Posts about Exploding_TV

The networks miss the boat

I’m surprised that the strike-silenced TV networks didn’t have a plan B to call on all the new talent out there. I’m not suggesting that every YouTube video should become a prime-time show. But surely there’s a show that could be made out of the creativity of the public and in making such a show, a network would open itself up to new talent, whom it could commission to make new TV. And it’d be cool.

ABC made a show out of YouTube videos this summer, but it was more of the gotcha variety.

I’m thinking there could be a show made up of the entertaining videos people are making. Out of the millions of minutes on YouTube, Blip, etc., surely they could find 22 good ones, no? I’m prejudiced, but I’d start with Black20 (in which — full disclosure — I have an investment) and Mary Matthews and Liza Persky on 39 Second Single (with whom I worked on IdolCritic). But there are so many more. Ze Frank could be the emcee. Rocketboom could do the news. Who else would you nominate?

The network that does this finds cheap programming and new talent and tames that wild YouTube thing for its audience. I’m surprised this isn’t already in the can. Silly networks. Do they think TV can be made only their way?

Exploding TV: Death to the schedule

Chris Albrecht at NewTeeVee has a great post summarizing where network TV shows are available this fall . . . besides the TV. Here’s their very handy chart:

Network Home Page AOL iTunes Amazon Unbox Xbox Live
ABC Yes Yes Yes Just The Nine No
CBS Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
CW Just Beauty and the Geek No Yes Yes Yes
FOX Yes Yes Yes (free for now)

Yes Yes
NBC Yes Not Yet For now Yes Yes

I just downloaded the new Kelsey Grammer/Patty Heaton sitcom — for free on iTunes — because I missed it the other night and didn’t think to TiVo it. If this were old-time TV, I’d have been out of luck until rerun season, of course — if the show get to reruns. Now I can watch it when and where I want. How long will it be before the venues above add up to more than broadcast TV for some series? Not as long as you think.

TV explodes: The chain reaction hits critical mass

Internet usage is now approaching TV usage — in the US, the UK, Australia, Germany, and Japan — according to an IBM study to which Om Malik points us. Note also that TV networks’ share of online TV viewing is only about 33 percent, below YouTube and barely ahead of Google and social networks in the U.S. — and the alternatives are only beginning (in the life of internet video, it’s only 1954).

Why the hell isn’t online advertising approaching parity with TV advertising? Because advertisers are slow. Says IBM:

The global findings overwhelmingly suggest personal Internet time rivals TV time. Among consumer respondents, 19 percent stated spending six hours or more per day on personal Internet usage, versus nine percent of respondents who reported the same levels of TV viewing. 66 percent reported viewing between one to four hours of TV per day, versus 60 percent who reported the same levels of personal Internet usage. . . .

Despite natural lags among marketers, advertising revenues will follow consumers’ habits. . . .

Saul Berman, IBM Media & Entertainment Strategy and Change practice leader, said, “The Internet is becoming consumers’ primary entertainment source. The TV is increasingly taking a back seat to the cell phone and the personal computer among consumers age 18 to 34. . . .”

Unless, of course, your cell phone is a computer. Hat tip: Steve Jobs.

IBM, being a big-iron company, analyzes what this means to its fellow big companies. That’s where most of the consulting money will be. But it’s not where most of the change — and perhaps power — will be. Says IBM:

To effectively respond to this power shift, IBM sees advertising agencies going beyond traditional creative roles to become brokers of consumer insights; cable companies evolving to home media portals; and broadcasters and publishers racing toward new media formats. Marketers in turn are being forced to experiment and make advertising more compelling, or risk being ignored.

I prefer to look at the opportunities this profound disruption brings:

As we already know, of course, anybody can make TV (second hat tip Steve Jobs), distribute it (YouTube et al), and market it (via the link). The problem remains that even though the costs are a fraction of the old, big stuff, you can’t support it with advertising … yet. But that will come. Witness today’s announcement that YouTube has settled on its means of delivering ads. See also this from the IBM survey: 63 percent in the U.s. said they would watch advertising before or after quality, free content (34 percent said they’d be willing to pay). Speed up, advertisers.

As for advertising agencies becoming “brokers of consumer insights”: they should wish. Before, agencies and media were the gateways to the audience. Now, companies can converse directly with customers and get plenty of insights without gatekeepers. I’d rather be Facebook than an ad agency, wouldn’t you?

Cable companies becoming “home media portals” is a fancy way to say pipe. Period.

Broadcasters and publishers shouldn’t be racing to new media formats for one-way content. They should be racing to enable new kinds of relationships among communities of information.

