In Television Reloaded, Newsweek tech writer Steven Levy looks at a variety of the changes affecting television. Variety, time-shifting, video-on-demand, broadband, and TV size are just a few of the catalysts forcing broadcasters and advertisers to rethink the business. There's a nice quote from Jeremy on page3.
To paraphrase sci-fi author William Gibson, the TV future is already here; it's just not evenly distributed yet. Early adopters have jumped on the new stuff because they offer two qualities traditionally lacking in the fading era of broadcast television: personalization and empowerment. All of which is worse news than a crummy Nielsen rating for the major networks, whose market share has already plummeted in the past decade.
We're the last people who should show any skepticism at all toward this Internet TV and Long Tail stuff. But the Newsweek piece does include some healthy contrarian views (at least Newsweek was thorough this week). After all, maybe majorities of viewers will still gravitate to new episodes of E.R., even when they can search for and watch video from a library of millions of hours.
This doesn't surprise Barry Schwartz, a Swarthmore professor and author of "The Paradox of Choice." He fears that people may stick to a small group of selections that don't challenge any of their assumptions. "I worry about 250 million separate islands," he says. It's a long way from the first era of television, when there were so few choices that almost everything you viewed was a mass-shared experience. Schwartz does concede that when you have millions of options to choose from, you're more likely to find ones that really appeal to you. But even then, you won't necessarily be more satisfied. "Whatever you watch," he says, "you'll know that there's something else on that's good, and regret you're not watching it."
In a related article, we have Conan O'Brien's take on the Future of Television to provide a little perspective:
Meanwhile, computers will continue to be used more and more to watch digital streaming video, eventually turning them into televisions. With no computers available to solve complex math problems, people will have no choice but to return to the abacus. Within a few months, this ancient device will be abandoned when it's realized that there is no good way to make "abacus porn."