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Waiting For The Disney/Apple Fallout

It’s no surprise to my readers that I think podcasting is a silly idea for TV stations. So when I heard about the Disney/Apple podcasting deal on October 12, I just shook my head.

The first question I had was about compensation. Not to Disney or Apple, but to the union artists who work on the shows that Disney/Apple now sells to the general public for $1.99 each, the day after a show airs. My second question was wondering how ABC affiliates would react to the deal.

While Disney was initially mum on the first subject, the unions weren’t.

The first of the fallout from the Disney/Apple deal came within a week...the unions wanted their cut of the podcasting pie.

SAG, AFTRA, WGA west, WGA east and the DGA all joined forces in their call for their union members to be justly compensated for, as the union heads put it in a statement, “this exploitation of their work.”

Disney’s response? A statement which said, in part that “The guilds are our business partners, and we always welcome a dialogue with them on any business-related issue that affects their members.”

And what about ABC’s affiliates? We’ve heard some grumbling about ratings. About how the next affiliate’s meeting might go. How some were wondering about the exact wording and meaning of their affiliate agreement and what market exclusivity really means.

All in all, it seemed that Disney forgot to deal with its other stakeholders in its programming.

Then we heard from CBS. Audio downloads from Apple’s iTunes Music Store. The difference? CBS audio podcasts are free. Free is good.

There are a lot of industry analysts who think the Disney/Apple deal will be a boost to video-on-demand. Of course, it’s not really VOD in the traditional sense, since the watching doesn’t occur on a TV but on a computer or video iPod.

In my lifetime, I’ve purchased one pay-per-view movie at home (Mr. Holland’s Opus) because it was available and I wanted to see it. Had it been a VOD offering, I might have purchased it, but I’m an old fashioned guy. I think TV should, for the most part, be free. I’m not alone.

Let’s look at a different demographic: my 17-year old daughter.

She watches TV. She also watches music videos on her computer. But “watches” is the wrong word. It may be a music video, but it’s background music for when she’s instant messaging her friends and playing games. Would she pay for a music video? No way. She found a site that gives her what she wants for free. And yes, she does own an iPod. She gets her music for free too.

Would she pay for a TV show that she watches? No. In fact, she doesn’t worry much about missing her favorite shows; TiVo takes care of that.

What about portable or mobile video?

It’s not her killer app, although watching a video iPod while crossing the street could get her killed.

What’s made the iPod so successful (as well as other mp3 players and some cellphones) is portable music.

Long-form portable videos that you have to pay for is an interesting concept. Many are banking on it. I’m not so sure.

I’d like short form portable video better—if it was free—and I had the time to watch.

Maybe I’ll subscribe to the free audio podcast of Andy Rooney from 60 Minutes on my PC. Maybe even Face the Nation for those long trips in the car with my mp3 player.

But what about the affiliates? We’ll probably never really know how successful (or not) the Disney/Apple deal is as Apple is not exactly forthcoming with podcasting data. But if market ratings slip, will affiliates demand that podcast programs not be sold into their market? Will they demand that Apple’s iTunes Music Store block computer IP addresses from each market’s geographic region sighting market exclusivity?

Now the fallout really begins.