Yahoo!, Not Netflix, Is the TV Industry Disruptor

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- I'll spare you the links, but late last week the media -- financial and otherwise -- did something it's now predisposed to do.

It took a study about binge viewing, regurgitated the results, spewed unconditional love all over Netflix (NFLX) and provided absolutely zero color or context around the story.

But, this time, the media actually failed more than it normally does. It not only regurgitated news without color and context, it regurgitated results of a survey commissioned by Netflix itself!

The Netflix study, conducted by Harris Interactive, found that binge viewing tends to come in two-to-six episode bursts. That's fine. And not a surprise. But I take exception to the underlying assumptive theme of literally every regurgitation of the results -- that Netflix invented binge viewing. That this is a Netflix phenomenon.

It's not.

We have been binge viewing since the video cassette gave way to the digital video recorder. And some of us even binge viewed -- and some still do -- on DVD box sets of television programs.

Binge viewing happened when I was a teenager. Before Netflix even existed. It still happens today, inside and outside of Netflix. And with content Netflix will never get its beady-eyed little hands on. If you want to binge view "The Sopranos" and you don't have HBO GO, you might be doing it via box set.

Associating binge viewing with Netflix, the last couple of years and nothing else is just another not-so-subtle failure of the media. Another unfortunate outcome of its blind faith love affair with Netflix.

Beyond the media's myopic coverage of binge viewing, let's dig deeper. And consider Yahoo! (YHOO). A company I argue is set to take disruption of television viewing/video consumption to a whole new level that will be exciting for consumers and profitable for investors. 

The other day, TheStreet's tech editor Chris Ciaccia asked me a question:

I answered:

At Yahoo!, Marissa Mayer is onto to something we'll end up calling real disruption.

In a small, self-absorbed corner of the media (not Ciaccia, but elsewhere), borderline hatred of Mayer exists. Maybe it's because she seemingly has it all -- and she's a woman -- I don't know. But it's ugly, short-sighted and has been going on since Yahoo! named the then-pregnant Mayer CEO.

In due time, these people will eat crow and move onto another target or rationalize their past criticism, if they even own up to it.

(Full disclosure: I jumped off the YHOO/Mayer bandwagon for a brief second, but checked myself -- something these critics tend not to do -- and approached Yahoo! for the 100th time, but from a different perspective. This article helps flesh out what's behind that process).

Consider Yahoo!'s video strategy. Then really think about it.

As I see it going down -- and I have a request into Mayer to learn more because a) I want to know and b) I want to get it right -- it will disrupt not only television, but the way we consume entertainment more than Netflix ever did.

Because, after all, what did Netflix really do other than help popularize streaming as an emerging and soon-to-be dominant (or so we assume) method of delivering content?

Netflix originals aren't done differently than any other original programming, unless, of course, you astutely note that Netflix overpays for them and provides zero creative development (though Ted don't knock that chip off my shoulder Sarandos is hardly qualified to assist directors, producers and talent in their creative endeavors).

Netflix airs the same type of programming -- or the exact same programming -- as all others who came before it with maybe the exception of YouTube and related, typically smaller Internet-based endeavors. This is key -- Netflix has done little more than elevate the status of streaming. That's a big deal, but hardly the type of disruption big media cannot overcome.

OTOH, Yahoo! is on a track that portends not only real disruption, but an impressive opportunity grab by Mayer.

I think we continue to see Yahoo! feature the type of content -- via Yahoo! Screen -- that television should have been all over for decades.

Because it's of intense interest to me, I like to focus on the live concert streaming opportunity, but you can imagine other areas where Yahoo! does and will take the lead and own (or, at least, co-own multiple spaces).

It's a treat -- a refreshing oddity -- to see a performance, from an actual concert, happening live right now on your television screen via a broadcast or cable network.

The other night, during the Grammy Nominations show, CBS (CBS) plucked Taylor Swift's performance of "I Knew You Were Trouble" from the middle of a show she was doing in Australia. In the past, I can recall VH1 airing live the first few songs from notable Springsteen shows. You see live concerts on television after natural disasters as a means to fundraise.

I'm not talking about a live concert made-for-TV. I'm talking about live concerts made for an in-person audience that the in-home television audience gets to peek in on (via high-quality broadcast or, in Yahoo!'s case, streaming). Tour schedules made available, via simulcast, at on-demand prices.

Why has television allowed this type of thing to remain a treat? Nothing more than a special event? At some point, it becomes something music lovers and even general consumers expect. And if television is unwilling to give it to them -- which they are -- folks who operate on the Internet, such as YouTube and Yahoo!, will.

I expect the acquisitions to continue. I expect Yahoo! Screen to get bigger and better.

Think big. Anticipate the future.

Don't get sidetracked by an outage that impacted a small percentage of Yahoo! Mail users. An event made for haters who like to hate, but one that will have absolutely zero impact on the increasingly positive trajectory of YHOO the stock and Yahoo! the company.

Marissa Mayer understands she's on the cusp of a multi-billion dollar opportunity in video. But she's not going to mimic what everybody else is doing and call it disruption. She's going to fill a hole television should have been serving for a better part of the last 100 years.

Part of that strategy, IMNSHO, will include opening the goldmine of live streaming entire concert tours of major acts from Swift to Springsteen to fill in the blank.

An on-demand price per show, monthly subscriptions, access to the archives, etc. -- it's about taking the excitement of the concert tour and bringing it to the music lover night in and night out. Rendering geography as a roadblock to accessibility a non-factor in one of the few remaining areas where it remains one.

Live concert streaming -- we're talking about a multi-billion dollar opportunity tucked within the larger windfall of streaming opportunity.

--Written by Rocco Pendola in Santa Monica, Calif.

Rocco Pendola is a columnist for TheStreet. Pendola makes frequent appearances on national television networks such as CNN and CNBC as well as TheStreet TV. Whenever possible, Pendola uses hockey, Springsteen or Southern California references in his work. He lives in Santa Monica.

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