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Remote Possibilities 

Inside the battle between TV networks and media companies

click to enlarge New Damages episodes will air on DirectTV; new Arrested Development episodes will be on Netflix
  • New Damages episodes will air on DirectTV; new Arrested Development episodes will be on Netflix

Pinpointing the viewing habits of the average CBS viewer? Sure.

Over 50, brand-loyal, love Morley Safer, watch television from home, and answer questions from a media-usage survey on a land line.

Trying to predict and meet the demands of a new generation of tweeting techies with multiple mobile devices, access to broadband streaming and thousands of channels?

It’s a bitch. So is convincing these savvy young consumers to stop interacting with their smartphones long enough to watch television. It costs media companies (not just netwo rks) a lot of money to steal customers from each other and stay affordable.

When Netflix raised rates this summer to cover the cost of staying competitive, they lost nearly a million subscribers and their stock value took a dive. Now Netflix is racking up debt to re-invent themselves. They’ll produce a new TV series, House of Cards, with David Fincher (The Social Network, Fight Club) and Oscar-winner Kevin Spacey next year. Netflix has also secured a contract for “exclusive” access to AMC programs, and will launch a new season of defunct cult classic Arrested Development. (The company outbid both HBO and Hulu.)

Direct TV’s “exclusive” Audience Network gained street cred when it issued a pardon to the dying FX series Damages. Now the network also claims “exclusive” and “new” shows like Call Me Fitz and Less Than Kind. They’re both old, albeit successful, Canadian series.

Dish Network used DirecTV’s fight with Fox a few months ago to try and steal subscribers. And EBS-type crawls moved across 20 of Fox’s channels on D-TV, warning of possible cancellations. That public fight was reminiscent of the pissing match between Time Warner Cable and Viacom on New Year’s Eve 2008.

In the two years since — with all the new players on the digital content delivery field — fights like this, between regular old cable companies and regular old network ownership conglomerates, seem almost quaint.

Hulu CEO Jason Kilar told Charlie Rose that “media is an impulse business.” He and every other CEO need to not only respond to our fickle viewing habits but keep their business plans simple and pliable.

“If you can make it easier to consume,” he says, “People will consume more of it.” Likewise, as “TV” increasingly becomes “video” — streamed in a million ways to smaller, more convenient devices that aren’t that big flat screen in your living room — there are more people looking to cash in on that consumption.

TIVO-WORTHY

Christmas In Washington
You can almost guarantee that nights like this mean way more to Mahlia and Sasha than than having a dad who’s president. A Justin Bieber concert? Hello!? Cee-Lo Green, Jennifer Hudson and Nickelodeon actress Victoria Justice perform, and Conan O’Brien hosts. (TNT, Friday Dec. 16, 8pm)

It’s A Wonderful Lifetime
They changed their recognizable slogan and made their website impossible to decipher. Suffice it to say that if you enjoy the charmingly saccharine annual holiday movie marathon Fa La La La Lifetime, you’re now looking for “It’s a Wonderful Lifetime.” (Lifetime, nightly through Dec. 25)

Weed Wars
No sexy suburban moms in this series. Just a committed group of citizens trying not to get arrested providing medicine for their 96,000 “patients.” (Discovery Channel, Thursdays, 10pm)

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