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Taking Television Forward

Television has been a favorite form of entertainment for nearly 70 years.  And it's dying.

Television has to move into the internet age.  Unfortunately there is a perception among both big media producers and distributors that the old way -an advertising supported broadcast model - and the new way - the world of pay-for-download ( iTunes ) distribution- cannot reasonably co-exist.  And we also have the "free" versions of both on the internet, streaming sites like Hulu and, as ever, BitTorrent piracy.

First, let me say as a content producer, I believe that all content you receive you should, unless the creator is EXPLICITLY giving it away, be paid for.  Whether that payment is in cold, hard cash or in your eyeballs on advertising is irrelevant.

First, I think we can all agree broadcast TV, as a concept, is a dying concept.  Most people under the age of thirty don't own a TV.  They have a 32" flatscreen monitor for their PS3, XBox360, etc.  They have cable modems, but not cable TV.

I think we can also agree that Hulu is not a solution.  The quality is horrid, the commercials are badly placed and repetitive, and you are at the whim of your ISP in terms of streaming speed.  But Hulu was never meant to replace TV, it was meant to give people a legal alternative to pirating TV online, and attract people back to TV.  That's why every Hulu TV show begins with the day, time and network you can watch the show on.

But we want a TV replacement, not a supplement.  And the answer, as with most things, is from Apple.  iTunes is a wonderful thing.  It is a media playback tool that has a lot of control from the content delivery side ( in the form of Fariplay DRM ) and is easy enough for everyday people to use.  What they need to do is give the media companies a little bit more flexibility in their offerings.

iTunes TV should be offered in three different flavors of downloads: for keeps, watch once, and free.  I'll cover each of these in turn.

For keeps downloads would work exactly as they do now.  $1.99 standard def, $2.99 HD.  Though I honestly think that that should maybe be lessened for 30 minute sitcoms vs hour dramas.  Maybe even let the studios sell older stuff at $0.99.  I realize your urge to make things simple, but the "new vs library" thing works well for movies, let it happen in TV as well.

Watch once would function the same as the for keeps downloads, but would work much the same as rental movies do.  You download a show.  You can pause, continue watching on your iPod, etc, but you can't rewind - Apple has that kind of control in iTunes, believe me.  When you are done watching, it automatically deletes itself.  Charge $0.49/$0.99 cents and you'd sell a TON of shows that are only worth watching once.  Daily Show, Survivor, Oprah, Dancing with the Stars.  This is all disposable TV that people don't need to keep around.  And for people that do?  Give them the option to convert it to a "keep forever" for the $1.50/$2.00 difference.

Last is a free option.  This is how you kill BitTorrent studios.  Give people a way to download for free that is legal, safe and reliable, and they will do so.  But how to pay for these?  Advertising.  Simply put commercials in the commercial breaks.  Make it so iTunes can't fastforward thru them, and you've made it more attractive to advertisers than all the people with Tivo.

And, Apple can provide demographic information on the customers for each show WAY more precise than Nielsen, letting you offer things let free episodes of shows they might like - Office subscribers get 3 free episodes of Parks& Recreation, for example.

What does Apple get out of all this?  Well, they sell more iPads, AppleTVs and iPods.

I love TV.  I hope it doesn't go away.  But unless the networks re-examine their business model, stop answering to affiliates instead of their real customers, it will not survive.

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Reader Comments (3)

Great article, I'd love to see Apple and the studios implement something like this.

One of my big problems with iTunes right now is the release schedule for TV shows. I wish episodes were available on the same night they are premiering on TV. I'm a big fan of Lost and would prefer to watch the episodes from iTunes, but I don't want to wait until the day after everyone else has already seen it. It ruins the "water cooler" discussions aspect of TV viewing. I want to participate in those discussions, but if I go the iTunes route I just walk around the office trying to avoid spoilers all day.

February 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMark Rakocy

Nice definition of Hulu

February 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMat

YES! I couldn't agree more. I think the intellegence and the opportunity of media todyay, barring the countless youtube fight or kick to the groin videos, is opening an opportunity for people to build MLP's "Media Lifestyle Plans" that work for them and thier interests and goals. If a fraction of the money spent on propping up the tired and dieing system was spent on a media version of twine that was protable to any player with more AI or at least colaborative filtering they would find something that would be twitterlike in it's influence.
I not holding my breath though. I think it's going to have to come from the outside and maybe for a time a parallel system.

March 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDavid Miller

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