In Q1 2023, PARQOR will be focusing on four trends. This essay focuses on "The definition of scarcity is continuously evolving away from linear. What happens next?"
One day, a media historian will look back on the streaming era and notice that two of the most notable legacy media failures in 2022 were innovations subsidized by Charles Dolan in the 1970s and 1980s.
First, Dolan’s cable network Cablevision launched a Long Island-focused regional sports network (RSN) in 1976 that would be renamed SportsChannel in 1979, and that became the default template for RSNs that launched elsewhere in the U.S.
Second, the American Movie Classics Network, or AMC Network as we now know it, was launched in 1984 by Rainbow Networks, a subdivision of Dolan’s Cablevision. For three decades, Rainbow Media bought and sold a portfolio of cable channels that included the Independent Film Channel (IFC), Bravo and Sundance TV. It rebranded itself as AMC Networks when it went public in 2011.
Both networks’ business models grew as pay TV became the dominant distribution paradigm, reaching a maximum of 105 million households in 2010. Now, in 2023, both are declining as cord-cutting has accelerated in 2022 (a loss of 5 million to 6 million households, or 11% of households, estimated). Both models were able to survive in their early years because they were nurtured with funding and distribution — “subsidies” — by Cablevision.
But for Cablevision's subsidies in the 1980s, neither AMC Networks nor the RSN model may have survived. Both are now failing and need a subsidy again when subsidies seem to have less long-term value in a post-linear marketplace.
Total words: 1,800
Total time reading: 7 minutes
But now both models are struggling because cord-cutting trends are returning those networks to levels of scale they last had 40 years ago: 37.8 million cable TV households in 2023, according to the Leichtman Research Group, is only slightly larger than cable’s reach in 1984 (30 million to 32 ...