@ The Cable Show: It’s still a choice between digital pennies and analog dollars

**As published in RCR Wireless News** LOS ANGELES – Media moguls from cable operators, networks and studios met on stage Wednesday morning with a former Federal Communications Commission chairman and a venture capitalist to hold court on the rapidly changing business models facing the industry and how alternative screens are playing a role in that. “Every single piece of technology that’s come into being has been a friend to content,” said Les Moonves, president and CEO of CBS Corp. It’s hard to imagine him saying that even just a few short years ago, but he shows every indication of being on board now.

Former FCC chairman Michael Powell stuck to the task at hand as moderator, and didn’t shy away from addressing the challenge that each of the executives on stage face whenever the hype of technology meets the need to earn profits. It’s still not a given that content creators and distributors will get paid on every platform, he said. “While all of this stuff is euphorically exciting, I worry about … willingness to pay for that content.” Without accepting pricing pressures, the likes of which Apple Inc. has done to the music industry on iTunes, Powell asked: where does the money come from? Stacey Snider, co-chairman and CEO at DreamWorks Studios, said he doesn’t necessarily believe all the technology changes are good for folks on the creative and business side of content. There is the natural push and pull of business models, he said, but “nothing unfortunately in the world beats free. You’d like to think that there is a moral imperative … but there just isn’t.” The good news, Moonves said, is that CBS used to have one source of revenue and now it has 12 revenue streams. And yet, while he embraces technology, his biggest fear is that too many viewers will shift online and make it impossible to make a return on an episode of “CSI” that costs north of $3 million an episode to produce. “The problem is I’m only getting pennies online compared to the dollars I get on the network,” he said. “Whenever they say it’s not about the money, it’s about the money. It’s about the economics of this new universe,” Moonves concluded. Brian Roberts, chairman and CEO of Comcast Corp., used his opportunity on stage to demonstrate a new app that Comcast is working on for Apple’s iPad called Xfinity Remote. Like most things tech, it began with a question that needed to be solved: “How can we liberate from the box, but still let you have that PC experience?” Roberts said. The application pairs to the cable box in the home and acts as a virtual remote with interactive features and search, which he called “the missing link for a lot of us on the cable box.” By tapping Comcast’s existing technology footprint, the app will work on “virtually every box that’s been deployed,” Roberts said. “This pace of innovation is speeding up and you can’t pretend otherwise. And the pace of competition is speeding up and you can’t pretend otherwise,” he added. Comcast wants to be in the “vanguard of technology” and meet consumers wherever they want to go, Roberts continued. “So we’ve got to get on that bus. We don’t want to stay on our bus,” he said. “Everybody would like to figure out how to speed up our innovation, not go back to the good old days. It’s just been very difficult to do.”

@ The Cable Show: Bringing TV and content up to the modern era

@The Cable Show: Finding nuggets of mobility in a cabled world