Tuesday, February 28, 2006


CBS announced yesterday that it will begin providing news and alerts for entertainment programming to cellphones on a subscription basis - http://news.com.com/CBS+to+offer+subscription+video+for+phones/2100-1026_3-6043583.html.

One interesting aspect is how this reflects on what is often touted as one of the great strengths of the web – disintermediation. It is said that, with the web, there is no need for the middleman – everyone can deal directly with the source. Is that true? Would that be a good thing? Are we just replacing one set of middlemen (and –women) for another, resulting in re-dis-dis-intermediation?

At the McGraw-Hill Media Summit earlier this month, one participant discussed how Apple has positioned itself as intermediary par excellence via iTunes, yet content providers have realized that they can go directly to the consumer – disintermediation at work. In other words, cacophony in the making.

The CNET article discusses several models for direct and intermediary providers – CBS as direct, Verizon VCast as aggregator and intermediary, and the modern version of Tinkers to Evers to Chance – ABC to Real to Sprint. How do consumers navigate among a multitude of content providers?

Questions for another day: how much video are people consuming on cellphones? What do they really want to see on those devices? Who regulates that content and prevents children (and adults) from inappropriate content? Perhaps most critically in the long run, who controls the screen and the consumers’ choices?