If you don't have the right equipment for the job, you just have to make it yourself. - MacGyver
Get ready - three recent media announcements are setting the stage for a huge power shift in the media landscape. Last week Google outlined plans to offer cable-like paid TV service along side super fast broadband programs it's piloting in Kansas. Amazon announced a new free Kindle library service as part of Prime, the $79 subscription delivery program. And Apple cannot deny it has been working on a TV.
These companies are putting together the pieces to become the New Networks. Each brings media with a twist. All of them look massively different that the big three that preceded them - ABC, NBC, CBS.
The playbook is business 101. Distribution is king. Always has been. Always will be. It's true for pizza shops and media companies. For 15 years, media conglomerates have struggled with the new rules of digital distribution. On the net everyone has a channel and owning a position on the dial can be a fleeting proposition (ask AOL or MySpace). So what's a budding media oligopolist to do?
MacGyver together your own distribution network, of course.
The new networks will be built on something very different than their predecessors - digital cloud-based supply chains combining connectivity, hardware, a media OS, content libraries and (importantly) services. All will be in your living room. All will have big ad sales businesses. Yes, all will sell hardware, in some shape or form. Done right, it's the best way to get proximity to the consumer. And they will all offer broadband - or stay very, very close to someone who does.
Their differentiators will keep them far ahead of their predecessors:
Apple | Siri-ous Drama
Apple is stitching together the new network on the strength of brand, product experience and a hardware- to-retail proposition that pulls in consumers and gives it an enviable market power inside the media ecosystem. Of course a TV in the works (think really big phone). The real magic in this box is interface. And physical retail support network.
Google | Real life. Real stories. Real fast.
The Google network will help you navigate the long tail of content. It will bring a suite of navigational tools and delivery efficiency that Google does so well. They're getting better at working with content creators. They are killing it in advertising. The magic here is pairing search and connectivity. A leading position in next generation OS will tie it together.
Amazon | I want my MTV free delivery.
Amazon's remarkable moves of the last couple of years show an emerging New Network powerhouse. Lead with books. Add every other media type. Get devices right. Now bundle in free two day delivery of real stuff via Amazon prime. The difference? Media space meets meat space. Home shopping network on steroids.
At the core, the New Networks offer something very different for an on-demand consumer. It's not programming anymore. It's access. Access is the opposite of programming. It's interface and search and discovery. Content creators will eventually fall in line. Power will shift slowly, then quickly, from old to new.
Troy Young is the President of SAY Media