March 26, 2009

I just finished doing my once-a-term “Tech Trends” talk for a consumer studies course and it has left me with lots of thoughts (it may not have left the students with any, but at least it helps me).  This term I was able to tie in an experience from just last weekend. 

I have always mentioned that television seems to be a concept on the way out, but last weekend it became really clear to me that it’s already becoming obsolete.  Now, what I’m talking about is TV as a model … having a device that requires that you subscribe to a service (like cable or satellite) and then watch things based on the schedule of that service provider. Last weekend the college basketball tournament was on “TV”, but it turned out that CBS was also providing all of the games in semi-HD over the web.  The picture was better than on my TV, I could choose between games, and I could watch multiple games at once.  CBS also supplied an archive, should I miss anything. This was perfect.  I was also amazed that CBS had realized that they could benefit from doing this … they were still selling advertising and likely could guarantee more viewers for ads than on TV, given that they didn’t have to deal with all of the local cable and satellite providers who insert their own ads.

While this all made me happy, there was an obvious question.  Why can’t I always just watch my programming streaming live over the web, in glorious HD, and with the ability to just watch whatever I choose?  The only thing between me and this viewing nirvana would seem to be the willingness of CBS (or whoever) to turn on the taps.   I’m sure there are more complications and perhaps this particular programming was well subsidized by various advertisers, or perhaps the bandwidth was donated by someone,  but still … if the only thing stopping this type of service is that fact that middle-men don’t like it, then let’s cut them out and continue the march of progress.   

(this reminds me of a question I’ve been asking for years … TV, when it was being received by an antenna from the “airwaves” was financed entirely by advertising.  Then cable came along and I had to pay for this “service” in addition to still having to watch advertising.  Where, exactly, had the value increased for me to justify my increased bills?  Same content, more people to pay.  Getting my content free over the web just seems like a return to sanity. I will watch ads if I’m not expected to also pay for the privilege.)


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