NATPE 2013

Mark Cuban: TV Is Key To Social’s Future

The AXS TV owner kicks off the NATPE conference. He says: “The reality is that when you are watching TV, it’s a unique experience that you cannot get online. Television has become the medium to start a social conversation. I believe social interaction around TV will get much bigger.”

Mark Cuban, billionaire owner of AXS TV, the Dallas Mavericks and a judge-investor on ABC reality show Shark Tank, kicked off the 50th NATPE conference in Miami Beach this morning. In a conversation with CNN correspondent Poppy Harlow, Cuban touched on topics that ranged from the future of TV as social media’s conversation starter, to his multiplatform network AXS TV and to potential audiences being unwilling to work too hard for their entertainment.

“Zero latency is when we all experience the same thing at the same time,” said Cuban. “With television, everybody shares the same thing at the same time. Now, we have our hands on our devices. We’re posting to social media. We’re using television as the instigator for that. The reality is that when you are watching TV, it’s a unique experience that you cannot get online.”

He said the Internet doesn’t offer the same social experience as TV. “One billion people have watched Gangnam Style online,” he said. “But did you speak with anyone when you watched it? No. It’s such a different experience.”

Cuban noted that he’s been working in the streaming video space for going on two decades. He started AudioNet in 1995. “The kids who were 22 years old when we started AudioNet are now in their 40s,” said Cuban. “They’re not dumb.”

He said his TV network was rebranded from HDNet to AXS TV to tap into the immediacy of TV and its dominance as a social media conversation starter.

“There is a transition to social television,” he said. “We wanted to be there. The best way to do that is with live events. We have partnered with AEG Live. We’re talking to Live Nation. It’s tough to be an independent network. One of the reasons we want to have live content — our tagline is ‘Live Live’ — is that I believe social interaction around TV will get much bigger.


“Television has become the medium to start a social conversation,” he continued. “We have become so Internet centric over the past 20 years that everyone assumes the solution for social media will be on the Internet.” Rather, he said, it’s TV.

He said his network is also hoping to be an outlet for young TV viewers who are ditching cable TV or who have never subscribed to cable TV.

“We think we’ll have a unique solution for Cable Nevers,” Cuban said. “If you want to watch a live concert on TV, you have to have cable. If you want to be part of that social media conversation, you have to have cable. I have no doubt that television will be the launch pad for social media for Cable Nevers.”

He also said that young viewers, and many older folks, can’t be bothered with complicated technology, no matter how cool it is.

“When you make someone work to find their television, that doesn’t work,” Cuban said. “Whose wireless always works? You have to figure out how to make your router work. It comes down to, people don’t want to work too hard for their entertainment. Like I’ve said before, TV is the best alternative to boredom.”

Cuban also spoke about companies such as Apple — he switched from an iPhone to a Windows-based Samsung smartphone. When asked about Facebook, he said he prefers Amazon’s business model of focusing on long-term solutions rather than Facebook’s short-term fixes.

Cuban was introduced by Rod Perth, president and CEO of NATPE, who is overseeing his first NATPE conference — its 50th anniversary. “This is a huge, huge day for us,” Perth said. “We’ve begun the reinvention process of what NATPE can be. This is our credo, ‘We’re all about service.”

He said since joining NATPE last May the association has been polling its members for what they’d like to see changed about NATPE and what they’d like to stay the same. One of the key findings, he said, is that Miami will be NATPE’s home for some time.

“We invested in research about what you appreciate and what should be left to history,” Perth said. “I’m happy to announce that we’ll be back in Miami in 2014. We’re working on 2015 and beyond.”

He also noted that NATPE is evolving from a conference to buy and sell syndicated TV to a multiplatform conference. “If you’re hearing a digital theme, it’s intentional,” Perth said. “Everyone has to embrace digital. NATPE is committed to being the conference for digital and linear. We are a domestic and international market. Everything we’re doing serves both communities and both segments within those communities. And we’re committed to bringing back more local television to NATPE.”

He also said that, “We believe partnerships are important. The first is CES. We have to connect to the world of digital at NATPE. We’re having conversations with IAB to host newfronts — the digital upfronts — in New York.”

Without pointing to a precise attendance number, he said this year’s conference is up by a double-digit percentage over last year.

Among those probably 6,000 attendees, “…we have more than 1,000 buyers here,” Perth noted. “We’re delivering another promise: blue-chip speakers. Digital is critical to our business. Over 41% of the 200 panels this week are leaders in the world of digital content. Over 30 are from brands and advertising. More than 100 are from the world from broadcast, cable and international.”

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