That’s a headline that CBS CEO Les Moonves says would be the scariest he could imagine in the next year in an interview he gave to Newsweek this week.
In addition to denying the slow death of Prime Time, discussing their flirtation with iTunes, and how the need to make the network news more “accessible”, there was this exchange:
You say that people want to see content when and where they want it. But copy-protection schemes your industry is endorsing may make that very hard to do.
We have to respect the [content] property owner and not get into a situation, like the music business did, where people were taking the properties for free. Eric Schmidt, the CEO of Google, said at our retreat this morning that the public doesn’t want to steal product, as long as you make it available at a reasonable price. That’s exactly what we did with our Google deal. We’re making it available to [the public] at a reasonable price [$1.99], so their tendency will not be to try to take a property that doesn’t belong to them.
Er, no. I mean, yes, he’s right about the reasonable price point, and the public not wanting to steal, but the simple fact that he calls shows like Ghost Whisperers (which is how he referred to it in a different part of the interview) “properties” (three times in a single answer!) shows a mindset that is far far removed from his potential audience.
The simple fact is that people think of songs or films or TV shows as “entertainment” that brings them “pleasure,” not as “properties” that bring them “revenue.” Yes, it’s a business, duh. And yes, a certain part of the audience is not going to pay — especially if you consider all of the burning and trading that goes on offline; that has always gone on, as a matter of fact. “Home Taping is Killing Music.” “The VCR will be the end of the film industry.” “Television will kill the radio.” Same as it ever was. All of which were wrong, and all of which were ideas floated by executives who clearly had no idea of who their audience were. Or really care, for that matter.
Moonves comes across like one of those, totally out of touch with who he says he’s trying to reach. As if his only real competition were ABC and NBC. But with a zillion different choices, the audience isn’t going to wait; it’s just going to go somewhere else.