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CBS and Google.

A little over 4 years ago I predicted Google would break up into 3 different companies.  It would happen in about 48 months, the non-prescient post suggested. I was wrong. The post had over a 1,000 hits, partly because of a point I made about Google’s culture of technological obesity, a tidbit picked up by Steve Rubel and Life Hacker. Who knew?

Today CBS, a proclaimed content company, has made public its plans to spin off and IPO its outdoor business. A $3.3B advertising and real estate venture, it is deemed non-core. CBS is rolling financially, owning an amazing share of prime time TV viewership as well as a successful film business, a cable channel and online properties. CBS is making the move during a period of earnings strength. It’s still about portfolio focus.  

My Google trivestiture prediction was also about focus. But without any government pressure, Google has decided that a diverse portfolio, kept buoyant by mad ad revenue, is the best way forward.  Google can afford to pizzle away money on Motorola, and self-driving cars and, and, and.  Google is taking the GE approach, becoming a diversified technology company. And I’m liking it.

CBS gets what it is good at — content. Its diversity comes from flavors of content: prime time, movies, cable and online. Google is good at putting the world’s information at our finger tips… yet it is looking beyond the dashboard toward what’s next.  And as long as Google can turn a profit, it’s a brilliant approach. (That’s why Facebook bought Oculus Rift.  It’s non-core, but it is about the future.)

For businesses, focus gets you smarter and better. Diversity gets you smarter and better. No wrong, until the shareholders start to wince. Peace. 

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There’s a big article today in The New York Times about how non-traditional TV broadcast companies are moving into programming.  Netflix, for instance, is spending $100 on a Kevin Spacey, Robin Wright production called House of Cars. Amazon, Microsoft and others are following suit, producing their own original entertainment.   I visited my son in college and his roommate has Google TV.  To say searching for TV shows and movies using a Google interface is easy would be an understatement. Check it out.  

It will be a dog fight between the TV and cable companies and these new breed, onesy-twosy production companies but one way for the latter to change the game is to rethink the commercial pod. Paid commercials will live on. Good TV production is too expensive to be paid for solely by subscription, so the question is how do we reinvent the commercial break in a way that is more palatable?  Less of them would be a good move. Not so many breaks, another. Contextual spots are an idea. I’m thinking 2 commercial breaks for every 30 minute program. At the 10 and 20 minute marks. For a 60 minute show, three breaks at 12, 30, 48 minute marks.  The price the spots accordingly, abased on supply and demand.  Also don’t allow fast forwarding.

Speaking of fast forward, if we were to zap ahead 30 years, what do you think TV will look like. Will ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox still be around? Thoughts? What say you Reed Hasting?

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FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) drove billions of dollars of B2B marketing communications in the 90s and was the brainchild, so I’ve been told, of IBM.   “Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM” was the quiet mantra of IBM sales team and ad agencies.  With proper and subtle brand management, this notion was acculturated into the IT departments across American and beyond.  I’m not aware of any IBM ads ever mentioning FUD.

Digital Equipment may have been the company IBM was trying to scare people from; Apple at that time certainly wasn’t a factor. The strangle hold IBM had on business during that period, thanks to FUD, was broken by Dell when Michael Dell opened up the computer and showed us it was a bunch of simple parts — worth a good deal less than the white shirts at IBM were offering. Plus Dell took advantage of a technological breakthrough – the US Postal Service – to change the game by selling direct to the IT dept. For those old enough to remember, Dell boxes were flying in and out of IT depts. across the country.  It was Christmas every day for techies.  The fear was gone. Fast forward a few years and IBM sells its PC business and does some serious brand retrenchment, tossing “the fear” in favor of a more positive “building good systems” approach. IBM is crazy back.

Strategic planners need to understand fear, but they shouldn’t use it. Leave it to Disney and Comcast and CBS to deliver our required dose of fear. (NBC…Grimm? Really?) Plan strategy using the end-game of hope and deliverance and well-earned reward. Those are things in which it is worth investing. Peace!

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Twitch Point Planning was born out of today’s fast twitch media world. Twitch point planning attempts to understand, map and manipulate consumers — moving them closer to a transaction via  the various media types we digital agers touch every day.  Though much fast twitch media is technology-based (tablets, smart phones, geolocation, video, etc.) the actions that support it are behavioral. And it is all attention deficit related. So which came first the behavior or the technology?

According to a new study reported by CBS, SpongeBob Square Pants cartoons, with its fast cuts and jumpy story lines, contribute to attention deficit in kids.  The study analyzed a small sample of kids (60) but the results are still predictable.

And if kids are becoming predisposed to media twitching thanks to cartoons, wait until they grow up. Many children are hyper enough — no need to fuel that fire.  Can someone say “quiet time?”   Will these kids be able to sit down for 3 hours and read text books or in later years snuggle up to a good Kindle? 

