Global CIO: Will Cisco's Revolutionary Router Torpedo Tinseltown? - InformationWeek

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3/17/2010
08:45 PM
Bob Evans
Bob Evans
Commentary
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Global CIO: Will Cisco's Revolutionary Router Torpedo Tinseltown?

Technology is roiling short-sighted Hollywood, and the business-model implications and opportunities for CIOs in every industry are enormous.

"The ability to download albums and films in a matter of seconds is a harbinger of deep trouble for the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), which would prefer to turn the clock back, way back," the article says.

"Consider that the MPAA, whose members include Disney and Universal, attacked the VCR in congressional hearings in the 1980s with a Darth Vader–like zeal, predicting box-office receipts would collapse if consumers were allowed to freely share and copy VHS tapes of Hollywood movies. A decade later, the MPAA fought to block the DVD revolution, mainly because digital media could be copied and distributed even more easily than videocassettes."

CIOs would be well-served to gather some brainy colleagues and knock around some ideas about whether or how this new bandwidth explosion can help you expand your competitive advantage. Training? Medical care? Education? Presentations? Collaborative design? Demonstrations? Virtual travel? These are the opportunities that CEOs are looking to CIOs to start delivering and modeling, not just enabling them after the fact.

And to help you consider those possibilities, as well as understand more fully the implications of what this will mean in the movie industry at every step of the supply and demand chain, I'd like to share some thoughts on this from a media executive who spent four years immersed in the movie industry as head of a company whose titles included The Hollywood Reporter, Back Stage, Hollywood Creative Directory, and a range of live events and related businesses.

It also happens that this media exec, Tony Uphoff, is the CEO of my company, UBM TechWeb, a position that's allowed Tony to immerse himself just as deeply in the IT business. His comments came via an email exchange as I was working on this column, and you can follow Tony at his Uphoff On Media blog or on Twitter.

The first point Uphoff made was the slightly paradoxical proposition that the very same film industry that scoffed at adding sound to video and dismissed television as a useless plywood box has also "long been steeped in technology, and Hollywood has led many transitions in new technology."

The problem, Uphoff said, is that Hollywood's zest for technological innovation has been almost entirely limited to its internal operations and to perpetuating its traditional needs of "capture, process, and storage" technology.

As a result, "Technology that disrupts distribution models isn't an area that the industry has focused on or even really understood," Uphoff said. "There is clear evidence that Hollywood openly fought the new technology until they realized that it opened up an entirely new revenue stream. Today, even in decline, DVDs represent a larger market than theatrical film.

"And so these new advances in bandwidth that allow for extraordinary amounts of video to be streamed live, downloaded, and distributed and viewed on devices of all sorts is both a threat and an opportunity for Hollywood," he said.

That razor's-edge dilemma—threat or opportunity?—is precisely the sort of issue of which strategically minded CIOs need to take ownership: how can technology disrupt how I conceive, design, build, market, sell and service products? How can it foster new and more-valuable relationships? How can it allow me to engage more intimately with my customers? How can it help me strip away excessive costs?

And most of all, how can I as CIO ensure we are managing this aggressively as an opportunity rather than allowing it to haunt us as a threat?

I'll let Tony run with that idea:

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