Field Study Disruption of Television


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This was the culmination of a field study at the Harvard Business School I advised last year. No one in the group was a member of the entertainment industry - backgrounds included consulting, finance, and operations.

Each of the team members were smart, talented, consumers of media. Each was interested in seeing where television was going, and doing so in a manner that objectively leveraged some of our theories of innovation.

Published in: Technology, Business

Field Study Disruption of Television

  1. 1. Executive SummaryWhile television executives broadly agree that new technologies will bring sweeping changes to theentertainment landscape, it is much more difficult to find consensus on what those changes mean forindividual companies. The timing, nature and scope of innovation are highly uncertain, and it is difficultto quantify the inertia of entrenched interests. However, we believe the careful application ofmanagement theories can make the future of television much clearer.In this paper, we examine the past, present, and future of television from a variety of perspectives. Webegin with an overview of television’s role in our lives, emphasizing the social, emotional, and functionalpurposes television can serve. We then examine the historical evolution of the industry through ClayChristensen’s related theories of disruptive innovation, commoditization and modularity/integration.Following an overview of the television value chain, we issue four bold predictions for the future: 1. Highly integrated consumer device manufacturers will win the living room war 2. Telecommunications companies will disrupt cable and satellite providers as distribution becomes commoditized 3. Emerging social discovery and recommendation models will enable curators to add value in new ways 4. Rising programming costs will force incumbent content creators and distributors up-market, creating new opportunities for disruptive new entrantsFinally, we offer advice for business leaders throughout the television industry and conclude with a visionof the future from the consumer’s perspective. 1
  2. 2. IntroductionWe live in a world of constant disruption and technological change. Over the past several decades, wehave witnessed resource-rich incumbents fall to smaller, innovative new entrants in a variety of media-related industries. Amazon became our local bookstore. We replaced our local newspaper with Yahoo!News. We began tuning into Pandora instead of traditional radio stations. However, throughout all thesetransformations there was one industry left relatively unchanged: television.From the time the first TV set was produced in the mid 1940s, television has proven to be one of the mostrevolutionary and disruptive technologies in history. Less than ten years after launch, television sets werefound in over 80% of all U.S. households and became a “must have” for the living room1. But for mostAmericans, “TV” was more than just a large box that displayed moving images. It was the center of thehome. Families gathered around the “tube” during the evening to enjoy I Love Lucy and The Ed SullivanShow. Homemakers tuned into their favorite daytime soap operas to be swept away into a world ofdrama, romance and suspense. For the first time, people from coast to coast watched live historicmoments like presidential debates and NFL Championship Games. Television changed the Americanlifestyle forever.Fast forward to today. While there are more choices, sharper images and (arguably) better programming,the television viewing experience has remained relatively unchanged. Consumers still primarily sit infront of large boxes in their living room and enjoy their favorite content. Household penetration nowhovers above 90%, where it has been since the early 1990s, and over 35 million households now own fouror more TV sets2. Americans spend over 35 hours per week watching television programming and mediaconsumption is at an all-time high3. We even continue to watch many of the same broadcast televisionnetworks that existed in the beginning of the television era. Given such momentum, could the televisionindustry be the exception to the rule and avoid the seemingly inevitable disruption typically brought aboutin the internet age? Can major corporations such as Disney, News Corporation, Viacom and Comcaststave off newer entrants such as Netflix and Google going forward?Many equity analysts and industry incumbents seem to believe that disruption will not occur in thetelevision industry, at least in the short term. Since 2009, many television players have seen consistentstock price growth. For example, CBS Corporation’s stock price grew tenfold between March 2009 andMarch 2012, from a low of $3.40 to a high of $344. And while many of these high-performers have madesignificant efforts to compete through internet-based channels (e.g., Comcast’s Xfinity TV Online, the war is not over. In fact, it is just beginning. Television incumbents must better understandthe important Jobs-To-Be-Done of the television consumer, identify compelling new value propositionsand viable business models, and allocate resources in a way that best positions them to succeed. Perhapsmost importantly, these companies must continue to test and learn quickly in order to avoid the dangers ofcomplacency that doomed so many of the traditional media players in the music, newspaper, and radiobroadcasting industries.1 Kyle Harig, “Technology Adoption,” Find What Works (blog), September 2010,, accessed March 2012.2 “Nielsen State of the Media: Consumer Usage Report 2011,” Nielsen Holdings, accessed March 2012.3 Ibid.4 Data excerpted from Yahoo! Finance. 2
  3. 3. This paper is intended to help both incumbents and new entrants navigate the complex and uncertainfuture of television by analyzing consumers and industry structure through Clay Christensen’s theories.Why We Watch Television: Analysis of Consumer “Jobs-To-Be-Done”In order to analyze the television industry, we must first examine consumers’ Jobs-To-Be-Done, or thefundamental problems they are trying to solve when they opt to watch television. From this perspective,customers don’t buy products or services; they “hire” them to fulfill specific jobs. For example, peopledon’t buy television sets to watch TV, they buy television sets to cure boredom or bring the familytogether. For every job, there is a functional, emotional and social dimension. Only after gaining a solidunderstanding of how consumers evaluate potential solutions along these dimensions can companiesdevelop compelling value propositions and business models that consumers want to “hire.” Furthermore,by looking at the market through the lens of the Jobs-To-Be-Done theory, companies can identifysubstitutes that threaten the business, both from within and outside the TV industry.So why has the television set continued to function as the center of the home for over 60 years while otherinnovative products have come and gone? Historically, few competing solutions have been able to betterfulfill important Jobs for which consumers hire television. Fundamental Jobs-To-Be-Done rarely change;only the available solutions do. For example, while we have progressed from fuzzy black and whitecathode ray tube TV sets receiving “over-the-air” signals via an antenna to high definition TV setsconnected to HD DVRs that record and save our favorite shows, families still need to be entertained atnight, fans still need to root for the favorite sports team and people still need to stay informed aboutwhat’s happening in the world.Just as smart-phones and applications provide us with the ability to find unique solutions for an incrediblydiverse set of tasks, TV sets and television programming provide us with the flexibility to fulfill diverse,yet important Jobs by simply changing the channel. Given the advantages of a visual medium, televisionhas thus far been able to compete successfully against substitutes such as newspapers, radios andmagazines in regards to important Jobs. As seen in Exhibit 1, cable and broadcast television grew itsshare of total media consumption in the U.S. from 47.2% in 2004 to a staggering 65.5% in 2010 (10.1%CAGR), primarily at the expense of broadcast and satellite radio. While internet and mobile consumptionhas grown 5.2% per year since 2004, it still only accounts for 6.4% of total consumption. 3
  4. 4. E XHIBIT 1: A VERAGE T IME S PENT P ER Y EAR B Y M EDIA C HANNEL (% OF T OTAL)SOURCE: “Average Time Spent With Consumer Media/User/Year,” Communications Industry Statistics, VeronisSuhler Stevenson, August 3rd 2009, accessed March 2010To determine why consumers are increasingly selecting television over the alternatives, we must firstidentify and understand the fundamental jobs that television is “hired” to fulfill. To provide a startingpoint for both incumbents and new entrants, our team conducted interviews with a diverse set ofconsumers to find out why they watch TV. Exhibit 2 summarizes our findings across the variousfunctional, emotional and social dimensions of consumers’ Jobs-To-Be-Done. 4
