Inside the fortress

You are a digital media or technology executive within one of the large media companies.

You are bright, articulate, and able to grab complex concepts and relationships.  You “get it” quickly in the first five minutes of the hour long meeting.

You see the inexorable changes happening in television and film and understand we are living through a fundamental shift in the business model that your company thrives on.  You see the disruption happening and know that serious change and risk taking is needed to meet the expectations of the public and the shareholders.

You are expected to know everything about every new media device, technology, start-up, and business model.  You get called into meetings at the tail end of deals to explain what the biz dev guys just agreed to without understanding the cost or difficulty to do.  You demo new products and concepts to people that hate what you are showing them.

You understand that piracy is unstoppable and should be regarded as a competitor that cannot be sued out of existence.  Pretty much all your friends regularly grab your content from newsgroups or torrents, complain about geo-restrictions, and ask you why your company is “so stupid”.  You are asked why there isn’t ala carte cable, live network streams on the internet, new movies on Netflix, old shows and movies simply not available anywhere, and all you can do is shrug and say, “It’s very complicated.”

Your team is understaffed, overworked, and called upon to make things based on what lawyers and MBAs dictate, not what any viewer would want or use. Every now and then you get to make something cool, but mainly you are asked to make something useless because a creative executive read about in Wired magazine or Variety said another studio was doing it.

Your company holds the ‘creatives’ in highest regard.  Those that make and produce content are treated as aristocrats and you are expected to cater to their every whim.  They pride themselves on technical ignorance and don’t use most of the media technology that is commonplace to every teenager in the country.  They can do no wrong until they are fired and thrown from the parapets to the moat below.

You work with the attorneys that expect help in finding ways to break the internet.  You heard them planning SOPA and PIPA years ago.  You are expected to develop ‘defensive’ patents. You are told to put in geo-fencing, DRM, secure streaming, and every possible security measure to protect content at the same time the Marketing Group is sending out DVDs of content that is unreleased to critics and distributors months in advance.  When music from shows leak to Youtube and gets thousands of likes, and you are expected help take it down and figure out how it got there.

You are asked to develop ways to help the incumbent cable and satellite providers maintain their lock on consumer by pulling more content off of free sites and put it behind paywalls.  You go to meetings about this with people from other companies like yours during the day, and later over drinks at night say, “Can you believe we are building this shit?” You review the contracts that require insane things like down-rezzed HD content and blocking “analog holes”.

You see the interlocking web of agreements between producers, writers, actors, musicians, studios, cable and satellite companies, mobile phone providers, international distributors, and everyone else in “the business” that attempts to preserve the existing revenue stream and lock consumers into contracts that bind them for years at a time.

You discuss how exclusivity leads to piracy, and it is explained to you that the billion-dollar customers get whatever they want.  You explain how DRM leads to even more piracy, and it is explained to you tha the talent contracts require it.  You discuss the Innovator’s Dilemma, and it is explained to you it doesn’t apply to the media industry.  You discuss the impact of ubiquitous broadband on the cable and satellite providers, and it is explained to you that the cable and satellite ‘have a plan’ on how to deal with internet TV.  You say “If someone’s going to eat our lunch, it might as well be us.”

Your boss talks to you and says, “You’re right, but never disagree with the people in the room.”  You know he’s saying this because somebody complained about you.

You see the start-ups wandering in the weeds, ignorant of the web of contracts and agreements designed to stop them. You see the consumer electronics manufacturers building insanely stupid gadgets that either no one will use or will get sued out of existence.  You see the cable and satellite companies actually believing that their customers like them.  You see the public raging angrily at the wrong people and companies.  You see the government being paid to create laws to entrench a business model.  You go to trendy conferences that explain how Old Media is dead and how new media will take over as soon it’s figures out that pesky task of making money.

And then you go home to your family, your mortgage, your underfunded college savings, your vacation plans and feel queasy in your stomach.

You hug your kids and forget about life for a while.

The next morning you get up and go do it again.