The TV Everywhere MacGuffin

psychoI wrote a long-ish post for GigaOm Pro the other day on TV Everywhere headlined, Split Decision on Paying For TV Everywhere. Most of the post is behind a pay-wall but nothing in the analysis it provides would be unfamiliar to readers of The Media Wonk. The post drew an interesting response from GigaOm subscriber MichaelMcNabb. In it, McNabb offers four predictions:

 1) TV Everywhere is available as an add-on to your basic cable subscription and free for premium subscribers;

2) Hulu goes behind a paid wall;

3) Cable programmers significantly restrict availability of free content in return for an increase in affiliate fees;

4) Free to air Networks agree not to increase re-transmission fees in order to participate on new On Demand networks – including network DVR’s.

 Net result – continued shift from linear to On Demand model leaving linear channels as “barker” channels for on-demand platforms.

I have no idea who McNabb is (his subscriber profile is a blank slate). But I wouldn’t argue with any of his prognostications. Much of what we’re seeing in the debate over TV Everywhere is a business negotiation among incumbent service providers and programmers over how to divide the revenue pie as its ingredients shift. As is usually the case when incumbents are driving “innovation,” the object is the preservation and enhancement of the incumbents’ leverage, rather than actual innovation, with its potential to disrupt established business models.

“TV Everywhere,” as first articulated by Time Warner and now taken up with gusto by Comcast, is not so much an example of geniune innovation as what Alfred Hitchcock called a MacGuffin: a plot element that drives the story forward but is ultimately irrelevent to the drama. Think: the stolen cash in Psycho. It’s the reason Janet Leigh ends up at the motel. But it’s not the reason for the shower scene.