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TV learning from the music biz?

This recent column from the widely-read Lefsetz Letter made the rounds at Brightcove this weekend. A little self-referential here (but it is the Brightcove Blog after all), but I thought very relevant. The column credits the TV industry with understanding the need to license aggressively and to try to reach the widest possible audience. Channing Dawson, a respected innovator from Scripps Networks, describes letting content flow "like water" to be wherever your viewer is, rather than working to drive that viewer back to the mothership. Good point. There's a reason Starbucks has two outposts directly across the street from each other on Market Street in San Francisco (probably NY, Seattle and DC too). Make it as convenient as possible for your customers or viewers to find and consume your product. Period.

Lefsetz (not sure if he/she is the column's writer as well) makes another great point about the potential lost revenue that the music industry would have earned if it had embraced digital distribution six years earlier.

We’ve got to go back six years to Napster.  Thomas Middelhoff wanted to license the music industry’s wares to Napster.  End result?  His company Bertelsmann and the investors in Napster were sued by the likes of Universal and are STILL IN LITIGATION!  To what purpose?  So that Universal can put a few bucks in its coffers?  Aren’t these dollars DWARFED by what they would have received if they’d made a deal for their music on Napster HALF A DECADE AGO??

Yes, the dollars are dwarfed.

Last summer, Mitch Singer, a senior legal exec at Sony Pictures, delivered one of the most compelling presentations on this subject - as a wakeup call to the motion picture industry. He projected backward off of the current clip of digital music sales. Had the major labels embraced digital in 2000 rather than 2003, the industry would have recovered $24.2B in lost revenue. Singer then goes on to track several parallels between long-form video programming and motion pictures versus music, making the point that Hollywood must learn the lessons from those who have stumbled before them. He compares 1999 vs. 2006  audio vs. video file size, cost per GB of hard drive storage for consumers, broadband penetration and minutes to download a song in '99 vs. an hour of video in '06. Compelling stuff.

The early enthusiam in the press around Brightcove has been extremely gratifying and appreciated here in Cambridge. As a citizen of the industry, I think the WSJ piece and the kind welcome we've gotten in the blogosphere represent something bigger though, and that is the consensual desire by the consumer, press and an enlightened entertainment industry for extreme choice, control, and convenience in how media is purchased and enjoyed.

Link: Lefsetz Letter - Blog Archive - Licensing.