These are interesting times for marketers. Any number of opportunities are available for getting the word out. It almost requires an actuarial skill set to assess and value all of them.
That brings us to the roughly week-old struggle between News Corp. (Fox) and Cablevision. Recent battles have tested the value of programming and the value of the eyes (and DVR’s) watching it. The Academy Awards undercard earlier this year was settled quickly. A couple of years back, there was the NFL Network vs. Everyone which resulted in the league deciding to fight another day.
But this high stakes poker match is different. You have two players with big chip stacks – Rupert Murdoch, et. al. vs. James Dolan (owner of Madison Square Garden, Knicks, Rangers, MSG Network), keeper of the family business at Cablevision.
Watching……well viewers and marketers. At least they want to watch, but it’s a closed circuit game for now. Cablevision and Fox saw an opportunity this time. Academy Awards come and go. Scripted programming can be seen on the web or via the dish. But, the rights to broadcasting the NFL and MLB Playoffs are another thing altogether.
This is a beachhead. Despite the economy, the episode fees for scripted shows and sports have been somewhat unaffected. Reality television has been TV’s answer to the per-episode salaries of the established stars.
But, sports fees are still why you see the Conan Blimp in the air and stars of shows on Fox sitting at the World Series (“Wow, what a coincidence Tim, there’s the stars of Glee sitting right near third base in view of our cameras”). The programmers have tried to find ways to make the cost worth it.
So, when Fox tells Cablevision they want more per viewer, it’s nothing new. But, the wide gulf between the two offers is notable. Fox wants double what Cablevision is willing to offer.
This is a battle that in my mind could be a seismic shift. In the late 1980’s, Cable Broadcasters and Bell Labs were locked in a dispute over who had the right to own and market the burgeoning technology of fiber optics (then referred to as the “Video Dialtone”). Cable felt it had found the use for it, but Bell wanted the right to keep the invention from it’s own labs in NJ for the Baby Bells all around the country.
Cable won the battle, but to some extent has been locked in the ongoing competitive war of wireless, satellite, internet, cable delivery systems ever since.
Back to the marketers dilemma – when games and shows are going by the boards during this dispute, what is the discount on a make-good for spots not seen in a major MSA? Moreover, what can a rights holder/programmer charge, with contractual protections, a sponsor who signs on to be a part of these ad buys?
The offer of a federal mediator has been made, but the sides don’t agree on that. Others have probably joined the fray already behind the scenes.
However, my point in all of this is a client and client rep have to develop a complete plan when preparing a campaign. Have a media mix that works together and yet can stand on its own merits. This Fox/Cablevision struggle will have ripple effects. Use marketers with skill that can help you value, navigate and launch your projects effectively.