I got to speak for about five minutes on WBUR’s “Here and Now” radio program earlier this week about the future of television — an ironic topic for those who know me, since I’m definitely not much of a TV watcher. The irony gets even thicker because halfway through the interview I found myself saying that the outlook for TV networks and cable channels is not completely hopeless, because even though they are losing control of distribution, they still have quality content. After years of complaining about how crappy network TV sitcoms are, we can finally see what truly bad video looks like, and suddenly the sitcoms don’t look so crummy anymore. To some people, anyway — I admitted to the interviewer that as for me, my primary way of watching TV shows is on DVDs from Netflix.
Most of the interview, though, was about the trend that I think is now inescapable: Content producers no longer have control over the means, place, or timing of video distribution. With the advent of devices like Apple TV, Vudu, and YouTube-enabled TV sets — not to mention Tivo and Slingbox — we’re fast approaching a time when people will be able to watch whatever shows they want, whenever they want, without much regard for the distribution mechanism, be it broadcase, cable, satellite, DVD, or internet connection. As someone who is dependent on Netflix to watch HBO shows a year after they’re originally broadcast, I can’t wait.
WBUR’s Here and Now – January 29, 2008 (scroll down to “Future Television,” and you’ll need Real Player)