Downloadable TV

Earlier this week I noted two interesting headlines on PVR Wire: Thomas Hawk: TV download services suck & AOL announces free classic television downloads

The first article references a nice rant by Thomas Hawk that was brought about by an even better rant by Om Malik. Shorter version(s): Most networks, their executives and the producers of television shows don’t have a clue what’s about to happen.

As someone who works in the cable industry, I can only say that most “basic” and pay cable networks operate differently than the broadcast networks. Read between the lines of this Yahoo! News article and you’ll see that Nick and Cartoon Network are training kids (just like ABC is traing their iPod-owning parents) to purchase shows individually for playback later on a portable device.

Not the kind of thinking you want to see? Maybe you think all TV should go the way of “video podcasts” (I call them vlogs) like Tiki Bar TV or The Systm. I think that’s a reasonable guess and I’m a fan of both “shows”.

Or you could be someone who wants a more elegant solution right now. You want to utilize existing technologies to enable you to get more TV, quicker and in a portable format, than the market is creating. Enter TVTAD, “TV via RSS” as Steve Rubel says. All true and all with the same kind of legality that drove the music industry nuts. BitTorrent and RSS may turn out to be great vehicles for distributing TV content. Use at your own risk.

Or maybe you want to see the revolution televised, literally, by some big, famous show making the leap from Television to monitor. Michael Meiser has even been so bold as to offer up this kind of solution to the embattled and beloved Arrested Development. If any show had the critical mass (pardon the pun) to make it happen, I’d bet on this one. Wait and see, though. I’m betting some network picks up this show.

No matter what you think, it seems pretty plain that the television industry is at least marginally more intelligent about the internet and the future than the music industry. Several shows, including Everybody Hates Chris just this year, have had online, commercial-free premieres. They’ve partnered with an online distribution system, at least ABC has, to allow for downloads of their content. Some, like MTV and Comedy Central are doing full-on broadband networks, and [adult swim] is getting into the user-generated content game.

But we want to assign blame to the industry for not moving fast enough. It’s a natural human reaction to events and ideas that fly in the face of the weight and power of innovation. No genies going back into bottles here, but scape-goating is an art form and not a science. Blame all the executives or marketing departments you like, but sometimes the sheer force of the industry, the tradition, is what’s to blame. And who gets blamed for that?

I’ll say this: if you’re looking for a revolution, you’re a part of it. Make your own blog/podcast/vlog. The rest of the TV world is going to evolve to fit into this revolutionized world, but they will never go away entirely. Even with satellite radio, we still have terrestrial radio. And newspapers, while really broken at the moment, haven’t caved entirely nor do I think they will.

We can quibble over folks not “getting it,” but I’d say video content providers are better equipped for the future than music providers. Already producers, directors and actors are circumventing the middle men. Already the middle men are casting themselves in new roles and figuring out new ways to package shows and sell ads and sponsorships. Already users/viewers have a ton of control.

The future will be fun and interesting and will include downloadable TV. How we get to that point might seem messy and will expose some hubris and greed, but a lot of smart people are working on that future, both inside and outside of the “industry”. I’m happy to straddle that fence.

I’ve meandered off-topic (if I ever had one) a few times in this post, but my basic point is this: yes, big organizations do dumb things, but they got big because they’re good at what they do. If they truly have smart folks with their ears to the ground and their hands pulling the levers, then they’ll succeeded. Because I think I’m one of those smart folks and because I’d like to stay gainfully employed, I think the TV industry will succeed by changing. I don’t know when they’ll enact some of the great new things we as viewers want to see and I don’t know what even newer things are on the horizon. I just have faith in the fine folks I work with.

My two cents.

2 thoughts on “Downloadable TV

  1. I imagine my kids won’t use the word ‘television’ in their daily vocab…
    (not married, no kids, not thoughts on the matter)

    perhaps something along the lines…

    What’s on your RSS?

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