaving to start his own firm, Vinnie served as Chief Operating Officer of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a position that he held for nearly a decade. While at CPB, Vinnie had overall responsibility for managing station policy, grant-making and station support activities, ensuring that all Americans receive robust public media services for free and commercial-free. Prior to being named COO, Vinnie was the Senior Vice President for Radio at CPB.
Vinnie has been a major market station general manager (WXPN, Philadelphia), has held programming, fundraising, and engineering positions in radio, been a commercial television producer/director, and has served on the boards of the Development Exchange (now Greater Public) and the Station Resource Group. Vinnie holds a BA from SUNY Buffalo (Psychology) and an MS from the University of Pennsylvania (Organizational Dynamics)