Sunday, May 15, 2005

I Want Legal P2P TV

Andy Abramson - VoIP Watch


The idea of TV in the home is dead, and just like downloadable music, I guess it's going to take Steve Jobs, not Bill Gates-despite all that Microsoft is trying to do, to make the studios understand that, unlike money after death, TV programming will be something you can take with you.
It's time the television executives who decide how broadcasting is distributed get out of the dark ages. They have to blend the old agreements about foreign distribution, first run syndication and rebroadcasting with all that technology has brought forth. They really need to get into the wired and connected generation. The technology and demand is there. Change the rules, don't make change in habits and capabilities of tomorrow conform to old school thinking of yesterday.
The recent cracking down by the MPAA may be good for the broadcast industry and the studios that produce shows in the near term. That way, they really can say they are doing something about the concept of broadcast piracy. But in the long run they have lost their biggest test and research market, and more importantly are aiming to stave off the the advancement of technologies like BitTorrent and other decentralized peer to peer technology. Anyone would have to be a fool to think that before Apple launched the iPod and iTunes, that they didn't research the user bases of KAAZA, Napster, Scour and other download services to figure out what people wanted, how they wanted it delivered and what would make it better, before walking into the labels and asking for the licenses.
First off why do people go to the illegal sites to find the latest episode of Alias, 24, The Shield and Desperate Housewives? Simple. Because either they can't get the shows any other way, or they forgot to Tivo/Replay or On Demand their favorite programs and don't want to wait for the rerun or DVD. With all the capacity on cable systems these days, one would think that second airing slots of programs would be something the networks would be looking for, but that would mean more $$$ to the MSOs, which is why I'm suggesting a win/win via legal downloading of television programs by the MSOs to help fight off the encroachment into their beloved space by IPTV over FTTP by the RBOCs.
I proffer up the idea because it's already apparent to me that the concept of "appointment viewing" is dead. For a long time the idea of appointment viewing ruled the networks. Hype a show. Draw big ratings. Sell commercials for major bucks. But now, about the only remaining gold medal in AV library is live sports and the news, and even the news is losing that mantle as the Web and the Blogs get news out sooner. With live news you to get to see things you may not want to miss or maybe you do. I mean, how many car chases post O.J. really matter? Do you really want to see the law enforcement officers gun down a speeder? News like that sure gives a new meaning to reality TV and makes us all recall the film "The Running Man." So while that kind of "novelty" content has appeal to some, what people want to watch are their favorite television series or made for TV movies.
I agree due to current contracts, the MPAA as the body weighing in to fight online TV downloading had to step in. I mean, the agreements with the DVD houses need protection, and I won't begrudge that point. It's a legal, binding clause that says the publisher/producer will protect the rights it has and in turn protect the rights of its licensees.
That said, I would gladly pay my cable company, or an aggregator, an extra fee each month to be able to download the programs I want to watch when I'm traveling or just busy doing other things. Sure, between the cable box and my Windows Media Center I have the ability to record and later watch the shows, but that means being home, something of late due to work related travel hasn't been the case. You see, I would have liked to watch the Shield's latest but the hotel I was staying in doesn't carry FX. I missed Alias because I was out to dinner, returning at 1015 PM so now I have to wait until I get home to watch something that I could have viewed on the airplane (Southwest, no movie, average fight about 80 minutes in the air).
This is all before one realized the value of the library of programming in the libraries, no longer in syndication. Wouldn't some of us still want to laugh at Bob Crane and the Hogan's Heroes gang? Wouldn't budding sitcom writers want to view "The Honeymooners" the show that really defined the 30 minute television comedy format? Wouldn't some sports fans want to dig through the archives of Wide World of Sports, the Olympics or even auto racing of the past? Soap Opera buffs would have the ability to roll back in time to see all that they missed. So, while the networks and studios worry about stopping today's piracy, they are missing out on a market that is already being built for them. I contend that just as music labels Rhino and Bomp built mega million dollar businesses out of content lost in the vaults, and then spurred on a resurgence of vintage rock from multiple decades, with artists who went on to create new content that the same opportunity is there for television programming now, minus the need for a DVD.
For the members of the Screen Actors Guild, or SAG as it's known in Hollywood circles, it would be a boon. Mo' money versus No money.
In light of all this, I say it's time to innovate in the television program distribution business. Take my Southwest flights. I would pay 2.00 dollars for the latest Alias episode the day of, day after or whenever. Give me a kiosk at the airport, let me plug in a USB cable and at high speed download the program so I can watch it for an agreed amount of time, and then cripple it. Better yet, give me a Rhapsody like front end and let me pick and choose, download while I'm broadband connected and let me play it back later. DRM my programming to death, but don't keep me from great content that was meant to be seen, not missed. Let me watch CSI-Miami on my flight home, followed by The Shield over Breakfast, well maybe before breakfast. Let me catch up on Desperate Housewives and CSI-Las Vegas, give me my West Wing and heck, even give me Oprah, but on my terms, on my time, on my dime.

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