I’m all for using twitch point planning to make a few bucks, but long term this may be a bigger issue worth studying.  And fixing.  Or the pharmaceutical companies will be investing in the cartoon business pretty soon. Peace.



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CBS. FOX and Yahoo!

CBS is a content company. Most think of it as a TV channel…with a bit of an integration problem across the country.  Different call letters, different channel numbers, not where it’s supposed to be on the dial when you move from city to city.  (See? Platform integration has always been around, it’s not just an issue for the TechCrunch crowd.)  CBS has always been dinged for catering to the older market. Well, in today’s media world the older market watches TV. Lots of it. And CBS’s quarterly numbers are quite strong, especially for local sales.   CBS owns C|Net and ZDNet, which along with other web properties, is helping the company diversify and learn about new targets, markets and categories.  CBS has radio, outdoor, book publishing, and other web properties in addition to cable and broadcast, which positions it nicely as all media moves towards the middle.  At its very core, CBS is a content play.

And in a new media world where everyone’s a publisher therefore no one’s a publish, CBS continues to crank out content people want to watch, hear, and read.  This content strategy is also the strategy of AOL and Yahoo!.  Oddly, they are all competitors.  I know AOL and Time Warner didn’t make it, but that was then.  WABC (Disney) and WNBC (Comcast) have too much baggage.  Fox has the stomach for it (read MySpace), so I predict Yahoo!, or less likely AOL, will be purchased by Mr. Murdoch and FOX.  This would be the year to do it, too.   Peace!

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TV is back, baby.

There’s a big media conference in NYC this week and attendees and reporters are surprised to learn that TV viewership is growing. One conference attendee said:

 “TV is, by estimates, still gaining share of the overall advertising market, to 40.7% in 2010, from 37 % in 2005.”

 Another chimed in, “TV will be adding about half of all growth next year.”

 The web ad market is growing for shizzle, but the 30 second spot is not dead (Joseph Jaffe).  In fact, the Super Bowl is kind of off the charts. Another conference attendee suggested TV is growing because of the need for viewers to have something to Tweet about or post on their Facebook pages. Yah think?

 The fact is, TV programming is just getting better. The networks are working harder for our eyeballs. The Emmy bookcases at CBS, NBC, ABC, FOX are not growing as they once did thanks to cable properties such as Sons of Anarchy, Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Chelsea Handler, Men of a Certain Age, etc. The big networks are beginning to pay attention — feeling the fire. As Eddie Vedder might say “It’s evolution baby.”  Weed out the weak genes in favor of the strong.  Won’t be long now and reality TV will start to secede from the union. Peace!

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Fast forward a couple of years and listen in on what the network executives are saying: “The only way we can make money off of TV shows is though cast appearances, tee-shirt sales and residuals paid for Internet mash-ups of our show.” Sound familiar? It should. That’s what music executives have been saying about their business thanks to the decline of CD sales due to free music downloads. 
As TV shows become downloadable, portable and copy-able, one can expect ad revenue to continue to drop. TV shows are 1s and 0s, just like music, and they will be pirated. TV execs better get on the stick. They had better learn from their music industry brethren. Are you listening ABC, NBC, CBS?



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Eye on C|Net


CBS is in the content business. C|Net is in the content business. CBS is known for TV shows favored by older adults. C|Net is known for online content targeting the technically astute and younger demo. In order for CBS to increase revenue it has often attempted to infuse its programming with younger fare and it hasn’t really worked.  But that’s exactly what it has done with this bold move to purchase C|Net — the CBS portfolio just got younger.
CBS will learn from its younger, technical partner and C|Net will learn from CBS. (So long as they don’t silo up.) I expect great things to come out of the merger of these two very different media and two very different cultures. You see, tools (read Internet apps) are wonderful things but content is king. Bringing together two disparate elements, be they demographic or media, can often yield explosive breakthroughs. In this case, it all begins with Leslie Moonves and his willingness to put on his sneakers and play ball with Quincy Smith, president of CBS Interactive. The game has started and it’s looking good.   

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My geeze is showing.

There has been much talk about mobile phone advertising over the months and years, but none more disturbing to me than that on the subject of ads being served up in realtime to phones based upon where the phone owner is geographically. For instance, if you are walking down the street approaching two competing donut shops one might “feel” you coming and server up a promotional ad.
CBS and Loopt a social network with GPS technology are dabbling with this application, which sounds like a major nuisance. The only way this can work will be if ads are served up on an opt-in mobile channel, but I’m guessing not enough people will opt-in to an ad or deal-centric channel to make it worth the while. So expect it to be served up in an intrusive way.
Call me a geeze, but I don’t want ads on my cell phone. I don’t want to be telemarketed on my cell phone and, frankly, I don’t want to be called on my cell phone to chat.  “Hey Steve, I can see your house from here.” If I’m not near a land line, I’m doing something. 

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