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A View from Brad King

Wireless, Internet Have Changed Media Consumption

Distributors can no longer use one method to deliver media. It’s a cross-platform world, and the bandwagon is getting crowded.

  • August 10, 2006

Seven years ago, there was a great chasm dividing content creators (artists of all sorts) and distributors (media conglomerates) when it came to distributing media via the Internet. Relations between the two groups were particularly acrimonious during the litigious years (1999-2001) as music and movie companies filed high-profile lawsuits against Napster, MP3.com, and Kazaa.

We’ve come a long way in a short time. Media companies are now pushing their content across other distribution networks, and, in some cases, developing specific content intended for a tech-savvy audience.

Cable’s TNT announced it would begin airing several shows on a new broadband channel, Dramavision, starting in September, according to this article in the Hollywood Reporter. This isn’t a quantum leap forward, but it’s interesting to note that TNT will be using behind-the-scenes footage and original programming for the broadband channel to capture viewers. The one potential issue will be whether viewers can stream or download the program (one would imagine it would be streaming, which is still an ineffective way to watch lengthy programming online).

It’s not just television spicing its distribution; wireless carriers and radio networks – natural bedfellows if you think about it – are getting together as well.

XM Satellite Radio hopes to expand its reach by offering Alltel Wireless customers the opportunity to use their cell phones to listen to 20 of its commercial-free radio stations, according to this Associated Press story. With the company struggling to attract new listeners, it makes sense to create more avenues of access, particularly for urban dwellers. Most people listen to the radio when they’re in their car; they use their iPods and the like for all their other down time (riding the bus, working out, etc.). This deal will potentially give Alltel users the opportunity to use their phones as more than simply a phone.

Taking a page from Mark Cuban, who built Broadcast.com’s audience with streaming sports radio, Sprint and Major League Baseball have teamed up to give fanatics (like myself) the ability to listen to any radio broadcast for just $6 per month, according to this TechWeb article. Now, it’s true that ESPN Mobile, the cell phone that comes with a direct link to updates and news from ESPN, hasn’t sold very well, but this option is a better one for the hardcore fan who cares only about a specific sport. Instead of bundling a wide swath of information into one package, the listener can zero in on exactly what they want.

It will be interesting to see if the radio-wireless connection turns out to be a winner. On the surface, the phone is ideally suited for listening to radio; however, it’s hard to gauge how consumers will react until these products really hit the marketplace.

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