HD Beat (HDB): Mark, first of all, I'd like to thank you up
front for your time. We don't want to take too much it because we want
to see more awesome programming form HDNet! Hey, we'll even do some
pre-season cheers for the Dallas Mavericks too.
Mark, take us
back to 2001 and prior. You and Philip Garvin launched HDNet well
before HD really took off. When did you start planning the vision for
HDNet and what was the compelling reason to become the first high-def
network well before HDTV became 'mainstream'?
Mark Cuban (MC): We knew that the price points of HDTV sets were going to drop like a rock and
bandwidth was going to be constrained to deliver programming. We figured that if
we can put together programming assets before everyone else even started
thinking about HD, we would be ahead of the game. Plus if we could get carriage
on forward thinking distributors like Dish, DIRECTV, Charter and TW, we would
have enough foundation to grow with the HDTV market.
is clearly a leader in the high-def programming space, but has HDNet
met the vision you originally planned, or is there more work to be done?
MC: The consumer growth has happened faster than I expected, the acceptance by
cable channels slower. But there hasn't been any more or less work than I
expected. It's not hard to produce in HD, it all still comes down to quality
Unlike other startup channels, we were limited in how much content we could
license since it had to be in HD. So we knew we would start off slowly, but
quickly evolve our schedule to be original content. Today 15 of 21 hours every
week are produced by HDNet.HDB: How
would you describe the current state of HDTV here in the United States?
We're seeing a greater penetration with declining HDTV prices and
additional HDTV programming on major networks, so how much growth do
you see for the industry?MC:
It's like the Internet. It happens as price points decline, but
unfortunately, like the net, the media (HD Beat excluded), usually is last to get
technology at home. So they always write that it's slower than excepted. Then the
writers get it at home, love it and all of a sudden, they knew HDTV was the
future all along.HDB
got DTV legislation on the books in less than two weeks. What do you
think we should do for people that still have analog sets? Should any
required analog-to-digital converters be subsidized by the government,
or do we just say, 'you should have seen this coming, folks' and let
the chips fall where they may?MC:
I think we let the market take care of it. An analog set is an opportunity
for cable and satellite to compete with each other. The marginal cost of a
converter added to a set top box or PC will become increasingly minor. There is
already a lifeline service that cable companies must offer. We can just expand
that lifeline service to include some analog to digital converters .
On top of that, by the time anything really happens, wireless will be much
further along. So we will have more options.
Finally, there is national security value in the digital spectrum. Since
when did being able to watch Barney Rubble from an antenna become a priority
over national security and first responder capabilities? At some point maybe
politicians will stop trying to get their asses kissed by voters and do the
right thing.HDB: Have you had a chance to dabble with a Microsoft Windows Media Center PC and HDTV programming? MC:
I'm working on one right now.HDB: Interesting. So what do you think: will Microsoft become a market leader in the HDTV space and why or why not?MC
: Too early to tell. It really depends on what happens with the two-way cable
card. That's the key to the Media Center being a true HD PVR and server. Until
then, a server that can't capture cable or satellite channels like HDNet and HDNet
Movies is pretty worthless as an HDTV enabler.
I actually think the XBox 360 will have a far greater impact on HDTV sales
and home use. For 300 bucks, it will work as a Windows Media/HD-DVD device. It's
easy to put content in that format and HDNet will certainly sell our content
we know that HDNet has partnered with Red Swoosh and Box.net for high
definition video downloads. Do you see this as a growing space for
HDNet or is this more of an 'add-on' HD service?MC:
It's just an alternative delivery channel to supplement HDNet's traditional
delivery. It won't be competitive. It will be promotional.HDB: The
non-traditional release of Steven Soderbergh's recent high-def films in
theaters, on DVD and on HDNet simultaneously caused some controversy
with the movie industry. What's the thinking behind multi-channel
distribution? Was this just a 'test of the waters' or do you think this
will become more acceptable within the film industry?MC:
This is about giving consumers what they want, where and when they want it.
If theaters don't like it, that's their problem, not ours. We are working to
create incremental value by doing things like offering a free soundtrack download
for people who attend "The War Within" at Landmark Theaters
. By creating
more value for the theater-going experience, we think people who want to get out
of the house, will go to a theater. Those who can't will stay home and watch it
on HDNet Movies, and those who aren't smart enough (*smiles*
) to subscribe to HDNet
Movies, can buy it on DVD.
If you really want to see the studios upset, wait until we
release all of our DVDs uncopyprotected and have an option for people
to pay a few bucks more and get an AVI, WMV or DivX version they can
easily copy on to their laptops, media servers or flash drives to watch
the movie where and when they want and have a backup as well.
I see no reason to treat my customers like criminals.HDB
in your opinion, what's 'the next big thing' in high-definition
television? 1080p seems to be the big buzzword, but are we overlooking
We aren't ready for the next big thing yet. We are still in the midst of HDTV
becoming the next big thing.HDB
Mark, we gotta ask this one before we close up: when you're not
watching HDTV programming on HDNet, what high-def shows are you
watching and why?MC:
I like football on CBS and Fox, although I'm spoiled with 1080i and hate watching
things in 720p. I also watch Law & Order: SVU.HDB
: Real quick: what HDTV(s) do you personally own or are you looking to buy?MC
I have an RCA 32-inch that I use as a PC monitor and playback device, a
Sony 32-inch in my home office, a Zenith 50-inch plasma in my bedroom,
a JVC 27-inch and Buffalo HD DVD in my work office and a big screen I'm
getting installed, but I'm under NDA (on that unit).HDB: That's
some serious gear! Mark, thank you again for your time and insights. HD
Beat sincerely appreciates your thoughts and we hope you have time for
interviews in the future.
you have it: the HD Beat exclusive interview with Mark Cuban. We'd like
to thank Mark once again for his time and his thoughts. This was a real
treat as an interviewer and we hope the readers enjoyed it as well.