Exploding TV

Exploding TV

: I was lucky to join a lunch Fred Wilson and Brad Burnham held to ask some folks how TV is going to be disrupted with the advent of TV programming that will be directly addressable (as opposed to hose-fed by networks over wires).

Fred writes about it here. He says that some are enthusiastic about VOD, others by streaming. Predictably, I donned the video alterego of my Blogboy persona to become BitTorrentBoy. A few of my thoughts (including some remix of the conversation):

: The way to make big money in the longrun in the explosion of TV is to go around the present players. The current networks can’t act subversively because cable MSOs have them by the balls (and won’t let them put content out there on the internet to compete with cable) and rights-holders and lawyers have them by the neck (and will stop them from distributing content) and they’re addicted to big money — big expenses, big revenue, constant growth.

So learn lessons from the explosion of the print industry thanks to the advent of online:

Many of the big players will be new players — video Googles, Yahoos, Netscapes (RIP), eBays, Amazons, CraigsLists, and so on. Oh, there’ll be money made by the old guys in addressable video; they’ll make it sooner. But eventually, the subsversive companies will do to video what, for example, CraigsList has done to papers.

Walled gardens (AOL = cable MSOs; Pathfinder = oldstyle networks) will not prevail. Open, distributed, ad hoc networks will win.

Interactivity won’t mean pushing a button to get “more about this” while you watch a TV show (as ITV is now defined, insultingly and boringly). Interactivity will mean recommending TV shows to the rest of the world, remixing TV shows, making TV shows: citizens’ TV.

New tools and citizen producers will reduce the cost of producing TV to a comparative nil and there goes the barrier to entry to video.

: What excites me most is that reduced cost of production. That’s really what drove weblogs: history’s cheapest publishing tool reduced the barrier to entry to media and allowed anyone to produce and distribute text content. Now this will come to video. I’ve said it before (warning: I’ll say it again) … A half-hour of how-to TV that now costs X hundreds of thousands of dollars to produce can be done quite respectably — and probably with more life and immediacy — for a few thousand dollars. New content producers will pop up all over (just as they did in blogs) and now they can distribute their content freely (thanks to BitTorrent). That is where I want to play.

At the same time, networks will no longer be able to continually raise their rates even as their audiences shrink and so they’ll have to find profitability in reducing costs. These new content producers will show the way and even eventually start producing content for the big boys.

: There will be new tools to produce audio and video content: the video Movable Type. Apple is making most of those tools today; there will be a few more. That will be an OK business. I’d rather build the content and the brands than the tools, but that’s because I’m not a toolmaker.

: There will need to be a Google of video — a means of helping people find what they want. And, no, that’s not just about creating a search engine. It’s about capturing the metadata we create when we watch and share things and making sense of it. It’s not trivial but it’s vital for without a great guide, we’ll never find the programming we want and this new medium won’t work. This video Google thing will be the next Google and TV Guide and it will be big. And I doubt that either Google or TV Guide will be the one to create it.

: While copyright holders and Congress get their knickers in knots about protecting content and restricting its use, people will be copying and remixing and distributing content like crazy.

The smart content creator will embrace this. And it will be a helluva lot easier for video creators to embrace the Napster/Kaazaa/BitTorrent world than it was for music because (a) they can learn from music’s mistake and (b) we’re already used to video programming being underwritten by sponsors.

Video programming, as Fred says, needs to come with hooks to serve ads and ping servers. If that exists, then content creators will happily let their content be distributed by whatever means — so long as the can be paid when ads appear and so long as advertisers can target and track those ads.

This is a vital infrastructure that will enable a new world. Who will make it? Who knows?