Why Disney—and other Media Giants—are AWOL on Net Neutrality Fight

Susan Crawford correctly points out that the Walt Disney Company/ABC has done an about-face on network neutrality. Back in 2000, for example, Disney was the leading commercial media company fighting the AOL Time Warner merger over the network neutrality issue. Why the change? It’s because Disney and the other TV networks understand that unless they play ball with the cable and telephone industry their futures are threatened.

Don’t be fooled by Disney/ABC’s announcement that it will run a few of their programs online. Disney, CBS, NBC and the others recognize that now, thanks to Michael Powell and Kevin Martin of the FCC, cable and telephone networks control the future of the TV/broadband business. All of TV will be interactive, including advertising. Only by being securely inside the cable/telco pipe can a media company guarantee that it can prosper. That means doing whatever it takes to secure favorable treatment by Comcast, Verizon, and others. That’s why Disney is silent on network neutrality safeguards. They have been told–in so many words–that if they support safeguards their programing will suffer. More importantly, if Disney and the others play “ball” they will get all kinds of financial rewards–including favorable placement for video-on-demand, more money for programming, and likely enhanced digital distrubution.

Why be nice to the cable and telcos in our seemingly open and competitive broadband universe? It’s becase their now monopoly
pipes will be the place that collects the data, tracks the viewer/user/ and targets us with personalized content. It will have the intelligence to know whether we are in the home or are connected via a mobile device.

Content may be king. But the “closed” access model of broadband given to us by the FCC (and to be likely ratified by Congress soon) has also given those that control the conduit a sizeable share of the “throne.” Everyone in show-biz knows that broadband and TV are merging. That’s where the big bucks will be. The phone and cable industry have this market sewn up. Even Mickey Mouse knows to fear a digital monopoly when it sees one.

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