Video iPod Shocks Affiliates, Spawns New TV Industry
Apple's announcement last week it will air episodes of ABC's Lost and Desperate Housewives, among others, over it's new video iPod has caused concern among network affiliates who feel "off TV" viewing will hurt rating and/or make ratings in accurate, let alone destroy their business model. All the hand wringing that will, no doubt, go on for the next year or two surrounding this issue could easily be skipped with the simple acknowledgment that every bit of broadcast programming will ultimately be available for download with or without advertising, viewable on an iPod, a similar device, a PC or ported to and viewed on a TV. Current appointment television viewing as we know it will disappear. Current rating systems will become irrelevant. And the buying of "TV advertising" simply won't be the same.
Whether it's the video iPod or the DVR or the PC, the hard drive will be where it's at. People will simply subscribe to RSS feeds of their favorite programming, have them downloaded when available, port them over to the viewing device of their choosing and view them at their leisure. This will throw a monkey wrench into the workings of all involved. Marketer's campaigns will no longer be able to reliably be flighted with specific, date-based timing. The networks, soon to be referred to as content distributors, will either become pay per view providers or face the inevitable ad skippage that any device holding programming will be capable of. Affiliates will become almost irrelevant unless they become some sort of pay per view middleman between network and consumer. In fact, the entire television industry could become obsolete when creators and producers realize they can offer up pay-per-view or ad supported programming for download themselves. All that's needed is a few really big servers and the networks, affiliates and cable companies won't have much left to do. For anyone that owns a DVR, they are already living a version of this reality.
The current method of television programming distribution can be likened to the purposefully crippled method most cell phone companies force their customer to go through when using a camera-enabled cell phone. The phones themselves are perfectly capable to transferring data directly to a computer. In fact some providers allow this. However, most providers force phone makers to cripple the phones so the only way to gets images from the phone to the computer is to send them through the provider's network, for a fee, of course.
For the purposes of this discussion, the cell phone companies are the networks, affiliates and cable providers. There's really no use for them when a producer of content can easily connect directly with a viewer. Yes, there's the details of supporting costs for producing the programming in the first place but HBO seems to have a pretty good handle on that. And yes, not everyone is gleefully going to pay for content when they have, since television was invented, received it for free.
Perhaps what we're about to witness is the birth of an entirely new sister industry to ad-supported television. This new sister industry would have no middleman. Producers would create shows and sell them directly to those who chose to pay to view them. From hard drive to hard drive as it were. Those who choose not to pay could fire up the ad-supported broadcast TV that's been in the living room for over 50 years.
There's bound to be all kinds of holes in this line of thinking so feel free to poke away at them.