NBC and missing the point about power

A lot of buzz this week about NBC switching from iTunes to Amazon.

One can’t help but be reminded of the rearranging of deck chairs.

For fifty years, NBC’s major asset was that there were only three TV networks. That meant that all other things being equal, there was a 33% chance you’d tune in. They had a partial lock on attention. TV Guide was important, but it didn’t have enough power to make or break a network.

Welcome to the new age, guys.

Now NBC has a .00001% chance of being picked at random, and plenty of competition for attention. It also means that there’s a new powerbroker, a middle man with far more power in influencing what people watch (and pay for).

NBC could have been this middleman. They ceded this role to YouTube and then iTunes. Switching to Amazon merely creates a third player, but it doesn’t do what the networks truly needed to do–build a direct relationship between the network and the viewer. Amazon has one, so does Apple.

This is the major scramble of this generation… who gets permission to talk to the consumer, to represent the consumer, to determine what’s hot and what’s not. If all three of these players gain power, my guess is that content providers will provide content to all three. On the middleman’s terms. If you’re not listed, you’re invisible.