  5. 5. E XHIBIT 2 – J OBS-T O -B E -D ONE , S OLUTIONS AND S UBSTITUTES IN THE T ELEVISION I NDUSTRYDimension Meta-Job Jobs-To-Be-Done TV-Related Solutions Traditional Substitutes Emerging Substitutes Bring excitement into Help me live vicariously TV Dramas Books Internet based TV/Movies my life Make me feel alive Game shows Movies in the Theater Video games Break me out of my day-to- Reality TV Sports YouTube clips day routine Make me laugh Cheer me up TV Comedies Stand up/comedy shows Internet clips/memes Help me lighten the mood Funny Video Shows Newspaper comic strips Social networking Late Shows/Talk Shows Jokes among friends Comedic Blogs Make me cry Remind me of whats TV Dramas Stories from friends Inspirational News Stories Emotional important in life Inspire me to change or act Competition Shows Movies in the Theater Social Networks Talk Shows Newpaper articles Help me feel loyal Watch my team play Local Sports Networks Live Games Digital solutions ( Watch big sports games Franchise RSN’s Newspaper Columns Fantasy Sports Follow my favorite sport ESPN Radio Broadcasts Legal streaming Watch the highlights League Sports Networks Illegal Streaming Watch the fight Sports Packages Pay Per View Cure my boredom Show me something Video on Demand Games Internet surfing (YouTube) interesting Fill evening hours between Primetime TV Books Video Games work and bed Occupy my kids Give me time to complete Kid-focused networks Toys & Games Internet Surfing other tasks (e.g., Nickelodeon) Keep kids out of trouble Playing Outside Video Games Help me unwind and Relieve my stress Music video channels Books Digital musicFunctional relax Help me fall asleep "Trashy" TV shows Magazines Dont make me think Music Vices/Habits Keep me informed of Show me whats new/cool Documentaries Newspapers The Huffington Post whats happening in Tell me how I am affected Local News News Shows on Radio the world Help me understand changes News Networks Help me to learn Educate me on something I Informational Networks Books Wikipedia something new am interested in (e.g., History Channel) Educate my kids School/College Help me connect with Provide me with popular News Networks "Watercooler" gossip YouTube clips others topics to talk about Help me find others with Cable/Broadcast Shows Newspapers Social Networks similar interests Bring my family Sit down as a family to watch Movie Night At Home Movies at the Theater Video Games Social together Watch and discuss with my Viewing Favorite Shows Going to Restaurants Texting husband/wife Help me build Assert my status Expensive home theater Restaurant/Bar Network Video Games friendships systems Make me popular Super Bowl parties Recreational Activities Online Fantasy LeaguesSOURCE: Interviews by author. Cambridge, MA, March 2012.After reviewing the diverse set of jobs listed above, one thing becomes clear: the most effective TVsolutions revolve around specific types of content. Not the television network, not the television set andnot the cable or satellite provider. It is the specific shows, genres, sports teams and characters that fulfillJobs-To-Be-Done. As a result, companies and technologies that lie between the viewer and the contentserve just one important purpose: helping consumers find the right content in the right circumstance aseasily as possible and at the lowest cost. For example, now ranks fourth among internet videowebsites in average time spent per month because it has the unique ability to aggregate high production 5
  6. 6. value content and allow users to quickly search for, discover and watch their favorite shows acrosselectronic devices5. It is no wonder that many in the industry claim that “content is king.”Furthermore, by viewing the market from this jobs-based perspective, companies can better defendthemselves against disruptive new entrants by creating proprietary new solutions or “bundled” solutionsthrough partnerships. In a complex ecosystem with powerful players all fighting for a piece of the pie, ourresearch indicated that most consumers still rely heavily on “bundled” solutions to fulfill their mostimportant jobs given the lack of a compelling end-to-end solution. For example, a father hoping to bondwith his family after dinner may choose to watch a Netflix film on his PlayStation 3, which is hooked upto his Samsung HDTV and connected over Wi-Fi with his Comcast High Speed Internet service. Givencomplex interdependencies throughout the value chain, the industry has adopted open standards such asHDMI to allow consumers to “bundle” various solutions together. For example, a consumer may have agame console, Blu-ray player, audio/video receiver and cable box all hooked up to their television. Whilethese “bundled” solutions currently address critical jobs of consumers, will the difficulty of getting“everything to work together” open the door to new, better solutions?The stranglehold of traditional television over a diverse set of jobs is not as strong as it may seem.Increasing internet speeds, the proliferation of media-capable devices, and the advancement of cellularmobile communications have given consumers new substitutes to accomplish these jobs. Looking at thesolution preference by age group, the trends are troubling. While television is still the most popularleisure activity among all ages, substitutes such as video games and internet surfing are beginning tocompete successfully against television in fulfilling important Jobs-To-Be-Done (see Exhibit 3).E XHIBIT 3 – S HARE OF L EISURE T IME B Y A GE , 2009SOURCE: “American Time Use Survey 2009,” Bureau of Labor Statistics,, accessed April2012.In particular, younger consumers who have grown up in the age of iPhones, Facebook, and PlayStation 3sare increasingly choosing emerging solutions over traditional TV. For example, youth are now turning to5 “Nielsen State of the Media: Consumer Usage Report 2011,” Nielsen Holdings, accessed March 2012. 6
  7. 7. video games such as Grand Theft Auto IV, which many consider to be an interactive film with well-acted,riveting plots and unending action, instead of CSI: Miami to fulfill the important job of “Bring excitementinto my life.” In order to successfully compete against these emerging substitutes, the television industrymust view them as a legitimate threat and act accordingly.However, before we can address the patterns of disruption affecting the industry and devise innovativesolutions to defend against it, it is important for companies to learn from the past. After all, this is not thefirst time the industry has had to deal with disruptive forces.A Brief History of TelevisionFollowing the release of the first affordable television set in the 1940s, there were, unsurprisingly,relatively few options for consumers. Only a few local stations existed. Content was scarce andproduction quality was low. While the revolutionary new medium had the potential to fulfill the importantjob-to-be-done of “Bring my Family Together” during the hours of 7 and 11pm better than alternatives(e.g., radio, board-games, and books), performance was simply not yet good enough to satisfy consumers.It was not until the parent companies of the “Big Three” networks – CBS, NBC and ABC – beganemploying highly vertically integrated architectures that the quantity, quality, and reliability of thetechnology began to improve, but why? When a solution to an important job is not yet “good enough,”the advantage typically goes to competitors that employ interdependent architectures.Interdependent architectures optimize performance, in terms of functionality and reliability. By definition,these architectures are proprietary because each company will develop its own interdependent design tooptimize performance in a different way. These highly integrated architectures provide product engineerswith the freedom to develop unique “end-to-end” solutions that do not need to compromise based onconstraints in other areas of the value chain. This is why integration acts as a critical competitiveadvantage when products are not yet “good enough” (Exhibit 4). However, when a product becomes morethan “good enough” in the eyes of consumers, “overshooting” has occurred. Consumers are no longerwilling to pay a premium for improved performance and the basis of competition shifts towards cost,convenience and customization. In this scenario, modular architectures in which there are nounpredictable interdependences across various stages of the value chain, allow companies to compete bydecreasing their costs and increasing speed to market by outsourcing standardized components. Thesenon-integrated competitors eventually disrupt the integrated leader. 7
  8. 8. E XHIBIT 4 – P RODUCT A RCHITECTURES AND I NTEGRATIONSource: “The Innovator’s Solution,” Clayton Christensen and Michael Raynor, 2003In television, when performance was not yet “good enough” for the majority of American consumers inthe mid 1940s, networks and their parent companies were able to succeed by using interdependentarchitectures. They invested heavily to build or acquire local broadcast stations, connect them throughcoaxial cable infrastructures and roll them up into a nationwide “network” in order to achieve sufficienteconomies of scale. Once scale was achieved, networks were able to invest more in the production ofreliable, high quality programming, which helped them compete against rival networks for advertisersthat valued the medium’s extensive reach and audio-visual experience. To ensure their programmingworked reliably with television sets in the home, companies such as RCA manufactured their own setsand even sold them through their own retail stores. This integrated strategy worked very well. Whiletelevision sets quickly became standardized, the highly integrated “Big Three” networks (CBS, ABC,NBC) benefitted immensely as TV set prices fell and became affordable to the masses. As a result,television adoption grew from less than 1% in 1947 to nearly 80% of U.S. households by 1957 and the“Big Three” networks were able to enjoy nearly 40 years of limited competition6.While television viewership exploded in popularity during the 1940s and 1950s, consumers in remote orinaccessible areas who could not receive broadcast TV station signals (e.g., valley towns where signalscould not reach) fervently sought workaround solutions7. This pent up demand led to the creation of thefirst subscription cable providers, which charged upfront and monthly fees to connect the community’slocal station antenna (“CATV”) to the consumer’s home through a cable. However, for over twenty years,these providers could only deliver programming from local broadcast stations due to FCC regulations.But in the early 1970s, the rules of the game changed overnight. The FCC deregulated the industry, and6 Kyle Harig, “Technology Adoption,” Find What Works (blog), September 2010,, accessed March 2012.7 Ibid. 8
