A few years ago, I wrote a post (and more here, here, here, here, here, here, and https://buzzmachine.com/archives/2004_06_23.html#007358
) wishing somebody would create a digital place for my stuff, where I could put anything that I could get to from anywhere on anything.
Cablevision — of all companies — has made a step in that direction with its DVR in the cloud: a personal video recorder (that is, a TiVo) that lives not on your TV but at their headend. That means you can record a show and then watch it from any TV in the house.
This would not have been possible only a few years ago, just as networks distributing shows via iTunes wouldn’t have been possible, either. That’s because all parties thought they had entrenched rights, powers, and interests and those wouldn’t budge. But, of course, in the meantime, TV exploded.
Back then, I attended a Cable Labs meeting — the braintrust of all these local monopolies — and the elephant in the room was digital delivery of directly addressable content: that is, consumers getting what they wanted whenever, wherever, and however they wanted because they could point any device to any address. This, the room knew, would kill their control over the pipe and what flows through it. We, the people, would take over the pipe. It was inevitable. They just hoped to forestall that future for as many quarters as they could.
Similarly, I attended meetings with programmers who were dying to make their stuff directly available to viewers but they dared not because they had strangling deals with cable MSOs. They could not put their stuff online because of deals or fear of cable
But there was TiVo, beloved of every viewer who got it. And then there was the iPod, where people were getting other programming and so the big networks finally knew they had to put their programming there, too. And then came the Slingbox, which lets people view the TV they’ve paid for anywhere.
It’s all about control, our control. I’ll repeat Jarvis’ First Law of Media and Life: Give the people control and we will use it. Don’t give us control and you will lose us.
Cable fears losing us. And cable wants to compete with the TiVo and the Slingbox and the iPod to give us control of the media we want. That is a good thing.