Monday, November 07, 2005

Catching Up and the Future of TV

I haven't had a chance to write in a few days, but I have a lot of ideas that will be coming out over the next few days. This includes a coming post on the shield law, especially as Massachusetts works to enact one of its own (one that appears quite good, actually). But not just now.

In a true blending of media, Yahoo and TiVo today announced a content deal. While Yahoo will provide some content, including TV listings and other such things, the deal does not include video.

We all know that a TiVo box is basically a computer with a big hard drive and some software that records TV. More generically, it's a computer that saves content, only that content tends to come from cable or sattelite rather than from the Internet. Still, the box does have a little-used Internet connection, the feature that Yahoo will be using.

But when TiVo gets interesting to me is when it can take vidoe via RSS from the Internet. The Yahoo deal is a step in this direction.

Why does that become intereting? Well, think about this. Imagine you have a TiVo box and you tell it that you like Star Wars. The way it's set up today the box will feed you the movies and documentaries that are on TV. As George Lucas comes out with the Star Wars cartoons and TV series, those will also show up. But if it's connected to the Internet, suddenly your box will also be filled with fan films, of which there are hundreds, if not thousands. Suddenly, anyone with a camera and some time can create something in the basement, put it on a blog like this one, and reach a massive audience.

What's more, when you turn on your TiVo, the fan films will be co-mingled with the Lucas-produced content. Yes, they're all on an even playing field.

Not scared enough by that? Ok, let's try this.

NBC, ABC, CBS, Fox, the WB and UPN spend a lot of money developing programming for specific audiences. They are, in fact, creating a visual brand. You know what you're going to get when you turn on Fox, NBC or the WB.

They see their airtime as precious and produce content that will sell. Of course, there are a lot of great shows that never see the light of day. Maybe they just stink (though soome of those do manage to get on the air), maybe they're just too sophisticated for the audience. Regardless, they're cast, produced and edited, but never seen. So there is talent out there that is not getting its airtime.

What if the producers released it just as the Star Wars fan films do? What if your TiVo, in watching your viewing habits, realizes that you like relationship-based sitcoms: Friends, Mad About You, Will and Grace, etc. Then it finds other sitcoms to feed you, those not necessarily on network television but just hanging around on a Web site. If they're co-mingled and the "brand" of the network no longer matters, how much is ad time on NBC really worth?

I see blogging, podcasting and video blogging as a step toward this eventual reality.

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