Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Convergence Complete: The Internet Coming to Television

For years now the writing has been on the wall for big media, the audience has been fragmenting, advertising has become less effective and the audiences have been shrinking, with the perpetual growth of the internet large corporations with deep wallets have been forced to compete with amateurs operating out of their basement (or a table at Starbucks.) Film production houses have been having fits trying to keep content from leaking onto the internet, with no success. Perhaps they should have talked to the record companies who have been trying for longer? The RIAA has even stopped suing people and while they'd like you to believe that it's because they've seen the error of their ways, I'm willing to bet that they just can't afford the lawyers anymore.

The general message for about a decade for big media has been "it's all over but the shouting" and now, six days into 2009 the shouting has begun. If you twitter you might want to have a look at @themediaisdying or more locally @Canadianmedialayoffs. If you don't Twitter you can have a look at Time Magazine: An End, and a Beginning, for the Media
"When an earthquake shook Sichuan and terrorists shot up Mumbai, eyewitnesses' texts poured out through Twitter. Some of the biggest scoops and best analysis in the election came from blogs and some of the best satire from YouTube. Political websites took off. The media have never been so ubiquitous or polymorphous. I can access more information on the phone in my back pocket than I could have, as a kid, in my hometown library."
I know that so far I'm not telling you anything you don't know but like television I'm trying to make sure that everyone is caught up first: "Previously on [insert name of formulaic TV show where the same stuff happens every week so it's barely worth re-caping the last episode"]

The thing is, things are about to get harder. The first thing you should know is that digital high def. television you bought on boxing day is obsolete - as is the blu-ray player. According to the Globe and Mail the internet is coming directly to television. I won't bother to quote it, the initial offerings will be minimal but if you've been paying any attention at all to technology for the last several decades you'll know that it's only a matter of a few years before integration is complete.

What it means is that very shortly everything online will be available directly to people in that large box in the middle of the living room. Everyone with a computer will essentially have a broadcast license and large media companies will have to compete directly with everything online. Television shows will have to compete with movies, they will have to compete with online video games, teleconferencing, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. Canadian television stations will have to compete with professional and amateur television from around the world and pay-per-view that charges money will be competing directly with torrent sites.

It also means that content will still be king, but it will largely have to be in house content. Alliance Atlantis won't need anyone to 'broadcast' CSI, they will be able to send it directly to viewers and keep all of any revenues generated. US networks won't need Canadian stations to broadcast their shows - producers in Canada, the US, the UK or China will be able to send programs directly all over the world without a local carrier and while great pains will surely be taken to protect content, with the amount of competition out there stringent controls, IP blocking, excessive digital rights management or other such interference will cause your audience to look elsewhere.

This may sound like doom and gloom but I assure you it's not. If you can live within this new landscape it may be the best time of your life. We are in the early stages of a media revolution that will make the invention of the printing press look like the arrival of the Salad Shooter. Entire history books will be written about this. Be good at what you do, be innovate, creative, flexible and don't be afraid to go solo or create your own media if the machine spits you out. Beyond that hold on to your hats, the fun is just about to begin.

Edit: On a related note, in the US at least, online video viewership rose 34% last year.

Graphic Via visualparadox

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