I was overheard to have once said…

Modern Marketing:

  A few years ago I saw Doc Searls make a presentation in which he noted, ‘In networked environments, the demand side supplies itself’. It’s a statement that sums up nicely what is happening in today’s TV industry – all beyond the legislators’ gaze.

I heard recently that a station in a big market was taking over one in a smaller market just for the purpose of taking the smaller one down. Why? My guess is, once over-the-air goes digital, transmitters are just pro formalities. Nobody will be watching “TV” anyway. “Stations” will just be branded sources still wedged inside the old cable TV “must-carry” regulatorium. So if an ABC station goes off the air in City B, and there’s still an NBC station in City A nearby, cable must carry the NBC station from City A. Something like that. In any case, the motives are also economic. Running transmitters pushing a million watts of signal (the maximum allowed on UHF) toward the horizon isn’t cheap.

Pretty soon the “TV” you buy will be an Internet file and stream tuner and recorder, with “must-carry” set-top-box features, so it can still get cable, satellite and over-the-air TV “channels.” In the world that makes, old-fashioned TV will look as antique as the telegraph.

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4 Responses to I was overheard to have once said…

  1. Flip says:

    Comcast in the bay area is making threats that they are going to switch all channels to proprietary digital requiring a box to see ANY channel.

    Considering how much TV is on the web now along with iTunes, if I can’t see any cable channels with my TV’s digital tuner I plan to cancel cable.

    Over the air HD has been looking nice as well.

  2. Doc Searls says:

    Leave it to Comcast. Wow. DRM thinking through all seven layers.

    I’m pretty close to canceling the TV part of my FiOS package. We watch so little of it, and most of what’s most interesting is on the “Premium” channels, which I can’t get off the Guide. They drag your eyeballs across that bait all the time. Terrible UI, too. The set top box is a standard Moto unit. Comes with Linux, but I think Verizon strips that out and runs their own whatever. Much of the physical interface is disabled. For example, it has RCA inputs on the front panel for a camcorder. Disabled. So are some of the inputs on the back. And it crashes all the time. Worse, sometimes it just goes off and comes back blasting at full volume. Scary. It’s inexcusable considering the quality of their visuals, made possible by 2.5Gb downstream capacity over the GPON fiber connection. They could do so much better, but don’t.

    DishTV is better, at least in terms of channel lineup and UI. We have that at our California house. There I can isolate the guide to All Sub, meaning just what I’m subscribed to. The action of the remote is much better. They play some of the same eyeball-baiting games, but are more tolerable. The set top box is also better, with an RF remote and a much bigger hard drive, so I can store more movies and stuff. Oh, and it picks up over-the-air TV. Verizon’s box doesn’t, though I’ll bet the electronics are there.

    I just played with an EyeTV on a Mac here, and it gets 26 DTV channels. Many are duplicates (SD + HD). It didn’t work on the road last week in CA, because I couldn’t get it to re-scan. (Just a bad UI issue.) But it was pretty good, considering.

    In Santa Barbara over-the-air DTV is spotty, coming only from >200 miles away across the sea, from San Diego. And Dish’s pictures are less compressed than Cox Cable’s.

    Whatever, it’ll be a big shake-up.

  3. cthrall says:

    All the complaints about DRM and poor UIs can be laid directly at the feet of the cable companies. All HDTV cable signals are required to be encrypted to the display source, so your TV or the software displaying streaming HD. The only supported UI is based on a very old framework. Putting *anything* on a set-top box requires certification by CableLabs, which is very expensive.

    The cable companies and Verizon do not want to end up as pure bandwidth providers, but they will if they keep their standard practice of complete and total lockdown.

  4. I remember Bill Gates once mentioned that the future of TV is slim because we in the future all the TV will watched through the internet. I have seen the crystal clear quality of HD Television from online videos and I have to say things look good. It seems like monopoly is part of business these days.

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