The TV industry needs to “be brave enough to disrupt ourselves before others disrupt us,” EPIX topper and cable industry veteran Mark Greenberg said in a rallying cry keynote presentation Thursday morning at the B&C/Multichannel News Next TV Summit in New York City.
Pointing to failures of the music industry to thrive in the digital age as a cautionary tale and the result of “arrogance, ignorance and indifference,” Greenberg called upon the TV industry to return to its roots of breaking the rules.
He noted the “aha moment” for the music industry came when the top CEOs searched Napster and found everything was available on the service – even unreleased tracks. In a follow-up Q&A with Multichannel News editor-in-chief Mark Robichaux, Greenberg shared that when he started with EPIX, he sat with the board and Googled “I want to watch Iron Man” and saw hundreds of illegal sites pop up. “I thought [Paramount Pictures chairman-CEO] Brad Grey was going to have a heart attack,” said Greenberg, who is president-CEO of Studio 3 Partners, the parent company of the new premium entertainment cable channel EPIX, which is a joint venture between Viacom, Paramount Pictures, Lionsgate and MGM.
Greenberg said the path forward for TV is to embrace change, competition, as well as consumer choice and control in order to be relevant to new generations.
Change is a way of life for millennials, he said, illustrating the pace of change by presenting a couple of comparative images on a large screen: One, an image of the crowd gathered in 2005 to see the naming of Pope Benedict and the other an image of the crowd gathered for Pope Francis last week. In the 2005 image, the people had no devices in hand. In the 2013, a lit-up mobile device appeared in nearly every hand held up in the air apparently recording the event.
Greenberg called Internet TV a fourth platform in a long history of disruptive TV platforms that started with cable, followed by satellite and then by telcos.
The mantra of the digital age has been “adapt or die,” Greenberg said. But the real mantra should be “disrupt or be disrupted” and now is the time to “get back into the disruption business.”
Greenberg said one thing that needs to be discussed today in a real way is cable cord cutting – not to ignore it: “There’s no facilities-based MVPD, there isn’t an operator out there, who isn’t freaked out about changes.”
And while competition has made the industry better, he said, adversarial relationships are not productive, calling on industry members to improve relationships between programmers and distributors: “We’ve grown together, we’ve succeeded together and we want to do more together.”