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What If A&M Got It Wrong?

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We were reading up on the A&M/SEC business and got to thinking a bit about the whole Longhorn Network thing and it got us to thinking: what if the current move to cable networks doesn't hold up?

Given the current economic situation and the obscenely high bills cable produces (satellite too), what if people start bailing in larger numbers?

At this point, there's not that much that's only available over cable other than sports, and with a typical yearly cable bill being now around $1,200 or so, it's hard not to think about letting it go.

If Texas A&M truly wants to move past Texas, they're not going to do it on a cable network of their own, because there are only so many of those that the market can support.  Instead they should look at alternative delivery methods.

Obviously that suggests things like tablets and smart phones today, but things are about to change in a major way:

A new standard of WiFi, IEEE 802.22, aka Super WiFi, is nearly ready.  It'll employ unused white space between channels on TV spectrum and have a range of around 60 miles.

This will have a profound influence on wireless communications.  If you can send a game over wireless -- if you're the Big 12 or the ACC, for instance -- while ESPN will give you a better deal today, it won't matter as much in the long run if people keep finding options to the expensive pay TV packages we have now.

When you add in technical improvements like the ability to send video from an IPhone to a big screen TV as one example, you can sort of start to see a scenario which significantly undercuts the money structure underlying cable/satellite TV - and sports.

It's also entirely possible that WiFi with that sort of range could seriously damage phone subscriptions.

A school would also be able to consider packaging  games individually.  So imagine that Texas A&M was playing Oklahoma, and that game traditionally drew, for argument's sake, one million viewers on television.  A&M or their conference, whoever it might be at that point, could charge $5.00 per game (standard math disclaimer: ours stinks). To keep the numbers easy to deal with, let's say a 12-team conference has 140 games to broadcast per season.  At $5.00 per game for just your favorite school, that's just $60 per year. For the conference, that works out to $700 per year.

If all you want are games from your favorite team or conference, that's a powerful argument to toss cable.

Obviously people smarter than us would crunch the numbers and come up with different appeals, including things like bowl packages and for basketball, the NCAA Tournament. And no doubt a lot of people would want to watch great matchups from other conferences.

And of course it's not like ESPN would just cede the marketplace to competitors.

Still, change is coming and in a big way.

There's also another technology which may compete with the coming version of WiFi.  It's called DiDo and it's also very interesting and potentially revolutionary.

Either way, the point is the same: it's entirely possible that a cable network, so revolutionary today, could become an albatross tomorrow.  Given what technological innovations have done to the music industry, the phone industry and the publishing industry, there's absolutely no reason whatsoever to think that it won't happen to pay TV.  Toss in the fact that just about everyone is sick of the crap channels, the high prices, and the poor customer service, and we'd say it's more or less an implosion waiting to happen.

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