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With NAB 2019 About to Kick Off, Streaming Media Veteran Bill Mobley Talks About Industry Challenges

William Mobley, CEO of FreeCast and founder of one of the first streaming media companies, has sat down for an interview in advance of the National Association of Broadcasters’ Show in Las Vegas to discuss the big issues facing the media industry. Once again, approaches by the media industry incumbents to streaming media will dominate the NAB Show.

With streaming on the rise, traditional cable television revenues are falling, leaving executives scrambling for a new strategy to replace lost revenue. And having been at the forefront of streaming media for two decades now, Mobley shares some advice for networks and content owners seeking a piece of the online video revenue pie.

According to Mobley, the problems are of the television industry’s own making. In response to the success of Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and others, TV networks have opted to create their own competing products, putting paywalls around their own libraries of content, rather than licensing it out.

This creates a mess for consumers, who must then contend with dozens of streaming apps, remember usernames and passwords, give their credit card information to numerous websites, and pay multiple monthly subscription fees which together might even add up to the cost of a typical cable bill.

What consumers are really looking for, Mobley insists, is à la carte television. The ability to choose your own channels, rather than paying for big bundles of hundreds of channels, to then only watch a handful of them regularly. The inability to do so, and the cost of larger bundles, has been driving a mass consumer exodus from cable and satellite TV. Every quarter, the big cable and satellite providers announce huge video subscriber losses.

Those losses are showing up in the bottom lines, not just of the distributors like Comcast and Charter, but in those of networks as well.

In order to make money, Mobley says, the TV networks and other content owners need to offer a product that consumers want, which means making it easier to access content, even content from multiple providers.

“If you’re pushing the consumer in a direction of only you, you’re pushing them away.” Mobley warns.

Such strategies aren’t effective to compete against the incumbent streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video. Those services succeeded because they offered large varieties of content from multiple production sources. Trying to stymie them, with each network creating its own competing service, ruins that experience.

As consumers shun big bundles, Mobley recommends à la carte offerings as a way forward that preserves, rather than cannibalizes pay-TV revenues. Let consumers pay for only the channels they want, and they’d be willing to pay 3 to 5 times more than their typical cable retransmission fees.

There’s also a tremendous opportunity for marketers, as television transitions online. Advertising has long been a key part of TV revenues, with national networks allowing companies to cast a wide net, while local broadcast stations enabled more geographic targeting.

With web-based television, much more targeted advertising becomes possible, allowing marketers to hone in on their target audience, based not just on demographics, but also on interests and other details. This makes those ads more effective and more valuable.  

And once again, as more streaming products compete for consumers’ budgets, ad-supported content will play a larger role in the future of television. While new and premium content justifies a subscription paywall, there’s often still an audience for older content. Making this content available at no out-of-pocket cost, by relying on advertising, can be more economically viable than launching a pay channel.

The television industry as a whole is in the midst of a difficult transition, which will include some growing pains for consumers and media companies alike. But ultimately, with new technology like FreeCast’s bringing content, advertising, and consumers together in a single platform, there’s never been more opportunity. And in fact, realizing that opportunity is quickly becoming a turn-key proposition.

At NAB 2019, Mobley and other FreeCast executives will be pitching their solutions to networks and content owners of all sizes.