Big Idea 2014: The Distinction Between Media and Tech Crumbles


Julia Boorstin

Julia Boorstin

CNBC Correspondent, covering the business of media and entertainment

What will define media and technology in 2014? The end of defining labels. As these two industries converge, the silos will disappear, leaving an integrated mix of content and distribution companies. That co-mingling will enable more ambitious goals and bigger, riskier bets to push the boundaries of the business.

Is Netflix a media or a tech company? It’s both. And it doesn’t matter any more.

What does it mean that the biggest of the media giants, Disney, is producing original content for Netflix that will skip traditional broadcast distribution and reach consumers solely through Internet pipes? It means the industries that have so long defined Northern and Southern California will transcend labels, with new relationships up and down the West Coast.

“Television” is any video, not a device. Forget about “web video” versus “television.” The line is evaporating. Ask any teenager what TV shows he or she like; you’ll get a list of favorites watched on Netflix, Hulu, and HBO Go. Next year “TV” will be increasingly be liberated from that big electronic device, as we see more apps like Disney’s ‘Watch ABC’ that enable live streaming from anywhere. TV sets, those giant things in your living room, are useful for playing video games, streaming a Pandora or Spotify app, showing photo slideshows, but if you want live television, you won’t be stuck sitting on the couch.

Forget about the distinction between Media and Tech Companies. This year we saw Microsoft start a division to produce original scripted content to deliver through its XBox platform, hiring a TV veteran, Nancy Tellem to oversee it. Next year we’ll see Microsoft start to release its original shows, joining Amazon, Netflix, and of course the studios, looking to draw consumers’ subscription dollars. Whether they’re subscribing to Netflix, Amazon Prime, or Satellite TV, they’re paying, and media and tech companies are– and will–continue to work together — and as frenemies– to grab more consumer attention and dollars.

There will be no more line between “Mobile” and “Desktop” — because *everything* will be mobile. It will have to be. The amount of time people spend on their smartphones will continue to skyrocket. Now we talk about “apps” and “websites,” and we wonder whether a website is optimized for the web. In 2014 Facebook and LinkedIn will both generate more than half their revenue from mobile– as Twitter now does. A glance at a smartphone will become more important to those social giants– as well as advertisers and media companies– as a click on a desktop computer. Whether its enterprise companies helping businesses access their files, retailers encouraging consumers to shop, or content and distribution companies offering up content, everything will be oriented towards mobile users.

Photo: albert mollon / Getty Images

Published by chrisadelugba

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