Will We Finally Have a la Carte T.V. Content?

The days of stopping someone from watching show X on a large T.V. but through and Internet device should be numbered. Google TV crashed. Fine, things fail. But the general blocking of content based on medium is a dying strategy. We are in stage 2 of the death of T.V., as we know it. Google, Apple, MS, Amazon, Netflix, fill-in-the-corp TV will live. HBO GO started to break from the pack and Hulu may be following. Why stage 2? HBO et al. are kissing up to cable. You have to authorize your content. In English, you have to prove you pay the cable company for your HBO subscription, Hulu, etc. before you can get it on demand for iPads etc. Here’s an example of silliness. A friend had a Hulu subscription but could not watch on his T.V. via a Roku player. The T.V. is simply a big monitor, and he could attach his computer. But the minds of Hulu thought “NO! Not on a T.V.!” The result was wondering whether to drop Hulu, not oh Hulu you’re so great.

Content should slip the TV versus computer snag soon. So, hello, Stage 3; thank you commodity cloud computing.

Customers want their content on demand. College students forgo cable fees, because they are so damn expensive and carry mainly crap they don’t want. Streams work for them, because they have the campus network. But many I know have cut the cable and gone to streaming only. And why not? Lower cost is clear. Plus, no one talks about whatever is today’s Friends at the water cooler because a #1 show is nowhere near as watched. Must see T.V.? Please.

I will bet that the demand for direct delivery of content will mean a new order for T.V. and film. As a technical matter, Ed Felten reminded me that asynchronous delivery of content poses problems. He knows far more than I. But consumers will want to buy (or direct subscribe to) content and will use the Internet to get that content. Producers like HBO will lead the way save for threats from cable companies. Assuming tensions in that sphere, someone will figure out how to leverage current network advances to store content cheaply, deliver it so that peaks are handled, and cable boxes will go the way of the DoDo.

In other words, why rely on cable for the menu of content? Cable’s value is the delivery of whatever content someone wants. The odd part is that I still subscribe to cable and will even watch a movie with commercials (Ocean’s 11 on TNT, Star Wars) when it is one rather than getting the DVD I own. But my way will die. I may abandon it too. And if the older folks stray, look out cable. The young ‘uns are already gone. More will follow. Then again the Lakers are on tonight. So maybe sports will save cable. Then again, sports teams own their cable stations when possible. Hey cable, say it with me: NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL on demand with a little ESPN for kicks?