Fresh off the news of AMC Networks buying a majority interest in his company RLJ Entertainment, BET founder Bob Johnson exhorted the audience at an Aug. 2 OTT conference to embrace change.
“You can’t stop progress, and you can’t stop the freedom of individual choice,” he said at the OTT & Video Distribution Summit in Marina del Rey, Calif.
Entertainment companies must anticipate the future and learn their core business, which is producing and delivering good content.
“If you don’t produce compelling content — make consumers want to vote with their dollars — you’re going to lose out,” he said, adding “the consumer is the programmer.”
It’s about knowing what business you are in.
“Had the railroad guys been smart, they’d have been in the passenger business and started the airlines,” he said.
OTT channels such as RLJ’s Urban Movie Channel and Acorn TV are capitalizing on consumer targeting.
UMC offers “compelling content for an audience who had never had that opportunity.” It is not beholden to advertisers or cable programmers that might object to certain content.
“The gatekeepers have been torn down,” he said.
Acorn TV is for people “who love and just adore” British content. Owning 65% of the Agatha Christie library gives the channel a leg up in that market.
The future of the cable industry is threatened unless it adapts.
“Cable always from the beginning was a retransmission device of other people’s content,” Johnson said, adding “as long as cable can provide internet service it’s got a role to play.”
But he said the future of content distribution is a la carte, not bundles that include channels consumers don’t want to pay for.
“The industry in my opinion has to find a new model and that model is a la carte,” he said.