Speaking at a conference in the Netherlands, Consumer Electronics Association honcho Gary Shapiro said, "Broadcasters no longer enjoy a monopoly on content delivery. Ears and eyes once devoted exclusively to broadcasters are now being drawn in by new forms of content and new methods of delivery." But those able to anticipate where consumers are headed will do just fine, he said. Shapiro was speaking at the IBC2007 Conference, said to be Europe’s largest annual gathering of broadcasters. "The winners over the next 40 years will be those who have the clearest vision," said Shapiro. "They are able to identify potentially disruptive new channels, recognize consumer trends and yet, go out to meet the challenge." Shapiro noted the advent of all sorts of new personal communication devices, and made special note of their portability. He took particular note of video coming to wireless telephones – and more. "Seventy-seven percent of Americans are holding the future in the palm of their hands in the form of a wireless phone. In Europe, 478 million wireless phones are in use. That represents 478 million ways to connect with consumers, whether they are on the train, on their lunch break, or waiting in an airport. The same is true with PDAs, laptops, and other portable information and entertainment devices."
His advice for broadcasters? Use broadcasting’s spectrum advantage. "As broadcasters, you own the highest quality spectrum there is, able to reach almost every household by geographic region. This enormous bandwidth is more accessible than any other network owner-including cable, satellite and mobile. None is as ubiquitous as the broadcast spectrum. For competitors, updating their networks requires an enormous investment in physical infrastructure, but not for you. So while you may be facing competition from these new technologies, you have something they will never have. As such, you must find new and creative ways to take advantage of this scarce resource in the form of new services to consumers."
RBR/TVBR observation: Shapiro’s membership will face its own challenges during the upcoming transitional tumult, but for the most part they will simply sit back and benefit no matter what happens. New technology will render much of the electronic hardware in the average household obsolete (we haven’t gotten rid of our vinyl yet and now they’re saying CDs are on their last legs!), meaning these households will head to their local electronics store for an update, thereby filling CEA-affiliated cash registers. The challenge for broadcasters is much more perilous – to make sure that they are a key medium being delivered on whatever devices consumers are buying. However, despite rapid change and audience erosion, no technology has emerged that even comes close to broadcasting’s ability to provide a mass audience. Hanging on to that attribute will be a key to the medium’s future.