There was a time, not too long ago, when the broadcast spectrum was simple. If you wanted to watch television, you had a choice of ABC, CBS or NBC affiliates. All of that changed with the advent of cable, and before you could say Barney Fife, hundreds of choices magically popped into our homes. Gone, for the most part, was the static of rabbit ear antennas. Neighborhoods with TV antennas sticking on top of every roof soon disappeared as the CNNs and ESPNs started appearing all over our sets. But with the expanded selections came something else: confusion.
Now we have a plethora of terms — DVRs, Tivos, DVDs — and more technology than we can consume from satellite providers to streaming services. And we can watch most anything on a variety of platforms from desktop computers, tablets and smartphones.
In the midst of all of this is a business model many viewers find vexing. It’s a battle for dollars that’s waged behind the scenes, but consumers get drawn in when the negotiations get tough. Every player is trying to maximize every dollar. This time around the stalemate is between the local CBS affiliate and DISH, a satellite programming provider. This isn’t a unique situation, just the latest iteration. The station broadcasts dire warnings that its programming could disappear from this provider or that provider, and the other side slings back. Consumers just want to get the stations they were promised and don’t want the hassle of changing services, but for the foreseeable future, there is no escape.
There are, however, other challenges for the broadcast industry. New players are expanding: Amazon, Google, Apple and others want control of our eyeballs so they can sell us stuff we didn’t know we needed. Who will win that battle is unknown, but we know new players are running on the field all the time. Technology is a wonderful thing. Our choices have expanded and so have the providers. Unfortunately, by its very nature, technology is a disruptive as well as a creative force. Where are our rabbit ears when we need them? The entity that comes up with the right combination of services, price and customer service will win in the long run. That may sound old fashioned, but it’s still a winning formula.