  9. 9. cable operators were able to carry any stations they wanted, changing the basis of competition in theindustry from signal and picture reliability to variety of programming8. Few incumbents realized at thetime that this set in motion the eventual disruption of broadcast television.Deregulation provided new entrants with the ability to target important Jobs-To-Be-Done in a way thatbroadcast stations could not. For example, new entrants could now fulfill the “Make Me Laugh” jobbetter than broadcast networks by launching comedy networks such as Comedy Central. Given that itwould be very difficult, risky and costly to develop and launch new networks, cable providers employed amodular approach by using standardized components (programming formats, compatible TVs, etc.) tocompete effectively with broadcast stations along the new performance measure. By charging fees toconsumers for access to third party cable networks (the birth of pay TV), providers were able to quicklybuild out channel lineups by sharing a portion of the subscription fees with the cable network. For cablenetworks, the ability to develop and transmit television programming to specific geographies anddemographics attracted higher advertising revenue to complement the subscriber fees from cableproviders. With relatively attractive profit margins, the cable network industry was flooded with newentrants such as WTCG (Turner Communications Group) all trying to take a piece of the fast growingpie9.This modular approach enabled cable television to create customized solutions that fulfilled importantjobs-to-be-done such as “Help me feel loyal to my favorite team” better than broadcast television. Whilenew entrants into the provider market such as DirecTV (direct broadcast satellite technology) and VerizonFIOS (fiber optic cable) have offered similar services and increased pricing pressures over the past twodecades, cable TV penetration continued to grow exponentially from less than 15% in 1975 to nearly 70%by 200010. While broadcast network programs on ABC, NBC, FOX, and CBS still tend to dominate theratings on a show-by-show basis11, cable networks’ “primetime” share of viewers between 18 and 49years old surpassed that of broadcast networks for the first time in 200212. Today, cable networks are stillgrowing rapidly and generating attractive profit margins.E XHIBIT 5 – T RANSITION FROM V ERTICAL I NTEGRATION TO M ODULAR A RCHITECTURE8 C.H. Sterling, “Deregulation,” Museum of Broadcast Communications,, accessed March 2012.9 “Milestones in TBS History,” Behind the Scenes,, accessed April 201210 Kyle Harig, “Technology Adoption,” Find What Works (blog), September 2010,, accessed March 2012.11 “Nielsen Top 10 Ratings,” March 5th 2012,,accessed April 201212 Turner Research, “Share of Prime Time HH Viewing,” May 27th 2010, accessed April 2012. 9
  10. 10. However, declining costs and technological innovations in the telecommunications space over the last twodecades are planting the seeds for a classic disruption scenario. With rising penetration rates of high speedinternet and internet-enabled devices, consumers are beginning to turn to internet-based solutions forimportant jobs-to-be-done that were previously best fulfilled by traditional television (see Exhibit 5 forevolution of the TV industry). New entrants such as Netflix, Hulu and Apple are all capitalizing on thisconsumer trend. Additionally, many consumers are now looking to substitutes such as internet surfing andvideo game playing to fulfill important jobs. Will internet-driven solutions and substitutes transform theindustry again, just as cable networks were able to slowly overtake broadcast networks? Shouldcompanies respond to changes with integrated or modularized strategies? Where will the profits be in thevalue chain? In order to answer these questions, we must first understand the television value chain as itexists today.The Television Value ChainThe television value chain is complex and ever-evolving. Conglomerates such as News Corp, TimeWarner, Comcast and Disney are both vertically and horizontally integrated across the ecosystem. Othersfocus solely on particular areas of the value chain, such as Fremantle Media, the production studio behindAmerican Idol. However, for reasons of simplicity, we have segmented the television value chain intofour distinct areas: “consumers”, “distributors”, “curators” and “creators,” as shown in Exhibit 6.E XHIBIT 6 - O VERVIEW OF THE T ELEVISION I NDUSTRY E COSYSTEM 10
  11. 11. ConsumersThe “consumers” segment of the television value chain, as we define it, encompasses all products orservices through which consumers watch television programming. This includes not only television setmanufacturers, but increasingly laptop, tablet and smartphone device manufacturers, internet connectedvideo game console manufacturers and manufacturers behind “over-the-top” devices such as AppleTVand Roku. Driven by the significant growth in smartphones and tablets of late, the U.S. consumerelectronics industry has grown to $190.5B in 2011 from $170B in 200913. However, television viewing isstill primarily experienced through television sets with companies such as Vizio and Samsung dominatingthe flat panel market (see Exhibit 7 for Q4 2010 market share).E XHIBIT 7 – T OP 8 F LAT P ANEL T ELEVISION B RANDS IN THE U NITED S TATES, Q4 2010Source: “Top 8 Flat Panel Television Brands,” IHS iSuppli, February 2011, accessed April 201213 Teryn Papp, "Connecting the Dots Between Consumers, Content and Consumer Electronics in the HomeCEA:2012 Ownership Report", Consumer Electronics Association, December 2011,, accessed April 2012. 11
  12. 12. Revenue in this segment is primarily generated from device sales through brick and mortar retailers aswell as directly to consumers. However, as broadband penetration rates have risen and profit margins ontelevision sets have decreased, many device manufacturers are now pursuing internet-driven revenuestreams such as movie rentals, video on demand and digital video game sales (e.g., Xbox Live andSamsung SmartTV) to diversify and grow. In addition, with the significant growth of internet-connectedtablets, smartphones and PCs, consumers now have more options than ever for viewing their favoritetelevision programming (Exhibit 8).As for cost structures, the device manufacturing industry is heavily driven by economies of scale andinput costs (e.g., LCD screens) which means global manufacturers such as Samsung and LG enjoysignificant cost advantages. However, going forward, cost advantages may shift to companies withdiversified revenue streams that allow them to subsidize device costs for consumers. 12
  13. 13. E XHIBIT 8 – C ONSUMER E LECTRONICS D EVICE P ENETRATION AND I NTERNET C ONNECTIONSOURCE: Teryn Papp, "Connecting the Dots Between Consumers, Content and Consumer Electronics in the Home, CEA: 2012Ownership Report", Consumer Electronics Association, December 2011,, accessed April 2012.DistributorsDistributors include all companies that purchase the rights to television content or programming with theobjective of passing it onto consumers through a variety of owned or leased distribution channels. Themajor players in this industry include cable, satellite and “telco” providers that purchase televisionprogramming from networks, rights holders (e.g., NFL) and production studios, typically on a persubscriber basis. Many of these providers also function as Internet Service Providers (ISP) and in thatcapacity function as distributors. We also consider internet-based platforms such as Netflix to bedistributors of content. Similarly, Apple’s iTunes is a distributor in that it acts as an intermediary betweensellers (networks/production studios) and buyers (consumers).The primary revenue stream of the various distributors are monthly fees charged to subscribers for accessto television programming packages including basic programming, premium programming (e.g. HBO),video on demand and DVR/equipment rentals. In regards to cost structures, satellite providers currentlyhold a cost advantage over cable providers due to the relatively lower equipment and labor costs ofmaintaining infrastructure. For example, DirecTV needs only to launch a new satellite every few yearsand provide customer service while cable providers must maintain their entire terrestrial cableinfrastructure in addition to other costs. Cable providers have spent between $10B and $15B per year incapital expenditures to maintain their network over the past 5 years compared to roughly $1B per year forsatellite providers14.14 “IBISWorld Industry Report: Cable Providers in the U.S.,” IBISWorld (September 2011),, accessed March 2012. 13
  14. 14. E XHIBIT 9 – C OMPARISON OF R EVENUE AND C OSTS A MONG T OP D ISTRIBUTION C HANNELSSOURCE: Compiled from “IBISWorld Industry Report: Cable Providers in the U.S.,” “IBISWorld Industry Report:Satellite Providers in the U.S.” and “IBISWorld Industry Report: Internet Service Providers, IBISWorld (September2011),, accessed March 2012.CuratorsWe use the term “curation” to describe the process by which the universe of available content is selected,packaged and presented to consumers. Curators in the traditional television industry include broadcastnetworks and cable networks as well as online players such as Netflix and Hulu. Broadcast networkssupply content primarily via over-the-air transmission, while cable networks sell content to operators whoown (or lease) the cable infrastructure that reaches homes and businesses across the country. “Must-carry” regulations also require cable operators to carry local broadcast content under certain conditions.Broadcast networks earn 85.5% of their revenues from advertising.15 As consumers have begun usingdigital video recorders to skip commercials, and cable networks have faced new competition for addollars, advertising rates have dropped. Many broadcast networks have responded to this development bycreating a new revenue stream: charging cable providers retransmission fees for carrying broadcastcontent. Industry revenues totaled $36.1B in 2011, with profits of $4.8B (13.3% margin). Major costdrivers include the purchase of broadcast rights on programming (33.7%), wages (21.4%), and equipmentpurchases (11.0%). Profit margins can vary considerably from one year to the next, since many costs arefixed whereas ad revenues vary substantially with swings in the macroeconomic business cycle. Thelargest companies by market share are Walt Disney Company (17.6%) and News Corporation (13.5%)16.The four largest broadcast networks are ABC, NBS, CBS, and FOX.Cable networks earn revenues from three primary sources: national and regional advertising (33.6%),licensing the right to broadcast or redistribute content (26.8%), and other industry services (27.3%).17Industry revenues totaled $16.7B in 2011, with profits of $1.6B (9.6% margin). The two main cost driversare production equipment purchases (38.2% of revenue) and wages (35.6%). The largest companies by15 “Broadcast Networks In The US – Industry Report,” IBISWorld, November 201116 “Broadcast Networks In The US – Industry Report,” IBISWorld, November 201117 “Cable Networks In The US – Industry Report,” IBISWorld, November 2011 14
