Estimated reading time: 6 minute(s)
I’m never one to do something “because that’s the way we’ve always done it”. My wife accuses me often of nearly the opposite: doing something differently simply for the sake of being different!
She may be right, but it’s not out of spite or any sort of malice. I do enjoy variety, that’s for sure.
And in most areas of life I generally do not hold to any sort of “this is how you do it” mentality.
With that preface, it’s easy to understand how I might be able to adapt to newer technologies (if they seem to hold greater merit) such as the TV shows discussion in last Friday’s post. (Be sure to read the comments there, too.) I lean heavily toward the newer, different thinking in that realm.
A long time ago I proffered an idea to Apple, that they could revolutionize the media industry by doing something with TV and movies similar to what they did with music. (Really. It was about the time the iTunes store came into existence. Before they offered video through the store, though. It was March of 2005.) I knew I was onto something when a few days later I received a response in serious “legalese” letting me know that Apple was grateful for my feedback, but could not accept unsolicited product ideas at this time.
Well, it turns out Apple was thinking the same thing I was: Who needs cable companies? Deliver the content directly to the consumer.
They have obviously been running with this idea for a long time now, offering TV shows and movies for purchase and/or rent, as well as now books, games, etc. (Yet, they still call it iTunes… hmmm…)
But Apple is not the main subject of this discussion. The content is.
I Know From Experience…
I am a content creator. We have music, I have books… content. Since I began I leaned heavily toward self-publishing all of this content and offering it directly to the consumer. I have not seriously (or really even casually) pursued a relationship with any distributor or other larger entity at the risk of losing control over the content. The intellectual property world however has for a very long time used these “middle men” to get the content from its creator to its consumer. (Enter advertisers and marketers, agents, publishers, producers, etc.)
And, obviously, before the internet and other such powerful, personal technologies, such “middle men” were needed. The “little guy” could not get his content, no matter how fantastic it might be, to the waiting masses. Technology advances making the production of the high-level content much cheaper, as well as new and previously not thought of technologies for distribution of that content. (Not to mention ways to consume the content: “smart” TVs, portable computers, tablets, even phones.)
All of that is to say that I believe we are already capable of a direct-to-consumer model for music and video entertainment, but the industry does not want to change. And, for obvious reasons: the middle man—networks, cable/satellite companies—is no longer needed, and they currently hold the vast majority of the power.
What About Live Events: News, Sports
This even applies to live video events. News programs, live sports—they all can use currently available technology to bring their content directly to the consumer, too. I really, really want to have a “Virtual Season Ticket” option for the Buffalo Sabres. The NHL offers a service called GameCenter through their website that streams (live) any game you’d like, except your local team! Who wants that??
The cable companies and the network who pay for the rights to carry the game do.
So we have come again to the main issue: money. Currently, more money can be had from the networks and cable/satellite companies offering very large contracts to sports leagues (and individual teams?) because they in turn can sell advertising during these sports programs and make tons of money themselves.
All at a greater cost (if not money, at least convenience?) to us, the consumer. Because Network X bought the rights to my team’s games, I have to subscribe to Cable Company A or Satellite Provider B to watch the show because (even though the team and/or league has the technology to stream the games to me, both live and on-demand) the only place I can get that channel is via that cable or satellite company.
So What Is Holding This Back?
Admittedly, one reason this is not happening—other than the Almighty Dollar–is that the technology is still a bit lacking on the consumer end. We have been sans cable for quite a while because we have a Mac mini connected to our living room TV (along with several other portals to view content in “normal” ways) which obviously allows us to more easily enjoy TV and movies via Netflix, Hulu, iTunes, Amazon, and others.
The next steps to tip the scales toward Direct-To-Consumer content distribution are:
- Superior data transfer infrastructure. I’m thinking some form of ubiquitous wireless data … like 4G, only way better—and cheaper!
- A “grandma-friendly” device that is affordable, and as easy as turning on your TV and “flipping the channels”. We’re close, I think… but still don’t quite have this one down.
- A break with “traditional” thinking. The consumer needs to shift from the radio station or TV channel mentality of having preselected content brought to you at a certain time, all at the whim and fancy of some other entity. The new reality could be you watch and/or listen to what you want, when you want to listen to it
- Advertising will also necessarily need to adapt. With so much more control available to the consumer, sitting through commercials is a thing of the past. If the old model holds, commercials will have to become vastly more interesting, making the consumer want to watch them, or else an entirely new way of advertising will need to emerge. I’d guess the latter will be the most likely route.
Are We Ready?
So are we ready for this yet? I AM! But is everyone? Probably not. The technology is available now to make it happen, and lots of content creators are moving that direction (or at least exploring that option). Once the “right” device comes around—like the iPod in 2001, or the iPhone in 2005—and the data transfer technology is even more accessible (and faster, better, cheaper) … well, I do believe this is the future of content distribution.
Of course, ten years from now, if we’re all still around, this post might be fun to read and say, “Ha! Boy was he wrong!!”
But I was right in 2005…