The entertainment and media industries in China, including music, radio, film, television, games, newspapers, magazines, and book publishing, in all of their varied forms.

Television Powershift from Hollywood to Redmond? Somebody, Please Wake Up Bill Before He Hurts Himself

Back in the Hutong
As a (what I thought) carefully controlled reaction to the megalomaniacal nonsense Bill Gates gave The Hollywood Reporter about the future of TV, I penned this little sucker for ChinaTechNews to underscore that Bill’s vision, even if workable in the U.S.A. (and I have doubts about that), is a long way from prime time in the World’s Largest Television Market.

Andrew Orlowski of The Register wrote a flat-out brilliant piece that takes gates gently but firmly to task for his delusions, and I quote:

“But Gates’ belief in interactivity is almost religious. An intelligent man with a zero boredom threshold, it’s no wonder he finds traditional broadcasting tedious and dull. As Gates tells the Hollywood Reporter, he hates linear assumptions.

Gates’ presumption that only stupid people can enjoy non-interactive TV is widely shared amongst technology evangelists, but it isn’t widely shared amongst the population at large, who simply clamor for better programs. The enthusiasm of the audeince during Jon Stewart’s Crossfire appearance, where he berated the format for its idiotic theatre, shows that people want better programming, not to click more.

But in addition to thinking mass audiences are axiomatically stupid – if you got a dollar for every time a technology enthusiast berated someone “not getting it!”, there wouldn’t be a pensions crisis – Bill also makes a another mistake. He thinks broadcasters are stupid, too.”

Assuming stupidity on the part of a potential adversary is dangerous. And after reading both articles it was pretty clear that Gates has sunk enough fingers in enough pies to be clearly looking to dis-intermediate everyone in the industry between the content creator and the content user. Which is fine – if you can find a better highway (a two-way highway, no less) between the two sides. But it looks increasingly like Microsoft is simply interested in building any highway, as long as the tolls go to Redmond.

This is not the old days, Bill. We’re not going to sit back and let you steamroller us into sending larger and larger chunks of our disposable income in your direction.

Are we?

China Radio International Gets Greedy: Branson Says “Sod Off”

Zach Coleman over at the Hong Kong Standard has brought to light the disgraceful denouement of the partnership between Virgin Radio Asia and China’s #2 radio broadcaster and global propaganda outlet China Radio International. He was good enough to quote me on record, but unfortunately I could not say all that needs to be said about this. So I will here.

I say disgraceful because it was yet another case of a foreign company coming into China, resuscitating a lousy property in an overlooked industry, turning it into a paying proposition, and just when they start to make money, wham! The locals change the terms of business so it’s impossible to turn a profit.

As I have long been saying to the three people who would listen (including my wife and 2-year old when strapped into a moving vehicle with me and no place to go), radio in China is an insanely undervalued medium. But in order for it to gain value, you need great (not just good, but great) programming, production values, and professional and engaging on-air talent. With all due respect to CRI, those are three things the state broadcaster has consistently proven it was unable to bring to the table.

Clearly, the move is stupid on several levels:

Stupid Level 1: Dead Goose, No Eggs: As Beijing Variety correspondent and Village Grouch Steven Schwankert noted, CRI essentially killed the goose that laid the golden eggs when all they had to do was sit back and count the money from the deal and spend their time on other things.

Stupid Level 2: Now CRI will have to spend money on its own program to replace it. So instead of taking in cash, they now have a cost center . And it will fail to meet the Virgin standard. And they will lose advertisers.

Stupid Level 3: They messed with the wrong dude, in my opinion. Call it coincidence, call it Karma. the fact is, people who piss off Richard Branson have a funny way of watching their businesses evaporate. Richard Branson is the spear in the side of British Airways. Richard Branson is the arrow in the heart of HMV and Tower Music. Richard Branson is the machine gun pointed at nearly every mobile operator in the world.

Businessmen around the world have learned: join this man, do not try to beat him. Mess with him, on the other hand, and prepare for Disruptive Innovation delivered with the force of vengeful fury. Full-body check on the business model.