The Rise and Fall of ESPN’s Leverage and the Battle between Publishers and AI Companies

Ulrich Fischer

Hatched by Ulrich Fischer

Jun 21, 2024

3 min read


The Rise and Fall of ESPN’s Leverage and the Battle between Publishers and AI Companies

In the ever-evolving landscape of the digital age, industries are constantly facing new challenges and opportunities. Two major players, ESPN and AI companies, have experienced their fair share of highs and lows in recent years. However, the underlying issues they face are strikingly similar.

ESPN, once the undisputed leader in sports broadcasting, has seen its leverage diminish over time. The rise of the internet and its gifts of infinite capacity and free distribution have posed significant threats to industries reliant on scarcity. Just as the print and music industries declined when anyone could publish text or distribute music, the video industry is now grappling with the same fate.

To survive in this new landscape, the video industry must retreat to its core strength: producing exclusive content. Rather than focusing on running undifferentiated streaming services with high costs, the industry needs to prioritize creating content that cannot be found elsewhere. By doing so, they can reclaim their unique value proposition and attract consumers who crave exclusive experiences.

Talent within the industry also plays a crucial role in navigating this changing landscape. Instead of viewing themselves as separate entities from the studios, they must recognize that they are jointly threatened by the internet's impact. Content producers with outsized costs face a challenging path to long-term sustainability. Therefore, it is essential for talent to align with the studios in finding innovative ways to reduce costs and increase profitability.

Another industry facing its own set of challenges is the battle between publishers and AI companies. The development of AI systems can be compared to public libraries, which are collective goods provided by the state. AI models have the potential to combine knowledge from various sources, including public domain works, copyrighted materials, and public contributions like Wikipedia. This inherently positions AI systems as public collective goods.

However, the issue of ethics arises when multimillion-dollar corporations leverage AI technologies while failing to adequately compensate contributors. If individuals contribute to the data streams that fuel AI systems, they deserve a fair share in the benefits of this development. The concept of a universal basic income becomes relevant in this context, as it ensures that everyone involved receives their due recognition and compensation.

Sam Altman, a prominent figure in the AI community, has advocated for democratizing the governance of AI organizations, implying that AI should be treated as a public good. This aligns with the idea of recognizing AI systems as public collective goods, allowing for a fairer distribution of benefits and resources.

In conclusion, both the video industry and AI companies face similar challenges in the digital age. By focusing on their core strengths and reevaluating their business models, they can adapt to the changing landscape and find sustainable solutions. For the video industry, producing exclusive content is key, while talent must collaborate with studios to reduce costs. AI companies should recognize the importance of compensating contributors and consider the concept of a universal basic income. By embracing these actions, these industries can navigate the complexities of the digital era and thrive in the long run.

Actionable Advice:

  • 1. Video industry professionals should prioritize creating exclusive content that sets them apart from competitors.
  • 2. Talent within the industry should actively seek ways to reduce costs and increase profitability for long-term sustainability.
  • 3. AI companies should advocate for fair compensation for contributors and explore the concept of a universal basic income to ensure a more equitable distribution of benefits.

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