What Might Have Been Is Not What Is

If you were hoping for something light and upbeat today from these musings, I’m sorry to inform you upfront today’s wont be one of those.  Feel free to move on from this if you were hoping for something more educational and informative and slightly more optimistic.

I try and maintain something resembling blue sky optimism amidst what I sometimes see are overwhelming odds that continue to get increasingly so with every passing day.  But between starting my day driving 50 expensive miles round-trip to yet another false flag “job interview” where companies ask you to invest your own time and money preying on anyone you’ve ever known to invest in alternative financial efforts before you see a dime of salary (in my world, we call that a pyramid scheme) , to my best friend having their own deep troubles with chronic pain that will prevent them from continuing to work at a job they were already being considered for a promotion at because they literally can’t tolerate the physical toll it was taking on them, to the screaming headlines of what’s left of the Los Angeles Times that I wrote about yesterday that is doing its damn best to return the world to the isolated self-indulgent “life” of 2020 because of what is statistically an extremely small and likely aberrational uptick in the presence of coronavirus in wastewater (never mind the reality check that the actual impact on even the afflicted lives’ is nominal; why would anyone want to spoil a good business model for masks and remote services?), to the absurd but yet sobering news that my Mets have effectively thrown in the towel on 2023 with the trade of their ace starter Max Scherzer to a team that had foolishly signed away the injury-riddled person he effectively replaced in New York to now be his short-term replacement on a team that unlike the Mets will likely be competing for a World Series this year–well, let’s just say that I’ve seen better days.

Which is why I’ll point any of you who are looking for thoughtful dissertation on exactly why the entertainment industry is at the tipping point that it is should turn to Alan Wolk and his TV REV site, where this weekend he wrote an exceptionally insightful piece titled

TV Everywhere: The Streaming Revolution That Could Have Been

Wolk teases us with this rhetorical question:

Could much of the hurt that currently afflicts the television industry have been avoided had the networks and MVPDs gone ahead with the MVPD-based TV Everywhere apps that were first proposed back in the early 2010s? 

These apps, if you remember, were going to be the industry’s answer to Netflix—apps that allowed you to watch your pay TV bundle from just about anywhere (hence the name) on every device you owned. 

It’s something I’ve been mulling over a lot as I watch the various players flail about. And the story here is how a whole lot of short-term thinking plus the massive level of mistrust between networks and MVPDs killed this potential solution in utero.

He then proceeds, point by point, to illustrate what went wrong and why.  As someone who was still knee deep in that world during the 2010s from both the supply and the distributor side I didn’t need the details; I was all too familiar with it.  I’ll not spoil the details at least this time, but suffice to say you could sum it all up in one word, one that another friend of mine knows all too well:

Had the show with that name been as enduring and as successful as those who still fondly remember it in hindsight more than two decades later believed it had been, my friend who created it might be in a far, far better lot in life than he already is in.  Mind you, he’s done waaaaaay better than me.  But I do know him well enough to know he sometimes lamentes what might have been as well, because we know far less deserving people who have achieved way more with a lot less.

Wolk’s Rod Serling-like vision for what he contends should have been, and what certainly shapes us as a far more desirable alternative to the state of affairs we now find the entertainment industry in, is both visionary and wistful:

Imagine, if you will, an alternate reality, one where everyone got out of each others’ ways and the MVPDs launched those ideal TV Everywhere apps back in 2011 and 2012, much in the way many of us had imagined.

In this best case scenario, the networks would still be dominant and the billions they made from carriage and retrans fees would still be rolling in, as would the billions available to talent from syndication and overseas rights. 

The ad business would have developed a plan to measure, target and plan against all those streaming on-demand views, keeping that revenue high as well, while allowing thousands more brands to begin running TV commercials (the real benefit of ad-supported streaming.)

And while the price of top tier bundles would remain stratospheric, there would be lower priced streaming-only bundles too, which would remain lower-priced since they could be sold on a national basis and would all compete with each other.

I’ll bet my bottom dollar, which yet again I am dangerously close to actually coughing up, that I would be faring at least as well as my creator friend is today were any of those best case scenarios in vogue today, rather than the ones playing out before our eyes that have created such desperation and disconnect that all I see are  tone-deaf billionaires content to let literally nothing happen for several weeks, with the secure knowledge that the strategies they deployed from the  early days of the pandemic–enough supply to satisfy the masses before a real need for new production would force their hand–were actually ones that they benefitted from, so why not let the masses bleed poverty for a while?

Maybe they’re the ones wbo actually read the Los Angeles Times these days with the kind of wishful thinking perspective Wolk offered up, or the kind that Mets fans had when spring training began.

As for me, I’m far too upset and desperate today to even want to read.  The longer I see nothing but frustrated strikers grow increasingly angry and read how networks and platforms are hell-bent on finding every possible loophole–foreign production, increased reliance on docu-reality, waivers with independent studios, repurposing of libraries to what effectively makes linear television a secondary window–to avoid giving them even something resembling respect, and the longer I see measurement companies unable to get out of their own way to put some sorely needed real data in the hands of those flailing for some sort of ammunition, the longer I fear the rabbit hole I’ve clearly dropped way farther down that I’d like to be is one that I will remain in until something–anything–changes.

It ain’t gonna be the Mets’ fortunes, at least this year.  It’s likely not to be anything of consequence in the entertainment industry until someone with both credibility and compassion emerges to force a conversation to start.  And considering there are really good people out there like Alan Wolk already in a position to write more consistently and credibly, with a subscription model, than I am, it may not even be from efforts like this.

Heck, I can’t even motivate my alleged business partner on my sports site to even post one article a week these days to make it seem like we are a team.    He spends far more time arguing and defending with the tenacity of a studio executive why that sort of consistent non-performance is not only justified, but that I’m wholly unreasonable to expect anything more.  He continues to attempt to reassure me that a post from him is imminent.  Feel free to visit that site anytime you choose today to see if that occurs.  Lord knows I need the traffic, and all I compete with is in sports is, ahh, ESPN, FOX Sports, Sportsline, Yahoo–not much there.

So for anyone who has read this far, again, a) sorry but not sorry, because reality is what it is and b) it’s the end of yet another month of what should have beens, so I’m sure you know what awaits at the bottom.

Surprise me, perhaps?  If not with help, at least amplification or understanding?

Until next time…

Fundraiser by Steven Leblang : Steve Leblang (gofundme.com)


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