  15. 15. market share are Walt Disney Company (15.3%), Viacom (13.4%), Time Warner Inc (11.0%), Comcast(10.9%), and News Corporation (9.0%). The largest cable networks by subscriber base include TBSSuperstation, ESPN, Discovery Channel, USA Network, C-SPAN, CNN, TNT, Nickelodeon and Nick atNite, A&E Network, TNN and Fox Family Channel.In recent years, new curation models have emerged as online video consumption has grown. Netflix,YouTube, and Hulu are three popular platforms that employ proprietary algorithms to determine the tastepreferences of individual users and present them with content they are likely to enjoy. Many of theseemerging curation models reach consumers directly, blurring the line between “curation” and“distribution,” which are more distinct segments in the traditional television value chain. Emergingmodels also have a very different cost structure than broadcast and cable networks. In 2011, Netflixrevenues totaled $3.2B, with profits of $226M (7.1% margin).18 Major costs included content acquisition,licensing, and delivery (55.9% of revenues), marketing (12.6%), and technology investments (8.1%).19CreatorsContent creation refers to the process by which studios and independent producers develop and filmcontent that is sold or licensed to broadcast and cable networks and, more recently, digital distributionpartners. Traditionally, television content has been created by independent studios using deficit financing.Content creators license the initial broadcast rights to a network, and then seek to cover the rest of theircosts through syndication, international licensing and DVD sales. A broadcast network television shownow costs on average ~$3M/episode with networks paying ~$1.5M to license the content.20 As such, thelong tail of revenue from content can be incredibly important to content creators.Recently, more curators and distributers, such as HBO and AMC, have moved into content productionrather than buying content from third-party studios. Strategically, absorbing content creation’s financialand reputational risks allows for streamlined operations (cost advantage), marketplace differentiation andhigher profit potential, as the curators have access to the long-tail revenue. Netflix, for example, isdeveloping its own original programming, most notably the dramas Lilyhammer and House of Cardsslated for release later in 2012. It already has the distribution channel, so can plug in the new originalcontent there.At the lowest end of the market lies user generated content delivered largely over the internet. Here,barriers to entry are lower than ever. Any consumer can now produce HD quality video by simplywalking into a local Best Buy and buying relatively inexpensive high-quality production equipment. In2009, for instance, Colin, a zombie feature with a $70 budget and actors hired from Facebook premieredat Cannes.21 This trend of low-budget content creation is spreading quickly as the internet enables eventhe smallest content creators to distribute directly to consumers.18 Netflix 10-K filed 2/12/201219 Ibid.20 Bill Carter. “Weighty Dramas Flourish on Cable,” New York Times, April 5, 2010,, accessed April2012.21 Tom Foster. “Hollywood eyes $70 zombie movie wowing Cannes,” CNN, May 21, 2009,,accessed April 2012. 15
  16. 16. Now that the television value chain is better understood, we will explore how changes in televisionconsumption patterns, advancements in technology and new business models will reshape the industrygoing forward.Key Trends and Industry PredictionsAfter analyzing major industry trends, our team predicts four distinct outcomes that will likely transformthe industry over the next five to ten years: 1. Highly integrated consumer device manufacturers will win the living room war 2. Telecommunications companies will disrupt cable and satellite providers as distribution becomes commoditized 3. Emerging social discovery and recommendation models will enable curators to add value in new ways 4. Rising programming costs will force incumbent content creators and distributors up-market, creating new opportunities for disruptive new entrantsThese predictions are summarized in Exhibit 10 below:E XHIBIT 10 – C OMPARISON OF R EVENUE AND C OSTS A MONG T OP D ISTRIBUTION C HANNELS 16
  17. 17. 1. Highly integrated consumer electronics manufacturers will win the living room warConsumers lie at the center of the entertainment industry, especially television, where they influencemultiple revenue streams. Television networks such as CBS rely on CPMs (cost per mille, or price paidfor each thousand views in advertising) and viewership to set advertising rates. Multiple service operators(MSOs) such as Comcast and Time Warner Cable charge consumers monthly fees for cable subscriptions.Technology companies rely on television consumption to sell devices such as Samsung HDTVs andPlaystation 3s. However, consumer behavior is changing rapidly largely due to the rise of internet-connected devices and faster internet speeds. As a result, companies are attempting to adapt to changes inconsumer preferences, which is transforming the entire television ecosystem.Television consumption in the United States has historically been driven by penetration of television setsand improvements in distribution and programming. Since the late 1970s, broadcast television reachedand has since maintained high-90% penetration rates, while cable and satellite desperately played catchup, peaking at 80% in the early 2000s (Exhibit 11).E XHIBIT 11: H OUSEHOLD P ENETRATION OF C ONSUMER M EDIA AND D EVICES (%)SOURCE: Veronis Suhler Stevenson, Communications Industry ForecastAt the same time, household internet penetration rates rose drastically, giving consumers the option toengage with television content away from their TV sets. Today there are 115.8M smartphone users and54.8M tablet users in the U.S, figures that are expected to grow to 157.7M and 89.5M respectively in2014.22 The proliferation of these devices has been aided by the simultaneous advancement in cellularmobile communications networks’ fourth generation (4G) networks that reach unprecedented speeds. Asa result, consumers are able to view high quality streaming video on their mobile devices, in the home, onthe train and everywhere else they go. The availability of these new options is driving rapid consumeradoption, as we see smartphone and tablet video consumption skyrocketing.Television was traditionally hired to fill the role of weeknight prime-time entertainment with roughly45% of early-1950s viewing occurring between the hours of 7:30pm and 11pm.23 While viewers havesteadily increased their overall television consumption over the past 60 years, many consumers haveslowly shifted away from prime-time viewing. In fact, only 23% of television programming today isviewed during prime-time hours.24 This phenomenon can be explained by two distinct factors. First,consumers today have an increasing number of substitutes competing to get hired for important jobs-to-be-done during primetime hours. For example, internet surfing, social networking and video games are allcompared when determining the ideal solution for the “Cure My Boredom” job. Second, “time shifted22 Source: Mobile Data Dashboard, eMarketer, accessed April 2012.23 Media Dynamics Inc. “TV Dimensions, 2011” Pg. 67.24 Ibid 17
  18. 18. viewing” technologies have emerged that provide consumers with the ability to watch their favoritetelevision content outside of prime-time hours. For example, relatively new products such as MSO orsatellite provided digital video recorders (DVRs) and online platforms (e.g., Hulu and Netflix) nowenable consumers to keep up with their favorite television content regardless of the time.While overall media consumption has largely remained flat since 2004, there are major shifts in consumerbehavior occurring in the media sector that will significantly affect industry players going forward. Forexample, broadcast television consumption has dropped 2.2% p.a. between 2004 and 2009 and isexpected to continue to decline by 3.5% p.a. through 2014. Though cable television continues to grow,this growth is starting to slow (4.6% and 3.1% p.a. over the same time periods). So what is starting tosteal share from television? It is the internet (7.7%, 1.9% p.a. growth, respectively) and mobile phones(26.9%, 8.8% growth, respectively).25 With quickly evolving consumer devices and compelling newsubstitutes beginning to steal share of overall media consumption from traditional television viewing, weare seeing a decline in ratings and a shift in advertising spend.26Companies are trying to capitalize on the advancement of internet technology, increased connectionspeeds and the proliferation of media-capable devices. As consumer behavior continues to shift to internetbased media, many industry players are fighting to own the living room of the future. Internet-basedcurators and consumer electronics manufacturers are recognizing that the ease, convenience and quality oftraditional television in the living room is a critical component of meeting many of the jobs highlightedearlier in this paper. As such, they have identified the importance of seamlessly integrating their internetbased platforms into the living room in order to challenge traditional TV on these metrics. This has led tounique partnerships between internet based curators and consumer electronics manufacturers, such as thepartnership between Netflix and Sony to stream content through the PlayStation 3.After conducting interviews with television consumers, we found that in order for these models tosucceed the offering must be intuitive, easy to use, and seamlessly integrated into the living room inaddition to providing entertaining and relevant content. These are important elements of the decisionconsumers make when hiring television programming. As consumers continue to view media content ontheir portable electronic devices, a solution which allows them to find, select and view content across allof their devices will also be necessary.However, today’s bundled solutions are failing to deliver on ease-of-use and seamless integration.Consumers, particularly in older demographics, struggle to understand how all these devices worktogether. The barrier of purchasing additional electronics is also slowing adoption of these bundledsolutions. TV manufacturers are recognizing this trend, and have begun incorporating internetconnectivity into their television sets. Today, 38% of U.S. households have at least one TV connected tothe internet27. The majority of these connections (28%) are through video game systems, and only 4% areconnected directly through the TV set.28 While only 29% of TVs shipped in the U.S. are currently25 Veronis Suhler Stevenson, “Communications Industry Forecast, 2010-2014,” Pg. 4.26 Cotton Delo, “Citi Analyst: Online-Ad Market Reaping Benefit of TV Ad Dollars’ Shift,” AdAge Digital, April 172012,,accessed April 2012.27 Nielsen, “State of the Media: Consumer Usage Report 2011,” Pg. 8.28 Robert Briel. “U.S. Connected TVs reach 38%,” Broadband TV News, April 10, 2012,, accessed April 2012. 18
