Seth Shapiro\'s Business Innovation Blog

Lately, there are two questions I get asked whenever I speak, and whenever I see old friends.

The first is “Can I get rid of my cable yet?”  It’s a tempting thought; customers like the brands of the new players, still hate the cable company, and would save maybe $1000 a year . Given the number of options – Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, iTunes, Google etc. – it seems worth a shot. But it’s not as easy as it sounds. We’ll come back to this question soon.

To answer that, let’s begin with the second, bigger question: “Will online video sites (like YouTube) and new services (like Netflix) kill cable?”

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20 years ago, the notion of designing hardware or software with the user in mind was generally regarded as idiotic.  UX was an effete, pretentious and vaguely embarrassing thing to bring up. Whether the latest crappy software from Microsoft, or the latest crappy set top box from Time Warner Cable, companies made the crap that they could afford to make, and customers needed to shut up and deal with it.  Command line was masculine; GUI was for idiots. Users were SUPPOSED to work to use the new stuff. It wasn’t supposed to be easy. Continue reading

For the past few moths I’ve been busy with several new projects: starting on my first book, gearing up to teach at USC, booking events with our Peer Group at the TV Academy, and the usual assortment of projects, including strategy work for one of the major tech companies; business planning for a new game company; and bus dev for a digital film aggregator.

I’m really excited about the book and the course in particular. The course will be an overview of 15 big topics in digital media and entertainment, including overviews of the states of the TV, film, game, music and online content business as well deep dives into tablets, advertising, startup funding, cable/sat vs. OTT, multiplatform, story worlds and more.  Really looking forward to it and hoping to post some of th big takeaways here as we go.

Thanks to all my friends who have graciously agreed to come as guest lecturers – we’ll have fun!

Leading Apple analysts Gene Munster has renewed his claim that apple will move into the TV manufacturing business – and will succeed in the space in 2012. He sees an iCloud move into video, relevant patent work, and – most interestingly – likely enthusiasm in the app community for building TV-related apps.  Fortune has the related patent here.  Look for the beginnings of an acknowledgement on the July 19 earnings call, along with confirmation of the September iPhone 5.


After spending the past few days speaking in the Netherlands about future business models for digital media, interesting to see the inevitable start of stories regarding NFLX’s plans for Europe here. The massive growth of Netflix market cap is predicated on this type of expansion; fascinating issue will be whether new subscriber revenue, even with Canada plus the EU or Latin America, will outrun expanding content costs as major media companies raise rights costs. This is more a factor than ever now that major content providers Time Warner (via HBO Go) and the NBCUniversal family (via Comcast’s XFinity) have their own streaming services to feed.

On the heels of Comcast fast-tracking its iPad guide app last year – shown here at the Cable Show – Comcast announced today that it will stream live TV to tablets.  not clear yet whether this offensive (to maintain value to subs) and defensive (to compete with Netflix, Apple and other OTT providers) will happen soon or is just planting a flag for CES.  Hopefully there will be a demo at the show.

Speculation continues that Netflix is pursuing an acquisition of STARZ from Liberty. This would certainly create a tremendous wave for HBO and Showtime (and their parents Time Warner and Viacom, respectively) on the one hand, and cable/satellite distributors on the other. The sticking point is likely to be how receptive John Malone’s Liberty would be to any stock component, given the huge run up of NFLX and the comments of major media figures (notable Jeff Bewkes) skepticism re Netflix getting content in the future as cheaply as it has in the past.

In a recent interview, Liberty CEO John Maffei addressed the issue by mentioning that Netflix had a higher market cap than DISH Networks -– a situation both he and DISH CEO Charlie Ergen found “odd”.

Happy New Year. This site launched four years ago a few days before CES, so it seemed like a good time to pick up the conversation. Four years ago, had we predicted that Apple would grow to the second highest market cap in the world; that Netflix’ value would quadruple in an year; or that Goldman Sachs would value Facebook higher than Boeing, Time Warner or Viacom, the response probably wouldn’t have been great. But that’s where we are today, as decades of prognostication on the power of digital have given way to a present that is making all of that old news. Here’s to it.

By now, news that Peter Chernin will resign his post as COO of News Corp when his contract expires in June 30 is widely circulated. His departure was widely anticipated some years ago, when it appeared he might bolt for Disney pre-Iger, and  was foreshadowed by Murdoch biographer Michael Wolff’s post last week.  Chernin is a smart and gentlemanly guy and it will be interesting to see what he does next.