Five years ago, with the Internet in its infancy, much of the talk at trade shows and professional conferences focused on the race into the home. Would it be a wired world or a wireless one? Would cable provide the pipe or would it be the phone line? Broadband? What's that?
Well, it turns out that it didn't really matter. Phone companies began buying cable companies, and we live in a combo wired/wireless world with Internet access through TVs or PDAs. The big companies have bought many of the small companies, and we can envision a media world on the horizon where the big three "networks" have names like AOL, Yahoo and Excite. Consolidation is a natural part of the business cycle, and our industry is no different, as evidenced by movement the past year in the Los Angeles (and to some extent New York) post-production market.
Liberty Media and Pacifica Media have been on buying sprees throughout the L.A. area. When Soundelux signed papers in July and became a part of Liberty Livewire Audio, joining POP Sound, 4MC, Sound One and Todd-AO, it seemed that the process was nearing completion. As Soundelux co-founders Wylie Stateman and Lon Bender point out in our exclusive interview, the deal is all about the future and the drive to bring content into the home. AT&T, parent of Liberty Media, was recently estimated to have access to 45% of the homes west of the Mississippi. Controlling the means of production and distribution is hardly new. It's just that the media has changed.
That, perhaps, is the point for audio professionals: Only the medium is changed. New ventures will pop up, providing Web audio services and Webcasting consulting. Bit rates and compression will have to be understood on three or four levels. And engineers will have to be at least conversant in cross-browser issues. But audio is audio, and as we are reminded in our feature on sound effects recording, good sound still starts with a good recording.
It's easy to become enamored with new technologies, and business issues make for great cocktail conversation. But as the industry embraces the Web, and as editors find themselves being called "content providers," it is important not to lose sight of how sound workswith picture.