  19. 19. internet-ready, this number will rise dramatically given that internet-enabled TV set shipments areprojected to rise to 80% within three years.29Today’s internet-based television experiences in the living room are not yet good enough when comparedto traditional television along critical performance dimensions such as ease of use and seamlessintegration. As internet-based curators continue to acquire better content it will be critical for theconsumer electronics players to solve this performance gap. For example, Exhibit 12 shows that there areclearly unfulfilled functional jobs of consumers, who desire a better experience for streaming videocontent.E XHIBIT 12: C ONSUMER A TTITUDES ON D IGITAL V IDEO C ONTENTSOURCE: Consumer Electronics Association, “Connecting the Dots Between Consumers, Content, and ConsumerElectronics in the Home,” Pg. 16“Bundled” solutions are almost never the right approach when performance is not yet good enough.Interdependent architectures optimize performance as product engineers have the freedom to developunique “end-to-end” solutions that do not need to adapt to constraints in other areas of the value chain.30Accordingly, we expect that the manufacturer who can develop a tightly integrated solution that bringsthe best internet-based television experience into the living room will win the battle.Apple, renowned for integrated solutions that seamlessly fit into consumers’ lives, is expected to be amajor player going forward. Its AppleTV device, which was designed as a plug-in to televisions, did notlive up to expectations because of the aforementioned barriers. However, Apple is rumored to bedeveloping its own connected television, an “iTV” or “iPanel,” to overcome these adoption barriers. PeterMisek, an analyst with Jefferies, is confident that this will be released in Q4 2012, just in time forChristmas.31 Apple’s ability to vertically integrate across the curation, distribution and consumer areas of29 Wayne Friedman. “Net-Connected TV Fuels 3dTV Popularity,” MediaDaily News, Jan 19, 2012,, accessed April2012.30 Clayton M Christensen and Michael E. Raynor, The Innovators Solution: Creating and Sustaining SuccessfulGrowth (Boston: Harvard Business Review Press, 2003), p. 129.31 Ben Reid. “Apple’s Rumored Connected TV Set Will Reportedly Be Called ‘iPanel’, Will Be Available ThisYear?” Redmond Pie: Covering Microsoft, Google, Apple, and the web! April 6, 2012,’s-rumored-connected-tv-set-will-reportedly-be-called-ipanel-will-be-available-this-year/, accessed April 2012. 19
  20. 20. the value chain may position them well to boost the competitiveness of internet-based TV on theimportant hiring criteria of consumers.Whether it is Apple, or any of the other consumer electronics manufacturers who eventually solves theease of use problem, the impact on the entire television industry will be significant. Digital mediaconsumption will continue to grow, and consumers will increasingly cut the cord from their traditionalTV subscriptions. Furthermore, the growth of internet-based distribution and curation will providecontent owners with more leverage over broadcast and cable networks. Solving this problem could shiftthe entire landscape of the television industry over the next decade while also changing the televisionviewing experience.2. Telecommunications companies will disrupt cable and satellite providers as distribution becomescommoditizedThe advancement of mobile technology and the proliferation of internet connected televisions andportable electronics devices is creating an interesting battle in television distribution.Telecommunications companies have been expanding their service offerings beyond traditional consumerand business telecommunication products, showing consistent interest in television distribution. Verizonand AT&T have both invested in fiber-optic networks (FIOS and UVerse respectively) in attempts toenter the space. More recently, as wireless carriers complete their rollout of 4G long term evolution (LTE)networks, their wireless broadband speeds are surpassing the broadband speeds offered by cableproviders32. Consumers are using these networks to download and stream video on their phones andtablets, yet they predominantly still use cable and satellite distributors to watch video on their televisionsets and cable or DSL broadband to connect their computers. With a rapidly growing number of devicemanufacturers building TV sets with wireless internet connection capabilities, there is a disruptiveopportunity for the major telecommunications companies to uproot Multiple Systems Operators such asComcast with “triple play” packages of their own (4G/5G cellular phone, television, and high speedinternet).Mobile networks enjoy substantial cost advantages over cable/satellite providers who must investsignificantly to keep their high fixed-asset cable systems up to date. Customer acquisition is also cheaperwith this model as a telco carrier needs only to install a tower to cover a service area, whereas cable andsatellite providers must pay high-cost technicians to travel to homes for installation. As network costsdecline with scaling and network capacity increases going forward, these 4G, and soon to be 5G,networks will begin competing directly with services from traditional cable and satellite providers. As atelling example, Verizon recently launched a new “fixed wireless” service in March of 2012 calledHomeFusion that offers “households in areas with limited broadband options a reliable alternative for dataconnectivity in their homes.33” Verizon’s new service installs an antenna-like device, referred to as a“cantenna,” which acts as a cellular tower in the customer’s home, amplifying the signal from the metro32 Mark Kurlyandchik. “Verizon CEO: LTE Will Compete with Cable,” Daily Tech, December 8, 2010,, accessed April 2012.33 “HomeFusion Broadband From Verizon Powers In-Home Internet Connectivity With 4G LTE,” Verizon PressRelease, March 6 2012., accessed February 2012. 20
  21. 21. LTE tower.34 This work-around arrangement is eerily reminiscent of the work-around solutions of theearly 1970’s which led to the birth of cable broadcast stations.In homes with broadband internet, Verizon and AT&T also offer a femtocell, or microcell technology thatboosts signals within the home. This technology allows you to use broadband internet to create a minicellular signal in your home. As both of these technologies continue to improve, telecommunicationscompanies will have many options to distribute media to any device in a consumer’s home.In addition to directly competing, telcos are beginning to partner with cable companies to sell wirelesssubscriptions as part of a “Quad-Play” bundle, which helps drive higher penetration of 4G enableddevices while at the same time keeping cable companies out of the wireless space35.Verizon ($150B enterprise value) and AT&T ($238B enterprise value) are massive companies with IP-based television services (FIOS TV and Uverse) and likely have strong incentives to capture market sharewithin the higher-profit television market. Verizon recently stopped its “me-too” strategy of deployingfiber optic cable to the home (FIOS) and instead is focusing on fixed LTE broadband solutions36.By launching subsidized femtocell devices, which allow customers to connect all of their home devices,the major telcos could potentially disrupt traditional MSOs going forward. As mobile communicationtechnology continues to develop, the future of television distribution looks certain to change.Network bandwidth and spectrum scarcity will be two short-term limiting factors in this disruption.Today, the rapid growth of video traffic, video communications, and bandwidth intensive applications isalready threatening to over-tax the networks. This is being curtailed by price-rationing contentconsumption through higher data usage costs passed through to the consumer.37 Today’s 4G LTEnetworks provide ample data transmission rates, at 1 GB/second fixed and 100 MB/second mobile, tostream high definition video at today’s compression rates to any device. Given even conservative Moore’slaw assumptions, it would be tough to argue that compression rates or transmission rates would be a long-term limiting factor to this disruption. That being said, overall media consumption in the U.S., whentraditional TV viewing is included, would demand far more spectrum than is currently available, or in thepipeline.The 4G LTE spectrum allocation is only 700 MHz38. In 2012, the net surplus was only 87 MHz. This isprojected to become a deficit of 275 MHz by 201439. The impact of this deficit, if it is not addressed, will34 Lee Ratliff. “Verizon Unveils Fixed LTE Broadband Service,” iHS iSuppli Market Research, March 27, 2012,, accessed April 2012.35 Victor H. “Verizon partners with Comcast, now offering cable TV ‘quad-play’ bundles,” Phone Arena, Jan 172012., accessed March 201236 Karl Bode. “Verizon’s Fixed LTE Efforts Could Live On Option Not Necessarily Killed By New TV Deal,”Broadband DSL Reports, December 12, 2011,, accessed April 2012.37 Greg Ireland, Suzanne Hopkins, Carrie MacGillivray. “Thoughts on Mobile Following CTIA Wireless 2011”IDC, March 31, 2011,38 Stacey Higginbotham, “For Better Mobile Broadband, the U.S. Needs More Spectrum,” GigaOm, August 17,2009,, accessed April2012 21
