georges' blog

September 3, 2007

On-demand video is the way of the future.

Filed under: Technology — kendall @ 3:22 pm

On-demand video is the way of the future and anyone who says differently is smoking crack. I don’t know where Greg Sandoval of news.com is coming from. In an August 31 article, NBC, Apple play game of brinkmanship, he wrote:

…nobody has really answered the question of whether people need to watch longer-format shows on their computers when the TV experience isn’t broken.

If nobody has answered that question yet, then I’ll answer it now. The TV experience is broken, badly. Sure there are still armies of people who will uncritically be spoon-fed unsolicited advertising while their televisions are on practically 24/7, however, there is an increasing number of people who are turning off their TV’s altogether and choosing deliberately and consciously what media and advertising they will consume. People are buying DVDs of movies and favorite TV shows. Many people illegally download shows via BitTorrent or other file-sharing apps. I don’t know what the numbers are, but for decades people have recorded TV shows on video cassettes and watched them later fast-forwarding through the commercials. We did this for years when the best TV was Fox Sunday night, with the Simpsons followed by the X-Files. Sunday evening we were generally in church. Thanks to programmable VCRs, we were free to schedule our lives as we saw fit, rather than let the networks do it for us. The birth of Tivo and other genius PVRs were an inevitable evolution from the crude VCR. They allow viewers to watch what they want, when they want, and commercial-free. Now, there are online services, like Apple iTunes and Joost, where people can legally purchase and download movies and TV shows commercial free.

I firmly believe that writers, directors, actors and everybody involved in making quality movies and TV shows deserve to get paid. (Just a point of clarification, yes, there is such a thing as a quality TV show. I haven’t really felt this way since David Duchovny left the X-Files, but Lost brought me back around. This is another post though.) So, since these people deserve to get paid, but many of us hate the commercial interruptions–passionately–and we are skipping the commercials any way we can, I’d say the TV experience is broken. It only makes sense that those of us who are happy to pay for the entertainment we consume have legitimate avenues by which to obtain our favorite programming. Since Apple is the leading distributor of legal media downloads it is reasonable for major media outlets to partner with them. They should have multiple channel partners. But for NBC to cut off Apple is just plain stupid and demonstrates how they are mired in a 20th century paradigm.

My post is in danger of going off in another direction here. Essentially, what is NBC about? Are they about creating quality programming? No, they are about selling advertising time. That is it. The only reason there is competition to create “quality” programming is that the better the programs, the greater the number of viewers, and the more we can charge the advertisers for time. Who are NBC’s customers? You and other viewers? Bah! Do not kid yourselves. The advertisers are the only customers NBC cares about. Viewers are like subjects in a scientific experiment. “How can we keep these laboratory animals glued to the TV screen?” That is all they care about. “But, what about ‘educational programming’ and the news?” you ask. Again, don’t kid yourselves. It’s all entertainment. The news is entertainment. There is no analysis. There is only sensationalism. However, every once in a while, by accident, they get the right people together and they actually produce something halfway decent. (Understand that this is completely different from movies, where their revenue directly correlates to how many people are willing pay to watch the show.) Also, don’t misunderstand me, NBC is not alone here. ALL the major networks operate this way.

So, now you see. NBC and the other networks are not really interested in producing and selling quality programs they are only interested in selling advertising time. NBC is clearly unwilling to observe the signs of the times and the mass migration away from commercial television. They think that if they pretend that people still only want broadcast television where they decide what you will see and when that that will make it so. They long for the good old days, but those days are fading. It is true that youtube is not a TV killer. Nor is iTunes. But, increasingly, my generation and younger will be ditching their TV’s. Our family has not had cable or satellite TV in years. We have never had more than one TV set. Now we don’t even have one. We only have a projector that we use for DVDs and streaming media. We have several PCs. Practically one for every one in the house. And we are not alone. I guarantee that in the not too distant future, the majority of Westerners will be consuming their video entertainment on-demand, fee for service, and commercial free. NBC would be wise to recognize this and continue to provide their content at a reasonable cost and commercial free via legal downloads. It doesn’t have do be iTunes. But, this is the way of the future and they had better transform themselves to conform to that or they will be a thing of the past.

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