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The Multimedia Maven Weighs in on Comacast-NBC Universal Deal

Dr. Sybril Bennett

Editor’s note: the post below was reprinted with permission from Dr. Sybril Bennett, a Vanderbilt educated, Harvard trained, two-time Emmy award-winning multimedia journalist, from her Multimedia Maven blog.  We thank her for the contribution.

The Comcast NBC Universal deal is done. The ink isn’t dry but of course, the stain is already visible. Yet another huge media consolidation so close after the divorce of AOL and Time Warner. For most people, the new arrangement won’t have much impact unless, Comcast raises their rates once again. This would be an extremely short-sighted strategy. Given the massive financial success of iTunes, it is amazing that other companies would not replicate this model. Comcast Universal (the name I’m giving them for now) could yield huge profits if they would lower the barrier of entry and make their services more affordable to more people. Unfortunately, conventional wisdom dictates that they will exploit the opportunity and potentially alienate subscribers forcing them to flee to Hulu, Netflix, iTunes or to the Internet in general.

As for diversity, please, most industries do not understand basic biology. When biodiversity is compromised, species die. It’s just that plain and simple. Just ask Bill Nye, the science guy. This is America’s tragedy, we are among the most diverse populations in the world, yet we do not know how to leverage that cultural wisdom. Corporations that understand balance are doing better than those that do not. Comcast Universal needs to be responsible and present a sustainable model for the future. To learn more about what different media companies own, visit the Columbia Journalism Review’s “Who Owns What” site.

With that said, to Comcast’s credit, their revenue model is far more feasible than the major broadcast networks. Since television’s inception in the 1940s and 1950s, ABC, NBC and CBS have primarily depended on advertising dollars to sustain their business. It was beyond shortsighted to depend on one revenue stream. (Hint, if you only have one source of income in your house, you are not the brightest bulb in the bunch either.) Comcast generates revenue from subscriptions, advertising, pay per view, On Demand and a myriad of other sources. As long as they don’t exploit the pay for play or itemize their audience into obscurity, they should be able to maintain. More industries need to understand this concept and diversify their portfolio.

I was pleased to see that Comcast understands that the audience wants what they want, when, where and how they want it. If only the movie industry would finally stop promoting a film and release it on the spot on iTunes, Netflix, in theaters, on DVD, on mobile devices, etc that would severely undercuts piracy. But I digress.

If you’ve read this far, you are very committed and interested. Many people don’t have or take the time or the attention span to focus for any length of time. So here’s your reward. Comcast’s new position is an opportunity for entrepreneurs. Don’t focus on the negative, focus on the positive. What opportunities are now available. If I am an aspiring artist, producer, director or writer with an innovative idea that will reach emerging markets, I am getting in position to present my ideas to Comcast now. HBO is the clear leader (”It’s not TV, it’s HBO) in its field. Comcast needs to be prepared to forage for it’s own survival in a landscape that has been shaped by HBO. In order to do that, they will need an infusion of fresh water, new ideas, new voices and a new paradigm.

In the end, it really doesn’t boil down to the survival of the fittest, it is the survival of the richest and that doesn’t just mean money anymore. And now Comcast has an arsenal, let’s see if they shoot blanks or bullets.