The 37th annual Promax convention kicked off at Disney World Sunday with a speech by Disney chairman Michael Eisner about the potential — both good and bad — of the 500-channel environment.The org, which has changed its name to Promax from BPME (Broadcast Promotion & Marketing Executives), set an attendance record this year with more than 3,500 members, including over 350 from overseas. Eisner barely touched on marketing or promotion, instead using this year’s theme, “Change Demands Innovation,” as a jumping-off point to discuss the coming technological revolution, which he said “will take longer than most people think.” But when it comes, he said, it will turn out differently than people imagine. Eisner said theindustry must “beware the law of unintended consequences.” He laid out a surreal scenario in which interactive TV (combined with rampant gun usage) creates a society where people never leave their homes. In his scared new world, virtual reality becomes our “primary reality” and people watch ultra-niche channels like the one for “thimble collectors” or one for “people with exotic allergies.” Ultimately, Eisner warned, “cocooning carried too far” will become “self-burial.” But the Disney chieftain was merely setting up a straw TV set. He finally said he doesn’t think society will shift that much and (with the aid of gun control laws) he believes TV will be “an aid to communing.” Also, he said, the revolution doesn’t necessarily mean the destruction of the current TV environment. He believes the broadcast networks will survive in some form because they provide “quality, structure and a certain level of dependability” that people, who are creatures of habit, strongly desire — especially since viewers may not have the time or inclination to sift through hundreds of channels.
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