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OnScreen Summit 2011: Content Bundles Still Connect With Consumers

A panel that initially touched on "TV Everywhere" quickly evolved into a discussion about the virtues of traditional multichannel video delivery, versus a world that is edging away from cords.

During the "Monetizing New Distribution Technologies" session at Multichannel News/B&C's OnScreen Media Summit Thursday -- which was introduced to the sounds of Pink Floyd's ‘Money' -- panelists agreed that given the growing legion of available distribution devices, this certainly is a great time be a content owner. 

However, while three of the executives vigorously defended the value and virtues of cable's programming bundle, Avner Ronen, CEO & co-founder of Boxee, which offers a box that accesses Internet video and other content, including over-the-air, fare, advocated for the burgeoning world of consumer choice. He said TV Everywhere was a movement to prolong an arbitrary business model.

Likening content to the music business, which in the digital age has become more about the single than the album or CD, Ronen said the channel concept is a legacy to broadcast and cable. Calling those distribution systems "very ineffective, inefficient delivery" platforms, he said they would "eventually go away, not over night," as consumers value shows over networks and brands.

To that end, Ronen believes more cord-cutting and cord-shaving are in the cards, before joking that people will be "doing more nasty things with their chords" in the years to come.

Discovery Communications senior VP of digital media distribution Rebecca Glashow disagreed, saying that consumers still value brands and that many want to be "curated to." She said the iTunes model -- under which Apple sells individual shows and episodes-- has yet to attain "significant traction" over the past six years.

She added that majority of subscribers still find great value in the bundle. "Why do people like Chinese buffets? Because they like choice."

She maintained that the demise of the programming bundle is "not immediate" and that Discovery, trading in an increasingly on-demand world, is striving to remain relevant in the linear realm, both for distributors and with its attendant ad model.

In his view, Avail-TVN chief strategy officer Doug Sylvester, who acknowledged that consumers certainly want and cherish access to content on various devices, sees great challenges for viewers looking to find what combinations of programming are available, what is the right interface and what tools are needed to help find the fare seamlessly across devices.

"This is not about one [platform] versus the other. It's more about the execution about bringing the right elements together," he said. "Consumers have demonstrated what they want. It's a matter of who gets there first."

HDNet executive VP Jeff Cuban, who says the content on the channel, as well as that on sister service HDNet Movies, is available via TV Everywhere platforms, put his money on the bigger players, the "Comcasts of world and the MSOs getting into Internet business. They want to become national. They want to monetize nationally, which is better than regional. That's going to impact smaller players like Boxee."