A Digital Future For Channel One?

March 16, 2005
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From Jim Metrock:

Last year, at an education conference I met several
superintendents and principals who painted a dismal picture of
Channel One and their maintenance contractor Convergent Media.
TVs weren’t being maintained or replaced on a timely basis. Network
problems were taking months to be fixed.

The problems with Convergent will be discussed later.
My point is you can’t get much "lower tech" than analog
TV sets or an analog TV network. Channel One isn’t able to adequately
handle analog, much less anything digital.

I have been hearing about Channel One’s digital future
since 1999. That was the year that Roger Wolfson, a former aide
to the late Senator Paul Wellstone, left DC to go to work for Channel
One. Wolfson had carried Channel One’s water on Capitol Hill and
he was rewarded with the job of developing an interactive Channel
One News. One would assume "interactive" meant "digital" but,
whatever. Wolfson apparently accomplished little and soon left
the company. Others have been hired to bring Channel One into the
digital world. They are no longer around.

The Ad Age article this week says that PRIMEDIA’s
board is dragging their feet on implementing the new improved digital
Channel One. That says that the board knows or suspects it will
not result in added profits. That’s why they are delaying. Why
throw good money after bad. If a new digital way to deliver content
was going to make a bunch of money, they would be advancing the
roll-out, not hesitating like they are doing. We suspect this is
a pipe dream meant to keep schools from ending their contracts.

Channel One is keeping everything very secret. It
could be because they don’t want another company to steal their
great ideas. Or it could be because nothing is perfected and doable
yet.

If Channel One is thinking of sending a digital signal
over its satellite system, it will still be displayed on the old,
small 19" sets clinging to the walls in schools. The picture
will be only as good as the TV screen it’s displayed on. If the
idea is to stream the video to computer screens, then who’s going
to pay for the computers?. What if it is displayed on a plasma
screen on the wall? Same question – Where’s the money coming from?
Surely not from Channel One. This is the company that has not replaced
their President of Programming, that hasn’t replaced their Education
Vice President, that has cut the number of reporters and instituted
a salary freeze.

The Channel One company began to swap out the small
19" TV sets with 27" sets but they stopped that when
the money got tight.

Channel One is stuck. The world changed around them
as they stood still. I have a son in business school and this company
would be a perfect example of mismanagement. They are the "horse
and buggy" in a jet age world. They are "TV" in
a world that’s gone "computer." Each day their assets
become more devalued. That is why no company is buying them.