The sun was still setting when The Observer rounded the corner under The High Line for IAC’s Internet Week closing party, co-hosted by Aereo, a provocative new startup that will allow users to view broadcast content on their computers, smartphones and tablets. Off the drab West Side Highway, the Frank Gehry-designed building shimmered like a landing dock for a space ship–as if the top could twist off and whir its way into the atmosphere. Will Arnett and Wilmer Valderrama walked the red carpet. Dolled-up in pale pink, Allison Williams (the Miranda to Lena Dunham’s Carrie) took Barry Diller’s elbow as she navigated the crowd.
As the origin myth has it, Mr. Diller’s transformation from a Hollywood mogul to Internet soothsayer for this new digital era started with an Apple PowerBook. “No question that his relationship with his little screen, which is irritating to everybody in the room, has altered his life,” his closest confidante and now wife Diane von Furstenberg told The New Yorker some years back.
It was the early ’90s—right around the time Rupert Murdoch refused to make Mr. Diller a principal at Fox, the fabled fourth network Mr. Diller pioneered when competitors insisted that three would do just fine.
To both cable TV distributors and cable TV programmers, the possibility that consumers will finally cut that cord probably sounds like a slashing sound somewhere near their their bottom line. But at least one big distributor is choosing to adapt.
The New York Times reports that Time Warner Cable, one of the top cable and internet providers in the country, announced yesterday that it would soon be subsidizing the cost of Slingbox, a set-top device that untethers viewers from their home television screen and lets them watch programming from anywhere, including computers, mobile phones, or second homes.
Based on Time Warner’s recent legal battles with Viacom, which owns channels such as MTV and Nickelodeon, Viacom isn’t going to be very happy about getting shot in the foot.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a cable company once in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a new revenue stream. In fact, cable and satellite companies have lost such a sizable chunk of the self-pleasuring market that they’re finally admitting, out loud, that they have a pornography problem.
The Wall Street Journal reports that recent weak pay-per-view and video-on-demand earnings reports from the likes of Time Warner Cable and DirecTV are prompting the companies to disclose that, when it was good, porn was a highly-profitable business for them. The paper says that cable companies used to have their own dirty little secret: they once commanded margins of over 90 percent on renting “generally interchangeable” (i.e. ho-hum) porn titles.