  22. 22. be felt by consumers in the form of lower quality service, increased dropped calls, and increased datausage costs. This will place unprecedented pressure on the FCC and the U.S. spectrum allocation fiat,forcing them to marketize broader swaths of the spectrum. We are already seeing the effects. Congressreached a tentative deal in February approving voluntary auctions that would let TV broadcastersspectrum licenses be repurposed for wireless broadband use.40 This is creating the ironic situation whereinincumbent traditional TV distributors are selling spectrum allocations to competitors who threaten todisrupt their distribution business. Comcast recently divested its entire wireless spectrum portfolio toVerizon for $3.6 billion.41 As in most low-end disruptions, we foresee this trend continuing as incumbentdistributors will feel little pain and see little-threat as telecommunications companies steal share of thelow-margin customers.In analyzing the spectrum capacity issue, our determination is that the spectrum crunch, although real, isover-hyped. The government will feel pressure to ensure spectrum allocations meet the needs of theAmerican public as those needs evolve, and as such will find solutions on a just-in-time basis. We’ve seenthis pressure forcing the governments hand over the last two years. In March, 2010, the FCC released aNational Broadband Plan, calling for the allocation of 500 MHz of additional spectrum for the wirelessindustry. In June, 2010, President Barrack Obama issued a memo in support of this plan.42 The RadioSpectrum Inventory Act and its companion bill, calling for identification of additional spectrum to berelocated for commercial wireless use, passed the House in April 2010.43Our position is that this government pressure will combine with necessary improvements in spectrumefficiency to address the spectrum issue as-needed. Although spectrum allocations could be used as alobbying blockade by threatened incumbents, their actions in selling spectrum allocations are likely tocontinue in the pursuit of short-term profit.Rather than lobbying for restricted spectrum allocations, incumbents are protecting themselves againstdisruption by integrating across the value chain. For example, Comcast recently extended into curation byacquiring NBC Universal in 201144 while News Corporation extended into distribution by acquiringDirecTV back in 2003.45 These integrations are providing the incumbents with increased leveragethroughout the value chain and options to hedge their risks in case of disruption.If telecommunications companies do ultimately disrupt traditional MSOs, they are not necessarily in theclear, as the elements are in place for commoditization of distribution. We see curation and consumerelectronics as game-changing opportunities in the future of internet based television. Since both of theseelements are “not good enough” at meeting the hiring criteria of consumers, they will likely become the39 FCC, as sourced by David Goldman. “The Spectrum Crunch: Sorry America, your wireless airwaves are full,”CNNMoney, February 21, 2012,,accessed April 2012.40 ibid41 David Goldman, “Verizon’s $3.6 billion spectrum buy reshapes wireless field” CNNMoney, December 2, 2011,, accessed March 2012.42 CTIA The Wireless Association, “Position on Spectrum, Tower Sitting & Antennas,”, accessed April 2012.43 Ibid44 Tim Arango. “G.E. makes it official: NBC will go to Comcast,” New York Times, Dec 3rd, 2009,, accessed April 2012.45 Associated Press. “FCC OK’s News Corp. purchase of DirecTV,”, December 19,2003,, accessed April 2012. 22
  23. 23. performance defining elements of the value chain in the future. Consumers will care which device theyare using to watch television and which curation mechanism is helping them select content. As internetspeeds continue to grow, and picture and audio quality are more than adequate, consumers will likely beindifferent to the distributor. This will give a significant amount of leverage to the consumer electronicsmanufacturers and curators of the future in regards to distribution negotiations. This comparative leveragewill combine with a scale-race amongst competing telcos to create significant downward pricing pressure.We foresee distribution becoming a “dumb pipe” in the television value chain, with little profit extractedfor the telecommunications companies in the long term.3. Emerging social discovery and recommendation models will enable curators to add value in newwaysOne common element among many of the jobs-to-be done revolves around the decision of what to watch.This decision is sometimes active, when the consumer seeks out content to watch. They may have heardof a show from friends, or seen an advertisement that they found intriguing. Other times, this is passive. Aconsumer will turn on a major TV network or cable channel and consume content, allowing the networkto act as his/her curator. In both circumstances, the consumers we interviewed noted that the ability toquickly find programming that fulfilled that particular job (entertain them, amuse them, inform them),was critical to their hiring decision. The mechanism that has been used to accomplish this task hasevolved over the history of TV.Prior to the deregulation of the early 70’s, curation was handled by the integrated “big three” broadcastnetworks, who chose content which would relate to a broad-swath of the American population. Hits like ILove Lucy, and The Andy Griffith Show, which brought in terrific ratings for CBS, ran for six and eightseasons respectively. In this way, consumers’ preferences affected which shows were aired, but theprocess was passive for the consumer. Deregulation led to the emergence of cable channels, which hadmore specialized selections of content catered to specific demographics. The Discovery Channel, Homeand Garden TV, and MTV are some examples of these more targeted channels. These specializedchannels were attractive to advertisers, who favor targeted populations, and as such, cable channelsreceived attractive CPMs.These trends have led to the continued propagation of specialized cable channels. By 2008, the averageU.S. TV cable subscriber had access to 130.1 channels.46 These specialized and niche offerings provide anincredible array of content options for consumers.Consumers have also historically discovered content in social ways. Their friends tell them about aninteresting show they’ve been watching and they decide to watch it based on trust in their friends’opinions or out of desire to have something to talk about around the water cooler. This behavior is noteasily replicable through the traditional one-way delivery mechanism, but people are now filling this job-to-be done by cobbling together internet based solutions. For example, James Franco leveraged thisbehavior at the 2011 Oscars by tweeting during the show. The event had 10,000 tweets per minute and 1.8million tweets overall.47 Internet-based curation provides an ability to integrate these social curation and46 Joe Mandese. “TV Universe Expands, Share of Channels Tuned Does Not,” MediaDaily News, July 21, 2009,,accessed April 2012.47 David Wesson. “The future of TV is social & the revolution is coming!” David Wesson’s Digital Culture SocialMedia Marketing, Innovation and Digital Dialogue (Blog), June 12, 2011, 23
  24. 24. water-cooler behavior mechanisms online. This is unlocking opportunities to personalize and socialize theTV experience like never before.A myriad of online curation players are trying to leverage this capability to meet the “what to watch”element of jobs-to-be-done in superior ways. Netflix built much of its initial success on a constantlyevolving algorithm that recommended shows based on the patterns and ratings of both the user and userslike them. In other countries, Netflix has taken this a step further by leveraging social networks to allowusers to share what they are watching with their friends, much like Spotify has done with music. InDecember 2011, Netflix successfully lobbied a bill to allow this sharing in the United States.48 “Netflixviews its recommendation algorithm as a strategic priority; in 2011 they spent $260m ontechnology and development, which was 8.1% of total revenue49.Facebook is actively pursuing social TV as well, by building in features like TV communities & TVcheck-ins, and they recently announced plans to build an electronic program guide (EPG) with both arecommendation engine and social integration.50 A plethora of social TV applications are entering the frayas well. Apps like GetGlue allow viewers to “check-in” to the TV show they are watching and share itwith friends. Today seventy five major networks and ten movie studios promote their content toGetGlue’s two million viewers51Next New Networks, which was acquired by YouTube in 2011 for ~$50M52, is attempting to build out a“cable network” infrastructure online. To do so, Next New Networks is leveraging the wisdom of thecrowd with YouTube-based shows to curate channels that target specific consumer interests, which is anattempt to modernize the cable model online. Since launching in 2007, the company has gotten more thanone billion unique views and surpassed six million subscribers.The ability to leverage the wisdom of the crowd, social graph, and sophisticated recommendationalgorithms may allow internet-based curators to fulfill the “what should I watch” hiring criteria betterthan could ever be imagined with the existing television model. Because consumers are currentlycobbling together solutions for socializing their TV experience online, there is an opportunity to integratethese experiences into a curation platform.The player who can most perfectly fulfill these elements of the job-to-be-done will win, as curationbecomes a critical performance defining subsystem of the future television value-chain. This winningcuration platform will be well positioned to negotiate favorable terms with content producers as they draw, accessed April 2012.48 Devin Henry. “Franken committee to examine calls to ‘modernize’ video privacy law,” MinnPost, January 31,2012,, accessed March 2012.49 Netflix, 2011 Annual Report, pg. 26 & 30,, accessed April 2012.50 David Wesson. “The future of TV is social & the revolution is coming!” David Wesson’s Digital Culture SocialMedia Marketing, Innovation and Digital Dialogue (Blog), June 12, 2011,, accessed April 2012.51 Source: TechCrunch, “CrunchBase Company Profile for GetGlue,”,accessed April 201252 Jim O’Neill. “YouTube Acquires Next New Networks,” Fierce Online Video, March 7, 2011,, accessed April 2012. 24
