Opinion: Media content debate may be ignoring the integrated option

A definitive answer should soon be available on the greatest debate since angels started dancing on pinheads. Is content king, or not?

A definitive answer should soon be available on the greatest debate

since angels started dancing on pinheads. Is content king, or not?

Disney boss Michael Eisner was in town last week to promote his

autobiography, Work in Progress, and had no doubts, which is hardly

surprising as he controls billions of dollars worth of content.

Unfortunately, he’s not nearly so smart as he looks. The great man

turned down the chance to appear on some crazy radio programme where you

get a chance to choose records and a luxury you would like on a desert


Luckily Disney seems to promote their film content a bit better than

their executive autobiographies.

Culture secretary Chris Smith and assorted media luminaries such as

Charles Allen of Granada also seem to think content is important as they

traipse around China this week trying to reduce CD piracy and persuade

the Chinese to buy more UK television programmes than The Bill and the

best games of Crystal Palace.

How come, then, that telephone companies are worth trillions when they

have no content at all worth speaking about except the amateur variety

that we all make up ourselves.

In business terms, everyone in the media would be better to just forget

it and invest as quickly as possible in telephone companies before the

prices become totally impossible. Then they can say they are planning to

be an internet service provider and add further billions to their


When you hear of AT&T of the US offering dollars 58bn (pounds 36bn) for

MediaOne, whose UK interests include 30% of cable company Telewest, you

wonder how on earth Carlton and Granada could summon up the energy to

bother launching ONdigital. How heads of advertising agencies can get

out of bed in the morning for the paltry sums of money they handle is an

increasing mystery.

Open, or British Interactive Broadcasting as it used to be known two

chief executives ago, is at least starting to get the hang of it. Before

it opens its doors the City has placed a pounds 1.4bn value on the


The great thing now would be to sell it before it runs the risk of

losing money.

It is the word interactive that clearly does the trick, even though

there’s a long way to go to match AT&T. If only ITV could somehow change

its name to Interactive TV it might have a more promising business.

When faced with the advance of telephone companies the claim that

content is king is just a pauper’s joke. If further evidence is needed

just look at the big brother of ONdigital’s Stephen Grabiner.

Mike Grabiner runs Energis, a proper company that strung a few telephone

cables from electricity pylons and is now worth an absolute fortune.

What hasn’t been fully appreciated yet is just how powerful telephone

companies such as AT&T could be if they discovered proper content and

became integrated communication companies. Most of them could buy

Carlton out of petty cash - not to mention Manchester United.


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