TV viewing, movie attendance to hit skids in 2012, analyst says


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Will 2012 be the year people watch less television?

That’s what analyst Rich Greenfield of BTIG thinks. Greenfield, who is one of the more refreshingly candid media industry watchers, has released his predictions (registration required) for the entertainment industry. Among them: The number of people watching TV in 2012 is going to fall.

‘We believe 2012 will be a watershed year for the media industry and serve as a historic inflection point for traditional TV consumption,’ Greenfield wrote. Although the saturation of cable channels trying to cater to every niche has boosted the time people spend in front of the television, Greenfield said, ‘we believe consumers have reached a breaking point. ‘


So what will people do in place of zoning out in front of the boob tube?

‘Social gaming will become a new ‘cure for boredom,’” Greenfield predicted.

Going to the movies is also going to lose its luster. Already reeling from a year that saw box office attendance fall by 4%, Greenfield says, the industry will see moviegoers become even more picky when it comes to opening their wallets for Hollywood.

‘We believe consumers are tiring of expensive, premium-priced movie experiences, particularly when combined with an increasingly unsatisfying exhibition experience,’ the BTIG media watcher said.

New platforms will be the beneficiaries of people turning their backs on the multiplex. For example, the push by Netflix into original content will pay off for the company, which endured a rough 2011 after a new pricing model was met with a backlash from its subscribers.

Greenfield also expects Facebook to make a bigger push into video in an effort to take on YouTube. In an email exchange, Greenfield didn’t rule out the possibility of Facebook one day trying to build its own video programming service that could in theory compete with cable and satellite.

On that note, Greenfield thinks 2012 will see the development of what he calls virtual MVPDs (multichannel video program distributors). In other words, consumers will no longer have to get a cable box or satellite dish, but instead will be able to subscribe to cable TV via the Internet. Typically, cable operators that are also broadband providers, such as Comcast Corp. and Time Warner Cable, have resisted the idea of competing against each other by becoming virtual MVPDs. Greenfield thinks satellite broadcaster Dish and phone company Verizon will be the first movers.

As for deals, Greenfield thinks Liberty Media will unload its pay TV channel Starz. He does not say to whom, but he previously has written that Comcast, parent of NBCUniversal, should buy Starz. He also thinks somebody will buy AMC Networks, the parent of cable channels AMC, WE and IFC. Lastly, he said heads will roll at NBC if the network’s new musical drama ‘Smash’ crashes.



Analyst Greenfield blasts Cablevision and its CEO Jim Dolan

Greenfield says Comcast should buy Starz for NBCUniversal

-- Joe Flint