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Sooner or Later, All of You Will Pay

With some business models already tumbling and others generating cause for concern, many parts of the content creation and delivery industry are accelerating plans to charge for what once was free. That was one of the key takeaways from a star-studded lineup of media executives who spoke at the Broadcasting & Cable/Multichannel News 2009 OnScreen Media Summit at New York's Edison Ballroom on Oct. 21.

In his opening keynote Q&A, News Corp. Deputy Chairman, President and Chief Operating Officer Chase Carey said the time has come to make the shift, including for a certain popular online video site in which his company is a chief partner.

“I think a free model is a very difficult way to capture the value of our content,” Carey said. “I think what we need to do is deliver that content to consumers in a way where they will appreciate the value. Hulu concurs with that; it needs to evolve to have a meaningful subscription model as part of its business.”

Later in the day, Warner Bros. chief Barry Meyer, who runs the industry's biggest producer of content, gave a passionate call for a shift in the business, noting the idea of windowing content online as well as Time Warner's own TV Everywhere authentication initiative.

“If carefully executed, an authentication type of business model can benefit everyone and be an ideal complement to the current broadcast and cable television ecosystem,” he said.

The other hot topic of the day was, not surprisingly, the impact of the expected Comcast-NBC Universal deal. Jessica Reif Cohen, 1st VP/Managing Director at Banc of America Securities-Merrill Lynch Research, said Comcast's potential deal to acquire a majority interest in NBCU could create “incredible” value for the MSO.

Though she noted that a failed deal could hit Comcast's stock hard, her backing was enough that one media-company CEO in the crowd said afterward, “I should go fill my boots with Comcast stock right now.”

For more coverage of the OnScreen Media Summit, please see p. 16.