Commentary

How Will You Watch?

Now that the Writers Guild of America (WGA) strike is over, creative and technical staffs are back to work creating programming that is destined for worldwide consumption. The strike, of course, was based on the amount of money writers will receive for the rental and sales of content in digital media from, among them, online content rentals, streaming, and purchases.

Whether at the CES, IBC, or NAB shows, the common theme starting in 2007 and continuing in 2008 is to provide consumers with "whatever content on whatever device wherever and whenever they want it." There are undeniable social trends occurring on a worldwide basis. In the U.S., the number of people who consume news online is growing.  In Europe, content consumed on mobile devices is higher than in the U.S. Online advertising at the end of 2004 was $9.3 billion, with sales projected to reach $18.9 billion by 2010.

And, as importantly, the essential concept and definition of "broadcasting" is being reworked and recrafted literally before our very eyes and ears. The major U.S. television networks are, of course, multifaceted. They are broadcasters but they are also portal destinations. Current TV (www.current.com), co-founded by Al Gore and Joel Hyatt, reaches over 52 million people worldwide, and approximately 30% of Current's programming is based on user-generated content.

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And what about the state of news? According to media reporter Howard Kurtz, network news delivered by ABC, CBS, and NBC 25 years ago reached an average of 56 million viewers. Today, network news, augmented by even more networks, reaches only 25 million viewers, whose average age is 60. This is not the most impressive trend, to say the least.

For that matter, then, what is "broadcasting"? Do YOU watch CNN on cable or satellite? Do you augment that by going, daily, to CNN's Web site? Or, do you go to the CNN Web site and NOT to your television set? With video content available on the CNN site, do you distinguish any difference in the two experiences? Are the 30-second advertisements before the video clip less objectionable or more objectionable? Do you care? Does it even matter, because, of course, you can always work within another window while you're waiting for the ad to end?

And, while we are speaking about broadcasting, what better segue to YouTube? Is it a destination for video collections? Is it a community? Is it a broadcasting entity? Is it a portal? Is it an advertising platform? (Hint: rhetorical questions...).

"Niche-casting," also referred to as "micro-casting," is the notion that the audience is no longer an aggregate numbers game. That is, the idea that you can't qualify to be "a broadcaster" or even remotely consider what you're doing as "broadcasting over the airwaves" unless your coverage reach or actual following is greater than X number of listeners/viewers. These criteria too, are being challenged and redefined. One look at the number of viewers (100,000 and counting) on YouTube who watched a Beagle win the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ze0FgrDFr4E), sure seems as if there's a whole heck of a lot of folks who are interested in seeing coverage of the event. And so it goes on.... Like magic? Want to learn how to play the riff of a Van Halen song? Find it all online and see the videos for yourself. Are you watching broadcasts? Do you even care what category they fall into?

The world of content literally at your fingertips? Yep... it's coming. And, like Mr. Atoz from the Star Trek episode, "All Our Yesterdays" (http://memory-alpha.org/en/wiki/Atoz), you, too will have access to video content from everywhere from the world's library of content.

Will the WGA members be affected when the audience for their content becomes augmented by all of this niche-casting?

And for the majority of the "next generation of TV viewers" (whatever THAT means), you'll watch whatever you want whenever you want -- that's for sure.

But, how you'll watch it -- and on what thing you'll watch it -- well, that's the evolving, and much more interesting, issue.

 

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