Mark Cuban offered television networks some advice in their dispute with Dish over its divisive new “Auto Hop” feature: make a deal.
Cuban said that Dish made a smart decision by introducing the commercial skipping feature because it is just trying to create a better experience for its users.
“People forget that satellite, Direct TV, Dish TV, at some point they are all going to be digital. What Dish is doing with Hopper is smart because you have to start pushing the envelope,” Cuban told the audience at the fourth annual Produced by Conference. “Wherever we are, people use the best technology available.”
Fox, NBC and CBS have all sued Dish over the device, accusing it of copyright infringement. CBS President Les Moonves has dubbed it “illegal.”
Cuban, though saying he didn't want to speak for Moonves, proposed an alternative.
“If I’m CBS and I make money off of advertising, I am upset but there is nothing to say there can’t be a compromise,” Cuban said.
He suggested that Dish reduce the risk to networks by paying a premium to air shows without commercials. That way, they can recoup of the advertising dollars networks dread Auto Hop will lose them.
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“Take advantage of digital opportunities,” Cuban advised.
Though Cuban is a long-time advocate of digital video and “Auto Hop”-like technological advances, he spent a good chunk of his conversation with the Los Angeles Times' Dawn Chmielewski defending television.
Appearing on the same stage online video heavyweights like Hulu’s Andy Forssell and YouTube’s Robert Kyncl inhabited less than an hour before, Cuban argued many companies try to deceive advertisers and consumers with metrics like “number of views.”
Comparing views online to TV ratings is comparing apples and oranges, especially if you consider how long people are watching.
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As an example, he brought up “Shark Tank,” an ABC show he stars on. A Friday rerun drew 4.297 million viewers, a rating that reflects the average numbers of viewers for the duration of the show. If you consider the total number of households and multiple people in a household, Cuban argued the total number of viewers in one hour could have been as many as 7 million.
By comparison, the most popular YouTube video on a given day might draw 700,000 views – and again, that’s over the course of a whole day.
“It comes back to viewership and the numbers,” Cuban said. “The numbers just don’t support comparisons to TV.”
That contradicts what the likes of Kyncl and Forssell said earlier, as they talked about online video as the "third wave" of TV after broadcast and cable.
Cuban reminded the audience that he was heavily involved in streaming video more than a decade ago, a fact lost on those describing web series as a new phenomenon.
Perhaps the best way to summarize his entertaining discussion of TV, in which he joked about watching with his hand in his pants as well as the grating "Gummy Bear Song" , it is this:
“Television is an undervalued medium."