Deborah D. McAdams /
08.16.2013 06:00 PM
McAdams On: Gigabit TV
The future of TV—democracy defined
LOS ANGELES — Few topics generate more angst in the TV industry than the future of the TV industry. People generally don’t know about antennas anymore, much less use them, and they’re tired of doling out escalating fees to pay providers notorious for lousy customer service and recondite billing terms. The irony of stalemated retransmission negotiators depicting consumers as victims, is that those are the very folks defining the future of TV while industry insiders spit nails at one another in the media.

The future of TV is in the hands of the people thanks to YouTube, smartphones and broadband. So where does that take us? What does the end game look like and where does the money flow? And how long will the carrier model endure?

Certainty No. 1: Current models are under pressure from alternative IP based delivery. No. 2: Current models still generate a truckload of revenue and are not going away overnight. No. 3: As bandwidth is built out and made more efficient, subscriber flight will escalate. No. 4: Content creators (not owners, but creators) will have to shake tin cups on Kickstarter.

The typical response is to circle the wagons. There’s not much else to do if you’re heavily leveraged or the revenue stream is too massive to risk. But doing so further alienates a public increasingly happy to define “local” as social media circles, and “content” as the stuff being shared.

The future of TV rests on two premises: Behavior and bits. Knowing on a granular level how people interact with media is key—not just from big data analysis—but through observation. The consideration of all delivery systems as bit pipes is the other. The question then becomes, what can TV providers do to maximize their bit pipes in accordance with user behavior?

The answer may ultimately have nothing to do with TV as we now know it.

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Posted by: Anonymous
Thu, 08-22-2013 12:08 AM Report Comment
I am a child of the 1950s black and white home tv era--if you wanted to see color my grandfather had to take you to the local bar to see the miracle of color tv. I am an editor/technician who started in the 2" quad video tape machine era--I still have some of my "greenie" screwdrivers used for on-the-fly adjustments needed to optimize a playback. I worked through the miracles of 1" vtrs and the ability of digital signal processing to shrink and manipulate video. The ability to do nonlinear editing on a laptop computer that fully replaced a tv switcher and CMX editing system that cost almost a million dollars (in late 1970s dollars) completed the miracle for me. As a retired person who now can watch television programs (or videos or movies) with an iPhone held in my hands at any particular moment of MY choice, suddenly the premise of "broadcast" television almost makes no sense any more. I'm glad that I do not own any broadcast stocks. The whole premise of a broadcasting entity providing programming to many at one time doesn't work any more when so many can get specifically appealing programs whenever he or she wants. "Broadcasting" has now become "narrow" casting because so many more people all over can pick what he or she wants to see whenever he or she wishes to. To me the world of media and interconnection is now more exciting than than what I knew as television broadcasting. Soon I think finding broadcasters as we now know them will be as hard as finding present day manufacturers of 78 rpm records.
Posted by: Anonymous
Fri, 08-23-2013 10:44 AM Report Comment
While I tend to agree that the long-term trajectory is headed towards broadband, there will always have to be an alternative that doesn't cost money (at least directly) to access. One of the only numbers in the US that is higher than "viewers that can't receive a decent OTA DTV signal" is "people that don't have decently-fast broadband." I tend to think that the only weapon that broadcasters have to fight this trend is to be the providers of content that consumers absolutely can not get anywhere else - yep, more local production, and well beyond the nightly newscast. Yes, this will cost money, but OTOH the cost of production hardware has dropped to essentially a rounding error on a spreadsheet - jeez, we don't even buy tape anymore! - so the expense is people. A necessary expense, unless your long-term business plan is to roll over and play dead until you actually *are* dead.
Posted by: Anonymous
Fri, 08-23-2013 11:17 AM Report Comment
The content owners need to wake up and smell the coffee: linear TV and cable are the coughing canaries in the coal mine
Posted by: Anonymous
Fri, 08-23-2013 12:54 PM Report Comment
Hi Deborah: April and May 2006 - "Count on IT!". Interesting columns in this very magazine. :-) Warmest regards, AM
Posted by: Anonymous
Fri, 08-23-2013 07:46 PM Report Comment
I too have worked in the industry since the B&W days and edited with 2" videotape, and am still working in it. None of that is relevant. The public has the same desire for entertainment that it always had, and those sources which can deliver it in the most convenient ways while still making a profit will be the survivors.

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