You are what you watch.

TV, Movies, Web, Books, and other extraneous things, and why some are worth your time and money - mostly

Thursday, October 13, 2005

All the build up is over...

After about a week of all the fag blogs in a tizzy over the alleged pink Madonna iPod nano, I was not expecting anything bigger from the Apple announcement, (well, that and the video-pod, or the iPorn, as it's been christened.) we got the new pod, but no pink, alas. (If you still want a funky looking MP3 player, get an mp3 pez, instead)
But what's really, really, really, really exciting is the new iTunes video store (did I mention it's exciting). If it's successful, it could be the biggest shift in serialized long-form cinematic narratives (aka TV shows) ever. First of all, it puts my name into full use. This is a huge leap for active media consumption. It's been a long time coming. It began with the VCR. Suddenly, you could watch a show whenever you wanted, it was just a bit of a hassle. Then TiVo made the whole process simple, digital and automated. Around the same time, people began illegally downloading shows off BitTorrent, Kazaa and Limewire (thanks to high speed internet the files took hours instead of days to load). Audiences were now able to watch whatever when ever with amazing ease. At the same time, this was threatened to undermine the whole system that made expensive programs possible in the first place. TiVo, bittorrent, and even DVD's allow the audience to circumvent advertisements. The whole television industry is based on the myth that TV audiences watch and are influenced by ads, instead of changing the channel, muting the screen or going to the bathroom during them. Now viewers were able to get the content, without (with the exception of DVD sales) the network getting a penny (or a ratings point) from the viewer.
This is where the new iTunes comes in. We get the same ease as bittorrent (I haven't tested it yet, so I don't know about the speed yet) without risking arrest or ripping off our favorite shows (God knows Arrested Development needs the money).
But that's not all. If it catches on, and I mean if, cause it's not certain, it could totally change the TV landscape. First of all, it would dampen or remove the advertiser's ability to judge content (we might finally get a gay kiss on TV) because the advertiser would no longer be the source of revenue (this is why HBO/Showtime shows are so much better).
Some of the content rules might be able to be relaxed (bleeped black-barred version could be broadcast, and then an uncensored one could be downloaded, hurrah for cursing and tits!). We might even (and this would be awesome) be able to get some indie TV, now that there's a means to distribute it.
Nielson would lose it's ability to dictate to dictate what is and is not popular (right now, only some 8-10,000 families are Nielson monitored to represent the tens of millions of people watching TV at any given moment.)
With TV sold on-line to the mainstream, the market would become more forgiving to slow starters and cult hits, since the network wouldn't be losing nearly as much money waiting for a show like Firefly or Pasadena to find an audience (Pasadena was the first prime-time soap I ever watched, it ran for three whole episodes, and I saw them all, you lucky bastards with SOAPnet can still watch all thirteen though)

So in summary of my rant. iTunes selling TV = power to the people! So go, buy Lost, Desperate Housewives and show them who's boss!

But what of the electric hearth itself? Does it have a future? Yes, maybe. Web video will never be able to replace live programming, news, sports, weather, etc. It will take decades to for net shows to take over regular broadcast, for a lot of reasons. First of all, it's easier to try something new if it's free. And some programs are just more fit for active consumption than others. I mean, people may be dying to fork over 2$ for the Sopranos, but would people want to spend money to watch shows like the food networks "top 5". Some programs are best consumed passively, just watching whatever's on. I don't do this, but it's quite a popular pastime and it won't go anywhere fast.
There's also the quality issue. For obvious reasons any digital movie you download will have low clarity and mediocre sound, not to mention that you'll have to watch on a computer screen, the largest of which are just the size of medium TV's, to say nothing of watching a show on a 2.5 inch iPod screen. Meanwhile TV picture and sound have just been getting better and better.
There's also the appeal of flipping channels and serendipitously finding something you might not have other considered watching.
And DVR's like TiVo and Video-on-Demand won't be replaced either, but will be an alternative akin to downloading shows off Napster, with a monthly rate instead of per-movie fee.

I feel like I'm missing a lot of points, and if I come across some other interesting analysis of TV downloading, I'll post them here.

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