Hear that thud?  It’s the sound of network TV finally hitting the ground in defeat.  The Los Angeles Times reports on the "painful meltdown of the broadcast-TV industry" which, since it’s inception almost seventy years ago, has seen a rapid rise in competitors from three networks to thirty cable channels to hundreds of digital cable channels to, now, countless and exponentially growing internet offerings.

So how will the time-tested broadcast networks shift their resources to compete in the new TV paradigm, and how quickly should they do it?

Let’s be clear. Independent internet-TV does not yet pose a threat to the likes of a hulking NBC, but cable networks, which can count on subscription fees in addition to advertising, are cutting into the big boys’ audience and profit margin.  An onslaught of accessible, professionally produced content on the internet will certainly impact the big TV networks in a major way.  But keep this in mind: production and distribution have been democratized.  Marketing is still a valuable component of the equation.

Instead of creating yet another of countless outlets on the web, TV Networks should focus on their distinctive competencies by devoting robust programming, marketing, scouting and creative infrastructure to the development of cross-network niche-content.  Jeff Zucker, head of NBC-Universal, who recently spoke of the network’s future on Charlie Rose, seems to agree…

But how quickly, and to what degree, cross-distribution continues to support (as opposed to cannibalize) network broadcasts, is anyone’s guess. There’s big business in small(er) TV. Companies like NextNewNetworks, Revision3, 60Frames, OnNetworks, Deca, ForYourImagination and Vuguru are developing the new marketplace of infinite channels, but established networks walk a fine line between embracing this market and continuing to profit from the older (dying) one.

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