“Cable is this great closed system, where 90% of subscribers support ESPN – which is only watched by 10%. Now, that’s a great little plot, so long as you can keep everyone inside.” So said TV pioneer Barry Diller recently; but Diller doesn’t think the current anti-choice system can last.
Barry Diller is a true television pioneer. After getting his start by creating the ABC Movie of the Week, Diller went on to be CEO of Paramount Pictures Corporation. With Diller at the helm, the studio produced hit television programs such as Laverne & Shirley, Taxi, and Cheers and the movies Saturday Night Fever, Grease, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Beverly Hills Cop, among others. Later, he was CEO of Fox, and helped launch the Fox broadcast network. Currently, he runs Expedia, and has started a new venture called Aereo, a means by which subscribers can watch over-the-air broadcast TV on their cellphones and other portable devices.
The cable industry has bitterly opposed Aereo, with Fox and CBS going so far as to claim that, if Diller’s idea is successful, they will shut down their over-the-air channels and become available only via cable. But the feisty Diller refuses to back down; and in a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal, he was asked if he thought Aereo could break up the entertainment industry’s cable bundling scheme. Diller answered:
“I think it’s going to bust on its own. I’ve felt that for a long time…I think that young people who don’t now subscribe to cable are going to maybe think of Aereo as an alternative, because they don’t like cable. They see no reason to pay $100 a month for things they mostly don’t watch. But they like watching sports and live events and all these other kinds of things that broadcast television does so well.”
When everyone from Charter Cable CEO Tom Rutledge to TV innovator Barry Diller says customers are tired of paying for something they never use and that the current bundling system is crumbling, the entertainment industry might be wise to listen.