Explode your TV

Explode your TV

: TV is about to explode, just as publishing is exploding thanks to the web and weblogs.

Many elements are coming together that will mean the barrier to entry to TV is dropped to the ground. Anybody can produce TV. Anybody can distribute TV. And TV will thus be able to serve any interest. Just as you no longer need a printing press to publish, you no longer need a tower (or cable or satellite) to broadcast.

Of course, that’s hardly a new prognostication. Many smart folks, like Adam Curry and Ernie Miller, have been writing about this for a long time (more links shortly). But now all the things that will make this happen are coming together quickly — why, as fast as global climate change in The Day After Tomorrow.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what Doc Searls started here and continued here regarding radio and I believe that the tsunami will come first to TV because:

: TV is more exciting to consumers.

: TV is more exciting to advertisers (who have been trying to turn the Web into TV ever since it started).

: Thus there’s more money in TV.

: There are also far greater savings in TV. Radio’s already cheap to produce. TV isn’t. But with new cameras and tools and citizen producers, just a few people (or even one person) can turn out decent TV today.

: TV does not bring with it the added expectation and difficulty of portability; we do expect to get radio everywhere but we don’t (yet) watch it in our cars (much).

Citizens TV will not look like the early efforts at TV online. It won’t be all edgy Atom films (nobody watches them). Neither will it exactly mimic broadcast and cable (why bother?). But you can, today, turn out useful TV with little effort and expense.

For example, you could with one camera person and one host and a little editing create a house remake show like the ones my wife and I now love to watch. You could create local shows about sports or politics. You could review movies. You could test drive cars or gadgets. You could teach people how to use, oh, PowerPoint. Or you could create source material: Tape the board of ed meeting and put it online. And then you can distribute it. And then you can get people to watch it.

Here’s how it comes together:

: Tools: It will take one now-inexpensive camera, one host, and some editing on inexpensive tools like Visual Communicator or even free, open-source tools, if you wish (Terry Heaton sent me to the work of Drazen Pantic, who can put an entire free editing suite on one bootable disc). That’s cheap.

: Distribution: You’ll no longer need to break into the cable or broadcast or syndication biz. You can put it up on the Internet. Once was, that would cost you a fortune in bandwidth. But thanks to BitTorrent and Broadcatching (see frequent Ernie Miller posts) — peer-to-peer distribution — the audience shares the cost. That (pardon me) is the wonder of distributed distribution.

: Marketing: The only way to market TV content in the past was, of course, to get distribution. But that changes in this new world where everyone can distribute. How does a weblog get seen? Because people link to it. How will citizens TV get seen? When weblogs and citizens link to it. Also see what Doc has been saying about sending out RSS notifications of new content.

Again, this isn’t all new but it is all coming together. I’ve been collecting links to stories that dance around all this in recent days:

: The New York Times today reports that TiVo will allow you to store and watch shows not just from cable and broadcast but also from the Internet. Soon you can create shows direct-to-TiVo.

: The BBC is going to change the way you watch the Olympics, allowing you to make your own sportscast.

: CableNewser reports that CNN is developing a broadband channel, competing with its cable channels.

: The Times also reported the other day about TV networks that can’t get on regular analog cable tiers and so they’re moving to the digital tier and then to the video-on-demand tier. Well, it’s not far at all to see them distributed on the Internet.

: See PaidContent.org’s coverage of Internet-delivered TV networks that go into boxes on your TV: Akimbo and TimeShiftv.com. And get a load of the programming they offer: niches of niches — Africa Movies, Asian Beauties, Billiard Club, OutOfTheCloset.tv, Sail.tv, The Yoga Learning Center.

: And, of course, see various pioneers who’ve been writing about all this for sometime: Adam Curry, Doc Searls, Ernie Miller, Dave Winer….

TV’s exploding before our very eyes. Can’t wait.

  • Terribly exciting. I think you’ve got a good point. The real stumbling block, though, isn’t the cost. The stumbling block is mainstream viability. Will the benefit provided be enough to justify the cost? Sure anyone can start the next Google, but what is the ROI benefit?
    How much harder will it be for independent producers to attract advertisers to their programming when advertisers are spending less and less on mainstream outlets? A friend of mine in marketing used to say that it all depended on the number of eyes.
    I think if Glen Reynolds posted daily video feeds to his site or even had live roundtable discussion streamed from his site, that could begin something like what you’re talking about.
    And then again I could be completely wrong.

  • Mike G

    Well, if I may be allowed something that comes close to promoting myself, I’ll show you a way this is already happening. Read about the documentary I made here, and how it wound up (briefly) in Hollywood:
    Now what’s interesting, I think, is that while we haven’t shown it via the web– it’s played public access in the Chicago area– everything else about it has been on the web. That’s how the people involved met, and it’s how almost a hundred people have heard about it and ordered copies from our website. Plus who knows how many watched it on public access (I have gotten comments from a number of people that they did, or even just discovered it flipping channels and then recognized me in it).
    Now, when I say some hundreds or very low thousands of people saw this, you might reply, well, that’s peanuts in TV land. But that’s the point. TV has all been about mega-audiences– even the most obscure cable channel needs to be seen by hundreds of thousands. But now you can make something for a microaudience and there are ways they can actually see it besides ten of them showing up at a church basement film society. If 500 people saw my movie, that’s more than I could have expected a few years ago, and I’m delighted.

