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Must-Carry for Commercials??? September 22, 2003

Posted by David Card in Uncategorized.

I don’t know what Sanford Bernstein’s Tom Wolzien’s politics are, but this is too funny. Regulate DVRs like Tivo, or else watch ad revenues shrivel and cable fees rise, cries Tom!

However, regulating commercial-skipping in playback devices might not be all that complicated, he said. Currently, The Walt Disney Co.’s new ESPN Motion interactive service is programmed to prevent tampering with TV commercials. ESPN Motion uses Microsoft’s Windows Media Player, which will not allow users to watch the replay of any sports fare without the original commercials in tact.

Such software, that attempts to set and code parameters of the content playback, also could be coded to prevent content piracy and to assist in copyright protection and other digital rights management. In that case, the cost and responsibility would rest with the manufacturers of any playback devices, Mr. Wolzien said.

First, any technology “solution” will be hacked. DRM has been such a success in music. Second, since when is it the government’s job to defend NBC’s god-given right to advertising revenue? And didn’t Tom see that WhenU and Gator just proved, at least in one court, that the consumer owns his screen, not the media company?

If the television industry lobbies for such regulation, it’s asking for trouble. Let’s not pin any false hopes on bogus technology and legislation. Let’s instead figure out how to:

– Make ads viewers want to see,
– Sponsor programming again, or make entertaining infomercials (Food Network anyone?)
– Bring back live TV, or create interactive shows that suffer when time-shifted, and
– Do better, more clever product placement.

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