More body blows for conventional broadcasters

opinion August 18, 2018 01:00

By The Nation

The social media have become dominant in reporting news and are now making inroads in sports



Owners of traditional TV channels have of course been having sleepless nights in recent years as advertising revenue migrates to newer broadcasting platforms, but this week the insomnia worsened. 

Outspoken rock star Sek Loso, who is frequently controversial, generated the biggest political story of the week with a stinging and totally unexpected attack on Thaksin Shinawatra and his family – and it came entirely through the social media. 

Meanwhile Facebook threatened to drain away even more television revenue by announcing a concerted venture into the live broadcasting of popular sport events.

The mainstream TV stations could only scramble for reactions to Sek Loso as he harnessed the power of the social networks without once having to grant an interview to a professional reporter. All he had to do was fire up Facebook Live, a function on the network with which anyone can broadcast instantly into the ether. And he has many, many followers.

The social media, having beaten the mainstream outlets resoundingly with their real-time coverage of the Wild Boars cave rescue, once again demonstrated their capabilities in terms of instantaneous reportage. Sek Loso underlined how the social networks can empower anyone with a smartphone or computer and let them have a huge impact. The modern media have utterly outpaced conventional broadcasters.

To be sure, the mainstream reporters offering steady updates on Donald Trump’s tweets don’t mean much to people checking out the latest movies available on Netflix. The entertaining-streaming service has succeeded because specific content can be watched anytime, on the go and inexpensively. The considerably larger fees that cable TV operators charge are forcing more and more people to seek out cheaper options, and these days such options abound.

Now Facebook has stirred the pot by signing an exclusive deal to broadcast La Liga football games in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, the Maldives, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan. Other social networks have begun investing heavily in highly lucrative sports-streaming rights, the quality of which is steadily improving. Revenue from targeted advertising is guaranteed to make their investments worthwhile.

Facebook tried to assure mainstream broadcasters that its venture shouldn’t be seen as a threat to them, yet a major business shift certainly looms on the horizon. Live sports events are major subscription drivers for cable and satellite services, and losing broadcast rights to Facebook or Line will hollow out their income.

Conventional broadcasters have long banked on getting people to pay a registration fee to watch premium movies and sports, but that source of revenue is rapidly evaporating. The subscription fee has become a fatal disadvantage, just as has happened among print newspapers, which have lost their subscribers and must eke out an existence on dwindling ad income. Operators of free TV stations will find the fight for advertising tougher, while those reliant on subscription fees have dual battlefronts – the pricing war and the “red ocean” situation in the advertising industry.

Consumers should benefit from all of this, but optimism must be tempered in case new business formulas emerge that help the big-name players. When the right to broadcast English Premier League matches in Thailand changed hands several years, millions of fans had the headache of switching subscriptions. All that’s certain is that “business as usual” has, for the foreseeable future at least, come to an end.