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Programmers: New Media Will Boost Old

Las Vegas — New-media technology and products — from the Internet to cellphones to mobile devices — can ultimately support and enhance the traditional TV business, several top programming executives at cable companies and content conglomerates said last Monday during a Cable Show panel session.

During a session on “programming for the new, the old and the in-between,” Comcast's top programming official predicted that the new-media options that have sprouted are going to boost video usage.

“That's going to increase revenue for all our companies,” said Comcast executive vice president of content acquisition Matt Bond.

In addition to Bond, panelists ranging from Bob Wilson, senior vice president of programming for Cox Communications, to Coleman Breland, executive vice president of sales and marketing for Turner Network Sales, talked about the impact that broadband, video streaming, YouTube and devices like cellphones will have on the linear TV-network business — what Bond called “the pay-TV model.”

Panelist Bridget Baker, president of NBC Universal TV networks distribution, decried the impact that digital video recorders have had on her company's advertising sales, estimating that time-shifting — viewing that programmers haven't gotten credit for — has resulted in “hundreds of millions of dollars” in lost revenue.

But generally speaking, the panel was upbeat about the impact of technology on their bread and butter: traditional TV.

For example, while the panelists agreed that the younger generation is accustomed to watching video on smaller screens, like cellphones, they believe that most viewers will continue to want to watch TV on bigger screens.

Melani Griffith, vice president of programming for Insight Communications, pointed out that “people have TV rooms” because they are dedicated to television and that viewing experience — they don't have computer rooms.

Mike Hopkins, executive vice president and general manager for Fox Cable Networks, noted that longer-form content doesn't appear to work very well on mobile devices.

And Breland said of mobile technology, “I personally don't think that will usurp the big-screen model.”

In terms of the Internet, Bond said “it's not totally inappropriate” for programmers to put some of their content on the Internet, but it should be used to support their core business, namely the actual network. Content from networks should not be available in real time on the Web, for example, according to Bond.

Even Comcast's own Internet portal was not viewed as “a core strategic objective” or meant to replace the company's core business, Bond said, but rather as part of a strategy to support that core business.

Finally, Bond saw a future for new linear networks in certain circumstances, namely for sports channels.