And marketers shouldn’t just be experimenting with new forms of marketing — though they should. They should be trying new means of conversation with their customers.

Some more findings from the U.S. IBM survey:

* “Content” is now, at last defined as conversation as well. Use of content services: 45% social networks; 29% user-generated sites; 24% music services; 24% premium video content for TV (not sure what that means); 18% online newspaper. Ouch.

* 58% have already watched online video and 20% more are interested.

* DVRs are good for TV: 33% watch more TV as a result (58% the same)

* 74% contributed to a social network; 93% contributed to a user content site. Who says that forums are only for nuts, blogs for early adopters, and photo services for geeks? Everybody’s making content. Why do they do it? Feel part of a community, 31%; recognition from peers, 28%. Conversation.

* How is content marketed today? Peers. Primary reason for viewing content on a user site: 46% said the recommendation of a friend.

* But here’s the fly in my future-of-advertising ointment. Asked which ads “most affect your imopression of a product or company,” TV commercials on major networks got the lion’s share.

Weeds spread

Weeds - Nancy BotwinTonight is the premiere of the third season of Weeds. I’m a huge fan of the show. And, no, it’s not just because Mary-Louise Parker is the sexiest mom in America west of my backyard. That helps. But it is a brilliantly over-the-top portrait of the ills of suburbia and the pressures of families. And the cast is stellar. I inhale every episode. (Sorry.)

But I don’t watch Weeds on Showtime. My cable system’s deal for getting the channel is ridiculously priced and so I missed out — until I watched it via iTunes. And I ended up buying every episode of the first two seasons: $1.99 each.

This season, because I’d blogged my affection for the show, Showtime let me watch the first episode on the web — and it has opened this up to other “insiders” (all you have to do is register, I think). They also sent me the next three episodes and a nice little schwag garden bag I’d give to my daughter of it didn’t says WEEDS on the side. And now I’ve watched them all. Sucked them right up.

Only problem is, now I’ll have to wait a very, very long time for the rest of the season — until it is off Showtime and some contractual time has passed and it finally shows up in iTunes.

Damn. This is no way to run an industry based on popularity. If I’m willing to pay for the show, I should be able to watch it now.

I was thinking about this the other day when I saw other cable shows — free cable shows — advertised on my subway. I might want to watch some of them. But there’s not much of a chance that I’ll even go to the trouble of telling my TiVo to record them. And I certainly will never shedule my life around them. But I’d still watch them, if only I could watch them on my schedule.

All TV should be on demand. If you can charge and get money, fine. If you can charge for watching early and get money, fine. If you just want to expand your audience, great.

But TV networks are horribly inefficient means of distribution from our side of the equation.

I want my fix of Weeds and I want it now. What a silly industry it is the denies me this pleasure. Even drug dealers are smarter.

Death of the TV critic

Variety sums up the sorry state of the TV critic – and makes me damned glad I’m not one anymore. Gail Shister, who lost both her column and then her TV at the Philadelphia Inquirer, went so far as to hyperbolate: “If there’s one beat that’s sacrosanct, it should be TV.” Forget City Hall. It’s Regis updates we need!

TV as we knew it is exploding and so should the critics who cover it. There is no way — no way — that one critic can perform a one-size-fits-all service anymore. TV critics, like other critics, should become moderators and catalysts of discussion and criticism in the audience. They should be discoverers of hidden gems in the vast and overwhelming world of online video. Like TV itself, they must change or die. And many are just dying. The best example of a next-generation TV critic I know of remains Virgina Heffernan, who has used both her blog and her page to cover internet video with creativity and determination.

Guardian column: Live

I’m two days late putting this up thanks to tortured internet access in my Munich hotel. The limits of technology: a revolution is stopped by a log in the road. Anyway, here’s my Guardian column about the impact of live TV news from witnesses, a polished-up version of the discussion here:

The wait for Apple’s iPhone turned out to be the great non-story: hordes slept outside Apple’s stores across America to get a phone that turned out not to be in short supply. As soon as the lines emptied, one could just walk in and buy one.

Yet I say we will mark this non-story as the moment when television news changed forever. For in those lines were people with small cameras hooked to laptops, which used mobile phones to transmit video to the internet, live. They are lifestreamers, who have been simulcasting their lives 24 hours a day. Why? Because it’s there. They’d already been blogging, Twittering, Facebooking, Flickring, podcasting and YouTubing their lives. Live video was merely their next frontier.

