TV Experiments Just Keep Coming

from the a-step-sideways? dept

There has been an awful lot of experimenting from TV executives lately. It mostly started about a year ago, but in just the last few months it’s really heated up, from the Cartoon Network’s streaming of Adult Swim to UPN and Google streaming Everybody Hates Chris to Apple and ABC offering $2 downloads of shows to be viewed on the new iPod to NBC and CBS selling extremely limited versions of shows for a dollar. Now we can add to the list that AOL is streaming free versions of classic sitcoms (well, depending on your definition of “classic”), with commercials. On the good side, it’s clear that TV execs realize they need to do something. They need to change and they’re trying out a lot of different things. That’s a step forward. However, all of these experiments have problems. None of them really take advantage of the medium, and all of them practically scream out how afraid the TV execs are of losing “control” on the internet. The streaming versions are bandwidth hogs for the companies, and do little to encourage people to watch the shows whenever, wherever and however they want. The paid downloads are all limited to provider and device and cost extra when there are plenty of alternatives around. The TV producers need to let go, and recognize that they can get a bigger audience for advertisements the more they get people watching — meaning whenever and however they want. Put the shows up (with commercials) and use BitTorrent to distribute it (thus avoiding the bandwidth costs). Let people “subscribe” to certain shows and watch it however they want and you build up a much more loyal audience and can sell more advertising. The TV execs are worried that if they don’t “control” things that their shows will get “Napsterized,” but they’re wrong. By trying so hard to control it, they’re encouraging the Napsterization of TV shows using BitTorrent already. Last week, there was all sorts of buzz about Tioti (Tape It Off The Internet), a new system for tracking TV show torrents. If the TV execs were smart, they’d be embracing this as fast as possible and offering up authorized versions of these shows to build up audience and loyalty. Instead, they’re dipping their toes in the water in ways that make people wonder why it’s worth it before firing up BitTorrent to get their favorite show in a more appealing manner.

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Comments on “TV Experiments Just Keep Coming”

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Mike (profile) says:

Re: You're overly negative

Er, I did say it was a step forward and I did mention that “at least they’re doing something” pointing out that was a good thing.

However, if I think what they’re doing is wrong, why shouldn’t I say so? They have a real opportunity here, and why should we shut up just because they’re doing “something” when it might be the “wrong thing”?

WollyHood says:

Ugly Stamp Sized Video

And sometimes you have to state the obvious to be called insightful.

‘Innovating pretty fast’ is about as useful as selling horse drawn
wagons when your next door neighbor is a Honda dealership.
The innovations that matter have already occurred. Innovating
in ways that are inferior to already established technologies are
exercises in futility.

Until the television management
realizes they need to give users the kind of control over content they
require to enjoy their entertainment products with whatever tradeoff
(commercials, fees, etc.) that provides income for the television
producer they will be fighting against against the established market
defined by free access to high quality video. People would be
willing to trade away from BitTorrent
if the alternative were easier to use, faster and/or did not overly
compromise their television viewing experience.

What comprises a compromise of their television viewing
experience? Here are some examples from the
technologies currently being deployed:

  • Streaming: Until content is downloaded
    asymetrically a
    pleasureable video viewing experience will be
    entirely dependent on a trouble-free, high bandwidth
  • Low Resolution: Currently the iPod downloads are engineered
    for the
    iPod screen resolution, which is 320 x 240, about half the resolution
    of any standard television (NTSC, PAL,
    SECAM) not to mention HDTV.
  • Time Constraints: Adult Swim is only downloadable
    at the same time it is shown on the channel. Gee, that makes
    it so much more flexible. And most of these other shows have
    other time constraints in terms of buying only within some period of
    time following the original air date.

So, for all the free market allusions television industry
representatives spin when discussing the industry they seem
incredibly resistant to actually addressing the possibilities and
realities of the current market and medium.

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