Here's the Great Part

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Here's the Great Part

This is Rob Long with Martini Shot on KCRW.

I went to an event a few weeks ago for the launch of a new web media company. I go to those kinds of things about once every, well these days, about once a day. There are zillions of these new web enterprises around, all with the kinds of fanciful, made-up names that create the image of young, fun-loving kids in interesting t-shirts watching web videos as they sit in some cool bar waiting for their ultimate Frisbee friends to show up or text them or meet them where their favorite band is playing.

Young people aren't watching television anymore, apparently. They're unreachable using the current Hollywood Old Media model. Advertisers get them on the web, on music sites, or social networks rather than on television, and they can reach them all day, rather than the traditional hours of prime time, because young people are on the web all day -- you know, when they're supposed to be working? -- surfing and clicking their way at their desks, looking busy but really just checking Facebook. Meanwhile, of course, the Chinese are inventing things.

I'm aware that this all makes me sound like a very old man. What is this with the Twitter and the MyFace blog? I fought a war for your freedoms you miserable sob -- put that phone down now!

And that's sort of how I felt at the party. Old. But old at least means that when you hear people say things like, "This will revolutionize the way we watch television" or "this will totally change the business model of Hollywood" or "nothing in the entertainment business will ever be the same," you can keep eating the hot passed hors d'oeuvres and drinking the imported beer and maintaining eye contact with getting all up in it. Because people have been predicting this kind of change for years, pretty much ever since a few guys came out to Los Angeles chased by Edison's patent police. Yeah, the web will make things different, more entrepreneurial, less winner-take-all, more competitive. But, you know, that's a few years away. Anyone in this business already knows that " a few years away" is a lifetime in the entertainment business, that "a few years" is how long it takes to make a lot of money, or lose a lot of money, or break into the business, or get drummed out of the business. Yes, the entertainment business is going to change radically, in a few years. But this isn't the auto business. I don't know anyone in town who ever thought -- even before the web exploded into our faces -- that you could predict anything, or count on anything, beyond "a few years" anyway. Why else would we all be leasing cars and flipping houses?

After an hour of milling around at the party, I ended up cornered by one of the executives at the company. He spent a long time trying to convince me that his website -- excuse me, proprietary delivery platform -- is going to revolutionize the way we watch television, totally change the business model of Hollywood, and that nothing in the entertainment business will ever be the same.

I maintained eye contact.

"I mean," he went on, "the studios are not going to be paying you to sit around and come up with TV shows anymore."

"But they are now," I said.

"But not for long," he said.

"But they are now," I said.

"But they won't be soon, in a few years," he said.

"Are you paying for content?" I asked.

"Not right now," he said. "But we will be, in a few years."

"Here's my card," I said. "Call me when that happens."

That's it for this week. Next week, we'll end the summer early. For KCRW, this is Rob Long with Martini Shot.



Rob Long