Video: Someone’s Got to Pay

CARLSBAD, CALIF.: The word “television” will remain in the lexicon, but it may not retain its traditional meaning. So said John Malone at the D7 conference in this desert oasis this week. Malone is chairman of Liberty Media and former chief of TCI, the cable operation swallowed by AT&T and later, by Comcast.

“In five years old guys like me will still call it ‘television,’ but it will come from anywhere, in many formats, via many distribution channels. Anything anywhere in increasing quality and quantity and decreasing costs. That’s the trend,” Malone told D’s Walt Mossberg.

“The idea of programming linear channels has already broken down,” he said. “By and large, most broadcasters don’t view broadcast as core anymore. They’re all moving to cable networks and their dual income streams.”

“Monetizing is hard,” he continued. “Advertising may not do it. Hulu has ads but they’re not significant. How do you spend enough money to produce high-quality programming with advertising?”

Malone goes on to lay out two failed examples of how he tried to charge for content in the 1990s. One involved creating tiered ISP speeds; another involved charging a subscription fee for hi-def broadcasting. Neither flew.

“We got people to pay for stuff by tying communication with content,” he said. “If you can introduce incrementally, that say, 4G wireless service comes with these three things that you can only get with that, maybe that can work. I think it’s a very interesting watershed.”

Mossberg’s interview with Malone is available at All Things Digital’sD7 Highlights page