Mark Cuban, owner of Magnolia Pictures, Landmark Theatres, and the Dallas Mavericks, has claimed in a National Association of Television Program Executives (NATPE) meeting that social television, not Internet video, is the future of entertainment.
“Television, because it has zero latency, has become the starting point for conversations,” said Cuban in his speech. While television networks are working to introduce app-friendly content for their more popular shows, Cuban believes that social media is more concerned with live programming that can encourage immediate conversations than with traditional entertainment programs. The speech is part of a long-term push Cuban has been making for social television. In mid-2012, he used his position as chairman at HDNet to change the name of the cable network to AXS TV as part of an effort to refocus the brand on unique content.
In making his claim, Cuban has set himself in opposition to a large number of investments in rising YouTube channels and smart TV features that enable Web connections. His solution is to move away from programs that can be easily duplicated and shared through online portals toward live shows and special events that viewers won’t be able to see anywhere but on cable.
“If you want to watch that Tiesto concert, or the Skrillex concert . . . or the Jay-Z concert live on AXS TV, you’ve got to get cable. If you want to be part of the conversation that all your friends with cable are part of on [social media], you’ve got to have cable,” Cuban said.
Cuban’s solution faces a few roadblocks on the way to success. Must-see and event programming do attract attention from a core group of fans, but is that group of fans large enough? Social networks have a larger market for fictional shows and their tie-in games, pages, and conversations. The social world loves talking about the latest Walking Dead episode or the exploits of Honey Boo Boo, but concerts and other one-time, live events don’t build the same long-term chatter.
For Cuban’s plan to succeed, he must find ways to generate powerful, short-term bursts of social media chatter and conversation about AXS events, activities that will directly increase viewership. The “event planning” model requires talented content creators and a powerful strategy leveraging all available devices. Viewers will need ways to update and invite their friends to watch with them in real time. If the model works, it could lead to new market growth for the cable industry and a rising interest in live-performance events.