Still Fighting: HDNet's Cuban Shakes Up Indie Show

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No big surprise, but HDNet founder Mark Cuban didn’t mince words at the Independent Show in San Fran where he gave an impassioned plea for media independence, railed against big content companies that he said strong-arm small ops and vowed to keep educating lawmakers about preserving indie voices. "You don’t look at earnings per share," he told attendees. "You look into the eyes of the people you work with." He said that despite his personal wealth, HDNet as a business also struggles against larger competitors and tries to hold down programming costs. "We feel the exact same pain, so we’re working hard to come up with solutions," he said. Cuban slammed big media companies for bundling nets into discount packages, making it hard for indie ops to pick and choose channels to carry, noting that HDNet has started pushing hard to lobby D.C. on that issue. "We’re doing our best to free up space because it’s not right that you have to carry networks that nobody watches," he said, adding that it’s wrong for those same companies to stream content that they’re also charging ops to carry (HDNet doesn’t stream). In a wide ranging discussion, Cuban also said he doesn’t think DirecTV would ever give up the NFL Sunday Ticket package—even if the entire cable industry created a co-op to outbid the DBS op. "I have a very difficult time seeing DirecTV ever giving that up," he said, noting that it has become a primary retention tool. "I think they’d be terrified of what would happen." He also spoke more generally about how TV will evolve, arguing that traditional TV continues to be a simpler experience than retrieving content on the Internet. "You don’t want to have to work to watch TV," he said. Cuban also projected optimism about the TV platform where he said interactivity and advanced advertising will flourish more than on the Internet, which involves competing standards. "There are still so many opportunities on the cable side," he said. Other tidbits: He said Netflix "is in great shape until somebody else decides to put cash up front" to pay content owners, at which time it will face new business realities and competition.

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