New Life for Network TV?

Lest anyone think it’s game over for big media. IPTV, pods, and portals will give the major networks a direct connection to their audiences. MIT’s Spotlight on TV features two compelling essays on the topic.

Henry Jenkins of MIT chronicles the rise, fall, and rebirth of Global Frequency. Jenkins believes the lessons learned by WB will be picked up by all the networks. While I agree with his general premise, existing stake holders will significantly delay Jenkins vision of the future. I just can’t see ASCAP, BMI, AFTRA/SAG, and the WGA allowing the networks free reign to distribute this stuff at their discretion. It will take years to get everyone to sign on the dotted line.

For the nearer term, IPTV will thrive only where the unions and publishing giants don’t have leverage. It’s not just that the long tail is now economically viable. It’s the only stuff that can clear the necessary legal hurdles.

Ivan Askwith’s Slate article, cites the role of DVD sales in keeping series such as Family Guy on the air. He posits that iTunes, Google, and Yahoo! paid downloads will in essence have the audience voting with its wallets, but I’m not so sure that’s the logical conclusion to the trend. Askwith’s a lot smarter than I, so if one was to gamble on whose vision of the future is more likely to come to fruition I’d bet on his. That said, this is my blog, so here’s my opinion. I suspect that these new distribution models will render broadcast television as we know it virtually obsolete. News, weather, and sports will dominate the grid. Even TiVo as we currently know it will go by the wayside. Everything will be available anytime. Why tether it to the box attached to the living room TV? Why make me decide in advance what I want to watch? It’s too easy to forget to record what you want.

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