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History Repeats Itself: HBR Article on TV’s Inevitable Disruption

Yesterday, Maxwell Wessel of the Harvard Business Review (HBR) put out a very persuasive, well-researched article entitled “The Inevitable Disruption of Television” that explains concepts of disruption generally, and predicts the upcoming revolution in television.  (Dan O’Connor discussed these issues in his DisCo post about the “Take My Money, HBO” campaign, as did Matt Schruers in his DisCo post in response to NBC’s renewal of its exclusive Olympics contract.)  Wessel shares conversations that he has had with entertainment industry executives, who appear convincingly confident in the longevity of television, as bundled with Internet service.  They often refute his explanations of disruptive innovation, seemingly deeming themselves immune to evolution, even when history has been explained to them.  But Wessel has recently found an emerging disruptive Internet service provider called Clear, that seems like the Square (which I covered in my food truck post) of ISPs.  I recommend reading Wessel’s article, rather than just highlighting a few excerpts.  It’s not too long, and a great read!  After you check it out, come back here and check out more past DisCo posts on the importance of disruption.


Some, if not all of society’s most useful innovations are the byproduct of competition. In fact, although it may sound counterintuitive, innovation often flourishes when an incumbent is threatened by a new entrant because the threat of losing users to the competition drives product improvement. The Internet and the products and companies it has enabled are no exception; companies need to constantly stay on their toes, as the next startup is ready to knock them down with a better product.