Yet because they were there, we saw this news covered live, in video, sent to the internet and to the public by the people in the story and not by reporters. The news came directly from witnesses to the world. Two months ago, after mobile-phone video of the Virginia Tech mass shooting went online via CNN’s website – more than an hour after the event – I speculated in this space that someday, we’d see that same video from a news event being fed live, directly to us on the internet. Well, that didn’t take long.

This changes the relationship of witnesses to news and news organisations. When witnesses can feed their views live to the internet, news producers will not have the means or time to edit, package, vet and intermediate. All that news groups can do is choose to link or not link to witnesses’ news, as it happens. This means that we in the audience may not see the news on the BBC’s or CNN’s sites or shows; we may see it on the witnesses’ blogs via embeddable players from services such as uStream.tv and Justin.tv, which enable lifestreaming.

This presents an infrastructural challenge for news groups and consumers: how will we know where to find this news? For a time, we may go to portals for live TV, but they are overcrowded with content – and anyway, portals don’t work any more. Instead, I imagine that news organisations will devote people to combing live video to see what’s happening out in the world. Or collaborative news collectors, such as Digg.com, will find and pass the word about news now. The real value will then be alerting all the rest of us to something going on now so we can watch on the internet … or perhaps on our iPhones.

And soon, those very phones will be a means of gathering and sharing news. Lifestreamers have had to carry their apparatus in backpacks, which sounds onerous until you consider all the equipment and expertise still hauled around by the networks. One of the lifestreamers covering the Apple lines at the gigantic Mall of America, Justine Ezarik of iJustine.tv, has glamorous looks destined for broadband. She wouldn’t let a backpack spoil her image. Instead, she perched her tiny camera jauntily on a fashionable cap and hooked that into a tiny laptop in her purse. Yes, news gathering is now purse-sized.

The fact that this coverage from the scene is live also means it can be interactive: the audience may interact with the reporter, asking questions, sharing information, suggesting they go shoot this instead of that.

Now add in global positioning technology and the ability to email or SMS people who happen to be near a news event and it becomes possible to assign witnesses to open their video phones: everyone at Glasgow airport with a camera could have received an SMS suggesting that they start shooting and sharing what they saw moments after the flaming car rammed the terminal. They also could be warned to stay away from the danger. Live.

Problems? Of course, there are. Yes, someone could fake a broadcast. So producers may choose not to link or may issue caveats. It is incumbent on journalists and educators to instil an ever-greater scepticism as a keystone of media literacy in the era of ubiquitous news. And, yes, through each lens, we’ll see just one angle of the story; it is necessarily incomplete. But we can also get more people to show more perspectives on that story than was ever possible with coverage from the networks.

In a comment on my blog, New York University journalism professor Jay Rosen said this is a case of “media evolving toward a more and more complete imitation of life”. Or perhaps the two begin to merge: life becomes news.

TV everywhere

Friend Scott Anderson of Tribune Co. describes how their Ft. Lauderdale paper covered the iPhone story — not quite with the lightness of foot and equipment of the lifecasters I wrote about this weekend — hat-on-camera, Viao-in-purse broadcasting — but still, small for big media. The moral to the story is the same:

Live trucks? Microwave relays? Don’t need ‘em. Starbucks or another hot spot? Don’t need ‘em, either. And ultimately cell phones will be so good at video that’s all you’ll need for a live feed, period. But for now, we plan to keep using goodies like the GoStream, SlingBox, etc., to not only go head-to-head with local broadcasters, but to blow past them. Nobody has more local reporting feet on the street than newspapers. And we’re buying lots and lots of them video cameras.

Whenever I am with local TV execs, they grumble that newspapers are doing video like crazy. Yup. And the people formerly known as the audience, too.

Local independent TV

Via journalism.co.uk, we come across a local TV anchor and photog who chuck
the fame and fortune, the exposure and paycheck of jobs on the local TV news to create their own local online shows for Madison, WI, at StoryBridge.tv. They want to do stories that “validate” — their word — people doing good things locally.

Based on their beta stories, I wish they also chuck more of their local-TV ways and make shows that are a little rougher, less polished, more authentic. I also hope they put their videos up on YouTube et al and make them embeddable so they can be part of the local conversation. And I hope they’ll also do stories that are useful, not just TV-heartwarming.

Now having given those caveats, I’m enthusiastic about what they’re doing. They will surely avoid the fires and press releases and weather mania that inhabit most local TV nows — because they can’t afford it. And so they will go out and do real stories, showing their old newsroom what’s possible. There’s no reason any individual or team in any town couldn’t do this; the tools and distribution are all there.

They’re also doing innovative things, starting, for example, a nonprofit arm that will allow locals to support series that may not have commercial appeal.