The first argument I had with my new boss in cable, the media visionary Bob Pittman, was in early May 1980 at The Movie Channel. I’d handed in my first script for my first promo (”James Bond Week”), Bob crossed out my last line “Only on The Movie Channel,” and scribbled…
“Conveniently schedule on The Movie Channel.”
Quizzed, Bob told me “Convenience always wins.” I argued with him for months (who wants to be edited?), but I’ve been quoting his long held wisdom ever since. Because he was right, Bob was always right.
“Content is King.”
“It’s all about the distribution.”
“The company with the most money (technology, design, ideas, fill in the blank) triumphs.”
In the media business, everyone you talk to knows everything. They (hell, me) can bleat on and on as to why their hypothesis is the right one. But Bob was on to something. Every real media innovation –the printing press, telegraphs, telephones, radio, television, VCRs– made our lives more easier, and it’s no knock on the human condition that we like things to become less complicated.
Think about everything from the cotton gin, which kicked off the industrial revolution, or Ford’s Model T, the first really popular automobile, or the iPhone for that matter. Hammers, screwdrivers, the printing press, electric lights, indoor plumbing, you name it, we’ve spent thousands of years figuring out convenient methods of accomplishing tasks.
When technology solves a problem for media, figuring out an easier way for something to happen, of course we all jump as fast as possible. If you’re old enough, remember seeing your first cassette or Walkman. What must it have been like to hear radio for the first time, or television? To some it seemed like the Devil was visiting earth it was so mind blowing. But, of course, it was all of us adopting a simpler way to get information, entertainment, eye or ear candy.
Naturally, we quickly wanted HBO when there suddenly became a way to see movies –unedited for content or length, no commercials– in our own homes. When Netflix made it even easier who the heck thought they were going to fail?
Let’s project ourselves into the future, shall we? Which one of us will opt out of Google’s self driving car, and insist on a vehicle with manual wind down windows and stick shifts? And Uber, what are those worldwide fights about? Convenience, it always wins out.
The concept of convenience doesn’t answer every question in media, for sure. There are a lot of complicating factors, timing, pricing, marketing, you know the rest. But for me, when an old idea is dominant, and a new one comes along that makes it easier for me to get what I want when, where, and how I want it, I’m there, and fast. YouTube, anyone?!
We’ve all heard the theories as to who will be champion in the future of media. Whenever the pontification begins, I remember that Bob Pittman is always right.
“Convenience always wins.”
Thanks @Lucas_Shaw for the original tweet.