  25. 25. an increasing number of viewers, while also enjoying leverage over distributors and consumer electronicsmanufacturers.What makes curation even more important to the future of TV is the impending commoditization ofcontent, which is discussed next. As the breadth of available content continues to grow, consumers aredemanding that someone do the pre-work for them and help them sort through the noise.4. Rising programming costs will force incumbent content creators and distributors up-market,creating new opportunities for disruptive new entrantsIn a well-developed industry, like television, incumbents are incentivized to move up-market in search ofhigher profits. High-end customers may be more demanding, but they are willing to pay more and areviewed as important to increasing the business’ profitability. However, some customers do not need themost cutting edge product offering available, and as such, are not willing to pay an increased price forthese offerings. This creates an opportunity for low-end disruption, where new players can enter themarket and take share by capturing over-served customers that are perceived as low value to theincumbents. After acquiring these low end customers, these new entrants begin to search for higherprofits and inevitably move up-market, eventually competing against incumbents in higher ends of themarket with superior business models.There are three conditions that must be met for low-end disruption to take place, all of which are currentlyseen in television content creation and distribution.First, the market must have a “rate of improvement that customers can utilize or absorb.”53 In the case oftelevision, the relevant performance dimensions are the quality and variety of available programming.Customers are willing to pay for improvements on this dimension, but only to a point.The second factor captures a distinct difference in a market between a customer’s ability to absorbincreased performance and the performance trajectory in markets. As incumbents keep trying to makebetter products, they inevitably overshoot the customer absorption trajectory because of their focus onincreasing profitability in the market. In the television industry, very few customers need the biggest andmost expensive cable package with hundreds of channels and seemingly unlimited content. However, thecable providers have moved that direction as they seek to improve the most critical metric, AverageRevenue Per User (ARPU).Finally, there is an important distinction to note between sustaining and disruptive innovation. 54Sustaining innovations are those that, as alluded to, focus on incremental improvements to an existingproduct. In television, this can be seen when content creators produce shows with slightly higher budgetsand cable providers slightly improve cable bundles offered to subscribers. Historically, establishedcompanies typically win in the sustaining innovation space because they have a clear starting point for theproduct and simply have to innovate from there.Disruptive innovations redefine the trajectory of the market by creating products and services that are notas good as incumbent options and offer a comparative benefit– such as being less expensive or simpler.Starting with a customer whose performance expectations and willingness to pay are at the low end of the53 Clayton M. Christensen and Michael E. Raynor, The Innovator’s Solution: Creating and Sustaining SuccessfulGrowth (Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 2003), pg 32.54 Clayton M. Christensen and Michael E. Raynor, The Innovator’s Solution: Creating and Sustaining SuccessfulGrowth (Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 2003), pg 34. 25
  26. 26. market, disruptive innovations can start to improve the product and eventually overtake the incumbents.In television, low-end disruption has started to form in digital content, which is of significantly lowerquality than traditional television programming, but is much cheaper for consumers to access, often onlyrequiring an internet connection. The delivery of this content through channels such as YouTube is alsoan emerging low-end disruption to incumbent cable providers. Customers can’t get everything throughdigital direct-to-consumer distribution, but it is largely free to access.Within low-end disruption of television, it is important to discuss the incumbents’ sustaining innovationsas well as new entrants in both content creation and distribution.First, as mentioned, there has increasingly been pressure on incumbents to move toward higher-valuecontent in a crowded market. In an attempt to increase the quality of offerings to consumers and breakthrough the clutter, content creators and curators have resorted to higher spending on programming, bothin purchasing existing content (such as sports) and in producing their own content. Because of this, cableproviders are experiencing higher costs, which they have largely been able to pass on to consumers. Inparallel, cable providers have increased their offerings to consumers, a sustaining innovation.Secondly, as incumbents have moved up-market, lower barriers to entry in both content creation anddistribution are affording new entrants the opportunity to take share at the low end of the market throughnew revenue models.Since the advent of television, content quality (and cost of production and acquisition) has increaseddrastically, from grainy black and white to modern day sophisticated filming, special effects andstorylines. In recent years, the cost of production of original content has increased dramatically, as well asthe cost of sports programming– two areas that are driving content curators’ content quality andprevalence beyond consumers’ willingness to adopt.A recent up-market move by content creators has influenced other players in the value chain. Contentcurators (networks) and audiences have become accustomed to higher-budget television, as some recenthits’ costs of production demonstrate. Many sitcoms have embraced big budget casts. By the time Friendswrapped, NBC was paying $10M per episode55 to air the show and each of the main actors was being paid$1M per episode.56 While Charlie Sheen was paid $1.25M per episode for Two and a Half Men, othersitcom stars’ salaries range from $100K-$400K per episode.57 Though this is low compared to Friends, itdoes represent a significant fixed cost that content creators must cover when selling content to curators.Even in reality series, once an area of relativity low cast budgets, many programs have attracted bignames with large salaries; Ryan Seacrest is paid $15M a year for American Idol. Dramas have also movedtoward big budget productions, led by special effects and elaborate sets. For example, when the Lost pilotwas produced in 2004, it cost $12M, or $100K per minute.58While broadcast networks initially led the charge on increased production and licensing costs, cablenetworks, many inspired by HBO, have recently moved up into premium original content. Cable networkspreviously were a low-end alternative to broadcast. For instance, when a Fox program, Sliders, wascanceled in 1997, its production company was able to sell the series to the Sci-Fi Channel and reduce55 Bill Carter, Desperate Network (New York: Doubleday, 2006), pg 217.56 Ibid, pg 213.57 Stephen Battaglio, “Who Are TVs Top Earners?” August 10, 2010,, accessed April 2012.58 Bill Carter, Desperate Network (New York: Doubleday, 2006), pg 272. 26
  27. 27. production costs from $1.5M/episode to $750K/episode.59 More cable channels have moved into high-production cost original programming. Even HBO has moved up-market since its early originalprogramming; when Sopranos was filmed in the late 1990s, the production team used existing businessesin New Jersey to film. More recently, Boardwalk Empire is being filmed on a custom built set inBrooklyn.60 As such, Boardwalk Empire, premiered with an $18M pilot, or $300K per minute in 2011.61While HBO has used its premium original programming to drive subscriptions, other cable networks havefollowed the HBO content model to increase their attractiveness to advertisers and their necessity to cableproviders, by renegotiating carriage fees with major cable providers. AMC, for instance, has used thesuccess of Mad Men and other original programming to negotiate better terms for its carriage, elevatingits per-user monthly fee from $0.21 to $0.24.62 While the networks may be paying more for contentlicensing or production, the cost of transmission is not increasing, thus making that segment moreprofitable as networks receive increased carriage fees.The licensing of sports content by broadcast and cable networks has also driven curators aggressively up-market. For example, the cost of the rights to carry NFL games has increased dramatically over the last 20years, with the deals since 1990 representing 6% p.a. growth.E XHIBIT 13 - NFL T ELEVISION R IGHTS F EES, 1990-2022Time period Total TV fees Broadcast Cable Satellite1990-1993 900.5 678.0 222.5 -1994-1997 907.0 652.0 255.0 -1998-2005 2,200.0 1,600.0 600.0 -2006-2011 3,617.8 1,934.5 1,100.0 583.32014-2022 5,000.0 3,050.0 1,900.0 1,000.0 636465SOURCE: CompiledBroadcasters have viewed expenditure on sports as a necessity to avoid disruption from digital playerswho cannot afford this content, which is appointment viewing for many consumers, thus keeping ad rateshigh. As Deadline noted in 2011, “Broadcasters have their own challenges that would have made it riskyto pass up even a high-priced deal with the NFL. It would have been ‘catastrophic’ for them if the rights59 Richard E. Cave, Switching Channels (Boston: Harvard University Press, 2005), pg 149.60 “HBO and the future of pay TV,” August 20, 2011, The Economist,,accessed April 2012.61 Lesley Goldberg, “Terra Nova: Will Foxs Dino-Sized Gamble Pay Off?,” September 26, 2011,, accessed April 2012.62 Brian Steinberg, “Why Mad Men Has So Little to Do With Advertising,” August 2, 2010,, accessed April 2012.63 Soonhwan Lee, D.S.M. and Hyosung Chun M.S.S., “Economic Values of Professional Sport Franchises in theUnited States,” 2002,, accessed April 2012.64 Joe Flint, “NFL signs TV rights deals with Fox, NBC and CBS, December 15, 2011,, accessed April 2012.65 “Late season games can be moved to Monday nights,” November 9, 2004, ESPN,, accessed April 2012. 27
  28. 28. had gone to an online player such as Google, Amazon or Apple, Moody’s Investors Service says. That‘would have been the watershed event that negatively changed the landscape for television entertainmentdelivery and likely led to more such losses of exclusive sports programming.’”66Cable and broadcast channels have pitched these increasingly large deals (ESPN’s NFL costs represent7% p.a. growth since 1990) as a way to expand services to current viewers. When ESPN announced anew deal in 2011, they added several shows to complement their traditional sports coverage: an extra hourof Sunday NFL Countdown, beginning at 10 a.m. ET, and new daily show, NFL 32, on ESPN2.67 Theseare sustaining innovations for ESPN, as the average customer is served effectively by seeing their favoriteteam play and does not need additional content and in-depth coverage.With curators incurring larger fees to acquire and create content, cable and broadcast networks have triedto negotiate higher carriage fees. As previously mentioned, AMC has used the success of Mad Men andother original programming to increase its carriage fee. Similarly, ESPN’s prevalence in a cable packagehas driven its carriage fee significantly higher in recent years. In 2005, ESPN received an average of$2.96/subscriber/month68, which has grown to $4.69 this year,69 annual growth of ~7% (which isinterestingly in line with the network’s growth of NFL fees). From the consumer’s point of view, ESPN issimply increasing its already comprehensive offering, not adding new value which the consumers canappreciate. And, this incremental value is coming at an increased cost, which many consumers may notcontinue to tolerate. Traditionally, broadcast networks did not receive carriage fees from cable providers. However, in recentyears, several notable disagreements between station groups and cable providers have caused short-termblackouts and eventual retransmission fees granted to broadcast channels.70 Broadcasters have used theirsports content to drive negotiations with MSOs, whose customers depend on being able to see theirfavorite sports team play live. By 2015, broadcast stations are expected to take in ~$3B in retransmissionfees, with ~$1.7B of that going directly to the networks.71 NBC, which increased its NFL spend from~$600M72 to ~$950M in its most recent contract73, was only receiving ~$21M in retransmission fees in66 Patrick Hipes and David Lieberman, “Massive Increase For NFL’s TV Rights Throws Cablers For A Loss,”December 16, 2011,, accessed April 2012.67 “ESPN, NFL agree to eight-year deal,” September 8, 2011, ESPN,,April 2012.68 Michael Learmonth and John Dempsey, “Fox’s triple play,” October 16, 2006,, accessed April 2012.69 Anthony Crupi, “Comcast, Disney Nail Down New Carriage Deal,” January 4, 2012,, accessed April2012.70 Robert Marich, “TV faces blackout blues,” December 10, 2011,,accessed April 2012.71 “Broadcast networks will rake in retransmission fees, report says,” November 1, 2011, Company Town, LATimes,, accessed April 2012.72 “NFL Media Rights Deals For 07 Season ,” September 6, 2007, Sports Business Journal Daily,, accessed April 2012.73 Joe Flint, “NFL signs TV rights deals with Fox, NBC and CBS,” December 15, 2011,, accessed April 2012. 28