  • Michael Zimmer

    The stumbling block is mainstream viability.
    Not to mention production values, skill, talent, etc.

  • dan

    If the entertainment industry is smart (debatable) they would use this channel as a incubator for new pilots/ideas. Produce it cheap, try it out, build a (cult) audience, move it to the mainstream. It will be cheaper (for them) to try new ideas and may allow creative but niche programs (eg. freaks and geeks) to actually survive.

  • Jeff, should we call it TV-logging? T-logging? Maybe T’logging. :-)

  • brian

    Steve, how about video web logging or “vlogging”?

  • The tools for television are cheap, but still out of the reach for many (and too many people don’t realize you really need a good mike because sound is even more important than the image). What would really help are expanded cable public access centers and community technology centers.
    Unfortunately, some cable companies like Comcast are trying to reduce or even eliminate their funding for public access.
    Another thing that will change things is material available through the creative commons concept like the proposals from the BBC and material already available from the Prellinger archives at “archive.org.
    In 1992, we used a bunch of Prellinger’s footage for free for a Paper Tiger installation at the San Francisco Art Institute because we knew him. Now, anyone can use those films.

  • Some folks are burning video onto DVDs, which is pretty cheap, and then just mailing them. Works for Netflix. I blogged about this a couple weeks ago, referring to a NY Times article. The article has disappeared behind the paid archives wall, though, unless someone can find a free link to it.

  • Ugh… and here I am with a face made for radio…

  • hugh macleod

    The price of TV was in freefall, even before it got blogorama’d. Trust me, all my buds in the TV biz have been hurting for a while.
    So instead of one Public Access channel (which nobody watches) we’ll have million (a millionth of “which nobody watches”).
    I’m not saying “goodbye to quality”. I’m saying “goodbye to the half-hour or hour format”.
    Joi Ito showed me a very funny TV thing on his laptop the other day. It was very good, very cutting edge. It lasted about 2 minutes long. That was more than plenty.

  • There is still one major stumbling block that needs to be addressed for this to become a reality. That is you need an easy to use tool just like weblogs needed Blogger and other blogging tools to push them into the mainstream.

  • Good point, Robert McC! =)

  • pb

    I foresee digital camcorders automatically streaming to the web via wireless broadband (Arraycomm?).
    People are making the wrong assumption that amateur TV will look anything like professional TV. Instead, you’ll be able to stream your daughter’s piano recital to loved ones, broadcast Reagan’s memorial from a variety of angles, etc. It’ll be interesting when people start bringing their wirelss camcorders to major league baseball games, etc. But I wouldn’t expect high production values, etc. That stuff is over-rated anyhow.

  • Robert and Hugh, see Visual Communicator for starters. On the right somewhere, I link to my very crude and rudimentary vlogs made with an early version of that tool (which is much more sophisticated now). That is the point: The easy tools are now visible along with the new means of distribution and promotion.

  • Jeff,
    I have always found your perspective and insight fascinating.
    Frankly, I would love to have your input and guidance to make BlogTV and Blogcasting a similar reality.
    You are right-on with all of this and I am tuned in to your message.
    Consider this an informal invitation to be on my advisory board. I will not take no for an answer. I am just as anxious as you are to see

  • I link to my very crude and rudimentary vlogs made with an early version of that tool
    I watched your prowar vlog and I have to say that I’m surprised nobody is doing this in their blogs yet. The impact of seeing someone deliver their point of view is far superior to reading it. I find most times when reading blogs it’s hard to really picture a person on the other side of it, but this is far more interpersonal.

  • Robert, Hugh, Jeff, Austin: We have developed an important part of the video tool you’re describing, the distribution system. I hadn’t thought of it before, but it seems to be perfect for v-logging. It was originally designed for large scale corporate communications.
    Please contact me (maury_at_planetblue_dot_com) if you’d like to try it.

  • Chris

    I followed the link for Drazen Pantic to Location One, but I can’t figure out where to find the “bootable disc” with the “entire free editing suite”. Can someone please take me by the hand and lead me to the water, so that I may drink?

  • not sure about the moniker Thought TV. the french have had thoughtful talk television for decades and it draws a moderate crowd.
    i suppose in the wasteland of the american mediascape, the oportunity to see something besides commercials, sports and inane series, reality or otherwise, this will be an innovation.
    frankly, there’s already too much tv in the world.
    to add to what michael zimmer said, good audio video production requires talent, training, equipment and most of all time.
    if all you web writers thought that blog writing was annihilating your private time with loved ones, wait until you see what TV can do.
    personally, i am enjoying our regression into the written word.
    is it just me or does it seem to anyone else that the writing on the internet is getting a lot better lately?
    thanks for the update however. we’ll all be watching or reading about this for the next ten years.

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