Mark Cuban: Live TV Remains the Most Important Platform

Alex Ben Block
The Hollywood Reporter
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MIAMI BEACH -- Mark Cuban, in his role as CEO of the cable channel AXS TV, said in his opening keynote appearance at NATPE/Content First that despite all the new media platforms, he firmly believes television is still the most important because it is immediate, easy to use and is most likely to spark social networking.

“Television has a huge advantage in the social media world,” said Cuban, adding that “the Internet is designed for everything but video. Television is designed for video.”

Cuban explained what he meant by talking about “zero latency,” where everybody experiences the same viewing experience at the same time.

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“Zero latency has become the starting point for conversations,” he said. “When AXS TV broadcasts a live concert, it’s an experience you can’t get online.”

Cuban said that a program on even a small TV or cable network, broadcast in the middle of the night, is still going to have a larger audience than anything online.

“So television,” he explained, “is the media that creates more participation than any other medium.” Cuban also owns the Dallas Mavericks basketball team and appears on the TV series Shark Tank. 

In response to a question from a local TV broadcaster, he warned that it can be dangerous to put programming online after it airs on television because it may take away the imperative for the viewer to show up and watch it live.

He said those who benefit from being on all platforms are very big brands and big advertisers who want to be everywhere. For a small station, however, it may help to sell advertising but it can damage the attraction of the channel. He said there are better alternatives than just giving it away.

“They’re groveling for viewers to sell advertising,” said Cuban, adding: “If you want to initiate conversations and social media and engage people and that is your goal then you want put it on VOD.”

VOD is easier to monetize and count, and makes people more likely to show interest and to watch the whole thing.

Cuban addressed other topic in his keynote, which was done as a conversation with Poppy Harlow, a correspondent for CNN.

Cuban said people say they want to be able to make a la carte choices on cable TV but it actually would hurt them in practice because it would make the cost of watching cable much higher. He said there already is a la carte in the music business and in home video, among other places, where people pay per program.

In cable TV, however, Cuban said he still believes “People like bundles. People don’t like to work for their entertainment. They’ll pay a premium if it saves them time.”

When asked about the future of Apple, Cuban said history shows cable companies are “hot, then hip and then not [hot].”

“Apple’s a great company,” added Cuban, “no doubt about it. They make a s--t load of money and will continue to but in terms of what’s new, hip, and cool, if your parents are using it, its not going to be cool. Right?”

Cuban said among the growing choices for people, he believes Facebook is going to be more important than YouTube. He said that is because the main purpose of TV, in his view, is to kill time, and Facebook does that better.

Still, added Cuban, “Facebook is going to have challenges. One is where they are going. When they went public, it changed the dynamics. They had to put a focus on revenue. What they did were move to short term gain, long-term pain.”

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Cuban said he likes the approach of Amazon better, because they do their business, “grind it out and make money long-term.”

He laughed off the idea that government is stifling independent entrepreneurs. “Who cares what they do,” said Cuban. “I’ve invested in 70 companies and I’ve never heard anybody ask about the economy slowing down or the fiscal cliff.”

“There’s always going to be those things,” added Cuban. “There’s never been a time when there wasn’t problems or issues you could raise with government. I just hope everybody I compete with is going to pay a whole lot of attention to that because I will be busy doing business at that same time.”