A couple more small items for the “content is free, networks are valuable” meme… these w/r/t television. First, this LA Times piece on CBS’s “new internet strategy”:
The idea is to let their online material be promiscuous: Instead of limiting their shows and other online video to CBS.com, the network is letting them couple with any website that people might visit.
“CBS is all about open, nonexclusive, multiple partnerships,” said Quincy Smith, president of CBS Interactive.
A big part of this strategy is building an “audience network,” and to this end the newly revamped CBS site provides a variety of fora – ?message boards, wikis, and user-generated media galleries – ?to try to capture some of the energy of its various fan communities. It’s a fine line to tread, since fan culture is almost by definition self-organizing and thrives on a sort of semi-autonomy. But perhaps this only because the broadcasters have hitherto kept their distance (the occasional self-defeating lawsuit notwithstanding). It’s an interesting (and somewhat yucky) question, and one that applies well beyond TV: to what extent can community be branded?
Compare this with NBC’s more retentive move toward quasi-openness, post-iTunes, with NBC Direct, a service that offers free downloads of shows with auto-destruct DRM that wipes files after a week. I don’t think either network’s got it yet, but these are interesting experiments to watch.
In light of this, it’s worth revisiting Mark Pesce’s 2005 talk, “Piracy is Good?”, available here on Google Video.