Friday, October 26, 2007

TV going the way of music?

How do people want to consume music? The answer, it is increasingly clear, is that people want SONGS, not albums. As Stephen Dubner of Freakonomics notes:

It strikes me as ironic that a new technology (digital music) may have accidentally forced record labels to abandon the status quo (releasing albums) and return to the past (selling singles). I sometimes think that the biggest mistake the record industry ever made was abandoning the pop single in the first place. Customers were forced to buy albums to get the one or two songs they loved; how many albums can you say that you truly love, or love even 50% of the songs — 10? 20? But now the people have spoken: they want one song at a time, digitally please, maybe even free.

How do people want to consume television? The rise of TV and DVR has increasingly shown tv execs that people, as always, want to consume shows on their own time, at their own pace, in their own way (TV, ipod, computer, etc.; without ads, in a row, 10-minutes at a time etc.). This is why NBC's decision to begin putting their shows for free online is genius....except the shows are only available to US IP addresses, which kind of misses the point (since the rest of the world is more wired than the US anyway; see this article about the US ranking 15th in internet connectedness).

Well, my favorite free tv website online, the late TV links, was shut down last week. In a move reminiscent of napster and its fight with the record industry, the site was shut down by the FACT (Federation against copywright theft) group. See this UK article: "One of the world's most-used pirate film websites has been closed after providing links to illegal versions of major Hollywood hits and TV shows."

HAH. Once again, they've missed the whole point, which is that online file-sharing and the essentially unlimited consumption freedom it confers is the future of entertainment, all entertainment (moreover, as this link notes: "On the facts that we know so far, it is difficult to see how the providing of links to infringing copies of TV shows gives rise to a civil or criminal liability under UK law").

Well, the article that got me all started on this is here, and is worth a full read. My favorite section is this:

It’s just stunning to see that the TV and film world haven’t sorted themselves out by making their programmes available for people to watch online - in the time between then and now. The end result? People are bypassing the owners of the content and going to any source where they can find the programmes. Hence the rise of sites like TV-Link and AllUC. Again we’ll see large media organisations shouting “FOUL!” and insisting that “Something must be done about this.” If they hadn’t spent so much time worrying about trying to get DRM working - treating their customers a thieves - and more time getting the content ready to be available to their customers, they might not have been in this position.

I would add that it is not only stunning, but frankly inexplicable. While music in the digital age requires a fundamentally different business model, it is not difficult for TV content providers (HBO through NBC, ABC, CBS etc.) to provide streaming video of all their programming. This can be done with advertising (even with embedded commercial breaks). The TV business, unlike the music business, is built like the internet!

Record labels have to change the way they sell music, but since most TV (with obvious exceptions) is provided free-of-charge, or at a nominal cost, with revenue earned through advertising, how does TV not jive with the internet? Free content, with revenue from advertising.....where have I heard that before? sounds familiar.......

Oh yeah! This is how GOOGLE is run, the kingpin of the internet! The internet is constructed on this model, where is internet TV!!!!!