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App-Rising.com covers the development and adoption of broadband applications, the deployment of and need for broadband networks, and the demands placed on policy to adapt to the revolutionary opportunities made possible by the Internet.

App-Rising.com is written by Geoff Daily, a DC-based technology journalist, broadband activist, marketing consultant, and Internet entrepreneur.

App-Rising.com is supported in part by AT&T;, however all views and opinions expressed herein are solely my own.

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February 4, 2008 7:45 AM

Why Can't Local Media Be a Competitive Edge for TV Providers?

One of the big issues I've been exploring and will continue to dive into over the next few months is identifying the problems with PEG and working towards finding 21st century solutions to bolster its ability to further the cause of local community media.

In my last post, John McHugh of ParkTV in St. Louis Park, MN submitted this thought-provoking comment:

"Cable TV companies could use the strengths of the local channels to differentiate themselves from satellite tv. Within a region/cluster, successful PEG channels in one service area aren't the same as a single PEG channel in another. The company should have non-specific mention of public meetings, school sports/events and local interests programming, tag it with the ever-present asterix -- whose footnote reveals "not all systems have the same local channels". Why not? They claim to compete on value."

In an extended conversation with Chuck Sherwood, senior associate with TeleDimensions and lifer in the PEG community, I learned that while not every cable provider is actively fighting against their obligations to support and carry PEG channels, that none of the major operators have taken the bold step of supporting PEG above and beyond these obligations.

But I have to ask the same question as John: Why not?

I mean, why would it be a bad thing to stock your cable system with locally generated content that can't be found anywhere else? Assuming the content's compelling and relevant, wouldn't that give you a huge edge over your competitors?

It seems like such a simple, obvious idea, especially considering the increasingly competitive cable market.

And imagine what would happen if it worked and then you had multiple cable providers fighting to offer the best in local content.

It seems possible that we could enter a world where cable operators weren't working against PEG but instead fighting for it. Where they're investing in local content producers and heavily promoting local shows in order to gain a competitive edge.

To get this dynamo going there would likely need to be a way for them to ultimately make money off of local content beyond retaining and attracting subscribers, but that doesn't seem impossible either as I know in talking with Chuck that there's the beginnings of a push to understand how advertising and PEG might co-exist.

And the great thing is that even if the cable operators weren't making much or any money off of ad placement, most do offer ad production services and in producing those local ads for local media they could likely upsell many advertisers on buying airtime on national channels.

The biggest piece of this puzzle, though, is getting the audience to watch local content. My sense is that part of the reason why the major cable operators, new and old, haven't embraced the possibilities of PEG as competitive advantage is that they don't see it as high demand content. Quite frankly, there's a sense that PEG only means boring government meetings, educational content from schools, and crazy public access shows. And that the only audience for this content is the smallest of niches.

If PEG content could prove itself to have highly in demand content, then perhaps we could flip the paradigm of PEG needing cable to cable needing PEG and in so doing expand what PEG means and the audience it serves.

And if cable providers in competitive markets would wake up and realize the potential to gain a leg up over their rivals by embracing local content, we could start taking steps towards a future where supporting PEG isn't seen as an obligation but instead a sound business decision that can further both operator and community interests alike.


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Comments (1)

Excellent points to consider. Especially with the switchover to digital coming next year. The PEG channel that launches live, interactive tv talk shows, with viewers adding webcams, software, and participating as the show occurs (think town hall meeting online), becomes a focus for the community on a 24x7 basis. One continuous talkathon. Cable will definitely change their tune about supporting PEG.

Posted by Tom Poe on February 4, 2008 12:00 PM

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