Monday, January 16, 2017

As we've been saying for a very long time...

The other day I was checking the TV listings had added a new subchannel, one that turned out to be an interesting development in the over-the-air television thread: to cut to the chase, arguably the most successful and powerful producer in the industry today just started his own terrestrial superstation.

For those of you just tuning in, there has been a major debate over the future of broadcast television over the past decade or so, one we have written about extensively here at the blog. To grossly oversimplify, one side has argued that terrestrial television is an all but dead medium that should be chopped up and sold for parts immediately. The other side argues that it is both vital and growing sector and that it serves valuable social and economic purposes. The first argument has been the darling of the press. It has gotten a ton of coverage and has spread some embarrassingly inaccuracies.

As you might've guessed by now, I took the other side of the debate. One of the arguments I used was that the people with the best data (which is, in this case, all proprietary) have consistently been taking digital broadcast television seriously. It is highly significant that most of the major studios have jumped into this market, usually either in partnership with or imitation of the company that pioneered the model Weigel Broadcasting.

Now, in addition to companies like NBC Universal, CBS, and Fox, to name a few, we also have mega producer Mark Burnett (Survivor, the Apprentice, the Voice, Shark Tank and many others) staking out a claim.

From Wikipedia:
Light TV is an American digital broadcast television network owned by MGM Television that launched on December 22, 2016. The network features family-friendly and faith-based entertainment programming. Light TV is headed by the husband-and-wife team of Mark Burnett and Roma Downey; Burnett is the CEO of MGM TV, while Downey is best known as an actress and star of Touched by an Angel. Both Burnett and Downey consider themselves deeply religious, and have teamed in the past on producing several religious- or family-oriented projects (most notably the 2013 History miniseries The Bible) through the MGM subsidiary Downey leads, Lightworkers Media.

Obviously, Mark Burnett's time is incredibly valuable – the opportunity cost for missing one of these projects can easily run into the hundreds of millions of dollars – but there is another aspect of this story that is possibly just as important but is likely to slide past those who have not been following things closely.

Remember what I said about proprietary data? MGM was one of the earliest and biggest players in this industry. They already had ownership of or partnership positions in at least three terrestrial superstations, including the granddaddy of them all, ThisTV. With the probable exception of Weigel , which virtually invented the industry and is so influential that both Fox and CBS sought it out as a partner, no one has better data than MGM. Burnett knows everything about the horse he's betting on.