Simultaneously working in television and on the internet has some benefits. For the most part, my coworkers and I are in the greatest position ever: influencing technological decisions. Granted, a lot of what we do is education. Defining “blog”, “podcast”, “rss”, “BitTorrent” and the like. But we also get to explain the far larger scope of how these new media really affect and interact with people.
We get to use the jargon, sure, but we also let folks know why they’re important. How they empower the individual. How they may, in fact, change our business. Better still, how they have changed our business right now.
I could link to a dozen sites where people trade in television content for free download. Anyone with access to Google and a broadband connection is just a few clicks away from the entire run of Desperate Housewives or Lost. What does that mean for a TV/Internet guy like me? Mark Pesce has a good idea.
Mark sees technology, BitTorrent specifically, as a hyperdistribution channel that unites producer and viewer like never before. In his fabulous article he makes the case for better, direct contact between not only creator and viewer, but also sponsor and viewer. He considers the widely-adopted “network bug” the perfect vehicle for sponsorships and notes that most shows already incorporate promotions, whether commercial or network/show, in this manner.
To build upon his point, most reality television works this way as well. BitTorrent not withstanding, television of today and the foreseeable future is going to look much more like television of the past. There will be more sponsorships, more product placement and integration and less of the 30 second spot as we know it today. Pesce sites PVRs (TiVo) as another catalyst for this change and I have to agree here as well.
So where does that leave a traditional, linear broadcaster or cable/satellite company? Should we all fold up tent and go home? Or should we figure out how to leverage a new distribution channel to deliver and promote our news, sports and entertainment products.
I’m definitely in the latter camp. The famous founder of my network shot the first TV satellite into orbit and I’m going to venture a guess that he would think we should figure out how to use the technology in our favor. Exactly what that is, I’m smart enough to admit that I’m dumb enough not to know.
What I do know is this: the television industry will not repeat the mistakes of the recording industry. We’ve got a whole new set of mistakes to make. ;-) Kidding aside, I think our best hope for the future is that bug. Sure, anyone can trade content and anyone can create it soon, too. But folks like aggregation of content – a destination for all their leisure and information activities. As these kinds of tasks switch from one glowing box (TV) to another glowing box (PC), people will still want some aggregator, some arbiter, some network to act as a reasonable filter or syphon to the boundless amount of content available.
The Googles and Yahoos of the world are ready. With video searches, vast data warehouses and almost limitless bandwidth, your seach box might be the next incarnation of the on-screen channel guid. Who knows? Maybe a service like Videora (mentioned here previously), Vimeo, Blinkx, OurMedia, FireANT or any one of a dozen other sites/applications will be the “new network”.
To be honest, I don’t know anything you don’t know. That’s what’s both frightening and exciting. The future will be hyperdistributed from millions of packet-sharing nodes, with hundreds of unique, individual voices. I’m glad I’m a part of making that future happen.