Bassackwards TV

ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, Universal, Paramount, and Disney are suing Cablevision in an effort to stop them from offering a DVR in the cloud — that is, from recording and serving shows on-demand not on a TiVoesque device in the home but on a server that lets us — the viewers, customers, former prisoners of network schedules — watch what we paid for from anywhere in the house.

Twits and fools. It has to be a pretty dumb and dorky bunch that can get me to side with my cable company!

But rather than trying to fight our proven desire to watch what we want to watch when, how, and where we want, the networks should be embracing it. The smart network will see this as another way to get more shows recorded and thus watched. They will recognize that there is no real difference — only an attempt at a legal one — between us recording a show on your VCR (if you still have one) or DVR (the TiVoish thing) or on someone else’s server. In fact, by recording the shows up in the cable cloud, we’re less likely to be able to copy and distribute them. The networks might have argued that Cablevision was just recording everything and serving it up at will — which wouldn’t be a bad idea at all — but to get around that, the cable system is, quite inefficiently, recording the same show separately for every customer who wants to. The networks are arguing that this is competition with their on-demand strategy. They should see it as part of their strategy.

You’re just not going to be able to make a business anymore on the backs of stopping people from doing what they want to do. That was the old network model. In the new network model, you recognize that we’re in control and if you do that — if you embrace every way you can find to distribute and promote your shows — then you might survive. Yes, the world has turned upside down. Figure it out.

  • If the big networks eventually want to do away with the middlemen(Cablevision) and use Internet VOD then it makes sense to keep cable companies using old technology for as long as possible. All they need are some good standards and a cheap MythTv type box that plugs into TVs. The big networks could agree on the tech standards and create their own cable box which would only require a broadband connection.

    They’re probably going to standardize on BitTorrent, a good codec and use Linux for the OS. And maybe they’ll do the RedHat/Open Source thing and use MythTV as a foundation.

    Here’s a quote from the guy who started the project:
    “I got tired of the rather low quality cable box that AT&T Broadband provides with their digital cable service. It’s slow to change channels, ridden with ads, and the program guide is a joke. So, I figured it’d be fun to try and build a replacement. Yes, I could have just bought a TiVo, but I wanted to have more than just a PVR — I want a web browser built in, a mail client, maybe some games. Basically, I want the mythical convergence box that’s been talked about for a few years now.”

  • Hunter McDaniel

    The big networks really want two things which are somewhat contradictory. First given that customers are only willing to pay $x per hour for entertainment, they would like to collect all of that $x without sharing any of it with intermediaries like the cable companies. Second, they would like to control the distribution channels (a la de Beers) in such a way as to create artificial scarcity which keeps up the price of $x.

    The telcos want to end network neutrality, which would work against the media networks’ first objective but would further their second objective.

    As as consumer, my interest is the exact opposite of the telcos.

  • XCableGuy

    Isn’t the phrase “Watch what we paid for” less than accurate–at least when it comes to ABC, CBS, NBC and FOX in their traditional broadcast network models?

    While you might be paying Cablevision (or most other major cable operators) every month for the privilege of getting the local outlets of those networks in your market, for the most part the cable operators don’t pay for those signals and have fought tooth and nail not to do so. The ongoing skirmish over “retransmission consent” has been boiling up to what might now become the full-scale battle royale, as there have recently been cracks in the cable stand as hard-line smaller tv station owners such as Nexstar have been willing to hold their broadcast signals off cable for months until the cable companies have written them a check for those signals. Since the networks are no longer paying local stations to carry their programming as they once did, those stations are turning to cable to make up that hole in their budgets.

    I get Hunter McDaniels point, but I am not sure that I object to part of my cable bill going for “Lost” instead of to Lifetime or SpikeTV, though I am sure that I will end up paying more for THAT privilege. If cable ever went to a true “a la carte” and you could buy it by just the channels you wanted, just how many more people do you think would want to pay for ABC over ABC Family, NBC over CNBC, MSNBC, & ShopNBC, etc.?

    The economics of television keep shifting on a daily basis.