Back in December, I made five big, bold predictions for 2012. An overarching theme tied most of them together:
Something happened in radio the other day that, because it happened in radio, will fly under the radar. Clear Channel (CCMO.PK) signed a deal with Cumulus Media (NASDAQ:CMLS) to include the latter's stations on the former's iHeartRadio web and mobile applications.
In 2012, I expect some combination of television programmers, movie studios and cable or satellite companies to come to the same realization and take similar actions.
As streaming video services continue to proliferate, it will dawn on the content owners that it makes a heck of a lot more sense to run digital as something that looks more like the cable model.
I expect to see the players with the most foresight - companies like Time Warner (NYSE:TWX) and Disney (NYSE:DIS) - join together in some fashion, be it partnership, merger or outright acquisition to stream their content from the same platform. The bigger and the more partners the better.
In any event, 2012 will see the programmers and movie studios, possibly in concert with cable TV, take control of their content - much like Time Warner did with HBO GO - and box out the middlemen, such as Netflix and Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN).
For the first time ever, Comcast's Xfinity TV customers will be able to watch ESPN, ABC or Disney shows live or on demand and across multiple screens. The companies also agreed to collaborate over the term of the deal to create new, innovative viewing experiences for Xfinity TV customers.
The networks and services covered by the agreement include: ABC, ABC Family, Disney Channel, Disney XD, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPN Deportes, ESPNEWS, ESPN Classic, ESPN Goal Line, ESPN Buzzer Beater, ESPN 3D, ESPN GamePlan, ESPN FullCourt and ESPN3; retransmission consent for seven ABC-owned broadcast television stations ... as well as more than 10 high-definition networks ...
And the list that Disney makes available to Comcast customers across platforms goes on and on. The following two quotes, from Disney executives, really sum things up:
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This follows in the footsteps of the Clear Channel/Cumulus deal and should send the message loud and clear to the rest of the players in the broad video and audio entertainment spaces.
The people. United. Will never be divided! Or something like that. As consumers care less and less about who they get their content from - and, as they continue to demand it via multiple platforms - content providers and deliverers need must hook up or fall by the wayside.
The average user listens to Pandora for more than 18 hours a month - compared to the average user on Google and Facebook, who spends just two and eight hours on the services each month, respectively. That's partly why Westergren is so confident in Pandora's future, even as more and more on-demand subscription services - like Spotify, MOG, and Rdio - begin to crowd the digital music space and overlap its market. But Westergren doesn't see these on-demand services as competition. He sees them as complementary services and even potential partners. "(We) live happily alongside on-demand options," he says. "Every year we've had subscription services around us, but there's no evidence since we've launched that these two different modes compete."
... Would Pandora ever become an app on Spotify? "Yeah, it's an interesting thing to consider," Westergren says. "The wild card here is music licensing. The implementation and partnerships are very much constrained by what licensing allows. We are a radio service, and we are subject to a very specific set of constraints as a consequence of our radio license. We'd love to offer more interactivity."
The people at Disney see the future. They have vision. In a space that's not all that drastically different from visual media, Westergren has the same type of innovative head on his shoulders.
While we have differed in opinions regarding Sirius XM (NASDAQ:SIRI), company and stock, fellow Seeking Alpha contributor Cameron Kaine and I seem to agree that the satellite radio provider needs to step out of its comfort zone ... and soon. Sirius XM needs to be the one talking collaboration like Clear Channel, Cumulus, Disney, Comcast and Pandora are. That type of vision is exactly what will drag the stock out of its one step forward, two steps back pattern.
Additional disclosure: I am long P.