  29. 29. 2011. Its new deals will bring in over $500M in retransmission fees by 2015.74 This will increase thecable providers’ costs, but not provide significant value to the consumer. As cable providers will likelycontinue to pass these costs on to the consumer, under the guise of better service, more consumers willlikely look to lower-priced disruptive offerings.With increased costs being passed on from content curators, the impetus to move up-market toward moreprofitable customers has become even stronger for cable providers. As such, many of these companieshave increased cable package offerings (and fees) or moved to value-add services, which are bothsustaining innovations. In the below example, Comcast has maintained a relatively stable rate for its basiccable package, while its expanded cable grew at a faster rate (9% p.a. through 2007).75E XHIBIT 14: C OMCAST M ONTHLY S UBSCRIBER F EES IN O REGONSOURCE: Metropolitan Area Communications Commission, “Cable Service Rates,”, accessed April 2012.On both the content creation/curation side as well as the distribution side, decreased barriers to entryonline have provided a platform for disruptive innovators. Within content creation, new players havemoved toward lower-cost production, avoiding the costly overhead of set construction, talent fees andspecial effects. For instance, Louis C. K, an Emmy and Grammy award-winning comedian who has hisown television show on FX cable network, recently produced his own comedy show, available onlythrough direct-to-consumer online distribution. “Louis C. K.: Live at the Beacon Theater,” within oneweek of release, sold 110K copies at $5 each, for $550K of revenue. With expenses of ~$350K, includingproduction and development of the website, the comedy show had already netted ~$200K in profits, for a74 “Broadcast networks will rake in retransmission fees, report says,” November 1, 2011, Company Town, LATimes,, accessed April 2012.75 Metropolitan Area Communications Commission, “Cable Service Rates,”, accessed April 2012. 29
  30. 30. margin of ~36%.76 With essentially no variable cost of distribution, any additional sales would net pureprofit for the comedian.There are other specific examples of talent moving into online, which gives them more control over theirdistribution and more opportunity for upside. Anthony Zuiker, whose CSI franchise has made over $6B inprofits77, signed a deal with Yahoo to create a direct-to-digital 90-minute film to be shown in installmentson Yahoo.78 The production company working with Zuiker, Dolphin Digital Media, also recentlyannounced a deal with Cambio, an online content platform for teens, in which they are providing Cambiowith $10-12M for 4-6 original scripted webisode series, a per series cost of ~$2-3M, the average cost ofan episode on television79.On the lower end of digital content, Maker Studios, which develops premium programming for YouTube,makes 300 videos for the online platform a month for $1000 each. Maker’s videos generate 500M videosper month at CPMs of up to $1080. Even at a $1 average CPM, Maker would have gross profitability of40%. YouTube has also moved into content creation itself, announcing in February 2012 that it wouldinvest $100M across 96 stations to create premium content.81Implications and AdviceNow that we have taken a close look at the forces shaping each segment of the television value chain, wecan draw out the implications for leaders throughout the industry. What advice can we offer contentproviders, curators, distributors, and consumer device makers? How can existing companies utilize theircapabilities to capture value in this rapidly-changing environment? In which segments do new entrantspose a disruptive threat? These are the questions we will consider now.Advice for IncumbentsFocus on the jobs-to-be-done. The jobs-to-be-done theory presented earlier suggests that value willaccrue to companies that build their operations to do a specific job extremely well. In the past, consumershave hired television to do many jobs: bring my family together, bring excitement into my life, keep meinformed, and cure my boredom, to name a few. As noted previously, these jobs are immutable; they donot go away simply because consumers have access to new formats, devices and activities. However, theproliferation of competing solutions does mean that some of the jobs previously done best by televisionmay be done better by new forms of content or delivery.“Keep me informed” is a job that has undergone a dramatic transformation in the internet age. As recentlyas the 1980s, the morning paper and the evening news set the agenda for news consumption across thecountry. Today, thousands of credible online sources are competing to help consumers stay informed in76 Dave Itzkoff, “Something for Louis C. K. to Smile About: His Internet Comedy Special Is Profitable,” December14, 2011,, accessed April 2012.77 “CSI creator in bitter divorce to stop wife spending hundreds of thousands on his credit card,” October 24, 2011,Daily Mail,, accessed April 2012.78 Dolphin Digital Media, “News,”, accessed April 2012.79 Ibid.80 Ryan Nakashima, “YouTube bets $100 million on original content,” February 20, 2012,, accessed April 2012.81 Ibid. 30
  31. 31. near real-time on a range of global issues. The proliferation of formats has taken a serious toll on thenewspaper business, and it has also narrowed the scope of television’s role. Nightly news anchors maystill enjoy more credibility than the average blogger, but the television format struggles to compete withthe in-depth analysis offered by longer-form written content. Similarly, on-site video reporting is nolonger the exclusive purview of the major news networks. These changes force news networks to do anarrower job in a more deliberate way. Merely providing information on the day’s events is no longerenough, since consumers have better candidates for that job.At the same time, giving up certain jobs may free television to do other jobs more effectively. Trying tobe all things to all people inevitably forces trade-offs and conflicts between various jobs. To take thenightly news example further, how can networks both inform the average viewer about the day’s majorevents and provide rich analysis of each event? With roughly 23 minutes of air time, doing both jobs is anoptimization problem. In this way, the rise of on-demand news frees up television to focus more intentlyon its deeper journalistic mission. Rather than relaying the basic facts of each story, reporters can adddepth, context, and clarity to questions raised by the first-pass news outlets. Each job lost by television isan opportunity to focus more completely on another job, setting aside tradeoffs to optimize the experiencefor consumers.So which jobs should television focus on? When we consider the advantages of the television format,several jobs come to mind. Entertaining your family is certainly easier on a flat screen television than on amobile handset with a 3.5-inch screen. Many activities can fill downtime, but if you want to fill downtimewith inactivity, television is a great solution and very hard to beat. And for all the promise of therecommendation engines built by online platforms, television is still the best place to channel-surf, whichmeans it is still among the best mediums for deciding what to watch. Finally, many of the jobs with astrong emotional dimension can be done better by a television series than almost any other format exceptbooks. As cultural critic James Wolcott recently observed, “The characters in a thick-tapestried,treachery-strewn series such as The Wire acquire dimensions, depths, personal flaws, moral failings, anddiscordant quirks that seem integral and variable, not pinned on like prom corsages. They’re givenenough time to sit and stew, to mull over the next move, a luxury seldom extended to movie characters.”82The television series enables a degree of character development – and therefore emotional engagement –that other formats struggle to match.Of course, advances in distribution technology also provide content creators with access to new customerjobs. Smart phones and tablets, for example, offer mobile access to content on a scale that televisiondevices could never hope to match. Consider the job of reducing boredom while you wait in line. Beforesmart phones, you might have hired a newspaper to do this job, or interacted with strangers, or simplythought through the day’s tasks. Television was not a candidate for this job, so content producers couldnot hope to be part of the solution hired to do it. Today, content creators can reach consumers virtuallyanywhere, and this ubiquitous access has given rise to short-form content that provides bite-sizedentertainment. In this way, content creators can begin to compete for entertainment jobs television couldnever do before.New media can also help television perform old jobs in a more compelling way. In an effort to engagemillennials and other active social networkers in the original series Nurse Jackie, Showtime marketers set82 James Wolcott, “Prime Time’s Graduation,” Vanity Fair, May 2012,, accessed April 2012 31