Well, as I’ve kind of hinted at with my enraged responses to some of the news today about how the Pay TV Industry is working on pretty much destroying Hulu, I’m not really a big fan of the Pay TV industry. Indeed, I’ve seen few other examples where an industry engages in so much brick-kicking against the march and progress of technology not to mention does so much to try to protect an outdated business model like traditional television and its associated workaround technologies.
Let’s face it folks. Traditional TV, technologically, is a dog with fleas. It’s had its day, and is very much on its way out. Just about all the equipment associated with the Pay TV industry is archaic in this respect too. It doesn’t matter how cutting edge DVR manufacturers like Pace or Motorola get with DVRs today. DVRs and the VCRs that preceded them are workaround devices whose job is essentially to make up for some of the technological shortcomings of traditional television. What? You have to actually change your whole schedule to watch something on TV when it comes on, or waste your time programming a box to record it for you? Oh puh-leeeeeeeeeeeeze. 😛 Just let me know when the DVD set comes out or I can watch it on Netflix. 😛 We’re fast-approaching a world where people will only view content in one of two ways, as soon as it becomes available or much much later, but not in the middle.
Content On Demand Technology – Embrace It Or Get Left Behind
We very much live in a content-on-demand world these days. There are so many options for content-on-demand that the video entertainment industry would do well to embrace consumer-driven change rather than do everything they can to stop it and alienate their customers along the way. Cable and satellite companies may complain about “cord cutters” or people who deliberately forgo any kind of pay TV service, but instead of treating potential customers like stubborn livestock or something they should view potential customers as actual human beings and ask, “Why?”
I’m very much one of those “cord cutter” nerds, except I never had a cord to cut. The whole time I’ve been out on my own since graduating college up to this point I’ve never had TV service at my place, because I don’t watch enough TV to justify the steadily rising expense. I made the decision even before graduating that if I as a poor person who works and sleeps and not much else had to choose between a cable modem and cable TV, I’d take the cable modem anyday because broadband blows Pay TV out of the water, and that’s exactly what I’ve done.
It’s not that people like me lay awake at night maliciously scheming of ways to run Pay TV providers out of business or something like that, but most of what’s on TV these days just doesn’t interest me. Most of what I watch is from some form of content-on-demand service. Maybe a Netflix movie every so often, lots of YouTube videos such as vlogs, over-the-shoulder tech videos, gaming videos, etc., video podcasts like Revision 3 shows that don’t air on traditional TV, etc. I’m not exactly flipping head over heels to watch the latest episode of Jersey Shore or American Idol. Probably the one thing that would make El Cheapo Pay TV service actually worth it for me would be sports if I ever watched something besides baseball and maybe some football every so often, but MLB and the NFL have pay streaming services for broadband available these days too. 😛
Of what little TV shows I actually want to watch, just about all of them I basically play catch-up with when online rebroadcasts become available or DVD sets get released. Even with paywalls where you have to wait 8 days to watch something online, I often take shows like Kitchen Nightmares or Lie To Me before it was cancelled (boooooo Fox) and “play catch up” with them on Hulu, Fox On Demand, etc. essentially using the Internet as a cloud-based VCR. 😛
All I can say is, if Comcast and their “partners in slime” de facto destroy Hulu I may add DVDs back to my Netflix subscription just to spite them. 😉 Netflix has been surprised before that their DVD service hasn’t died as quickly as they thought it would when they launched their streaming service, and if people who don’t want to pay tons of cash they don’t have for hundreds of channels they barely watch every single month have to resort to discs because online rebroadcasting gets utterly ruined by paywalls, I’m sure Netflix will appreciate the business, and feel really glad they didn’t go through with the whole “Qwikster” thing. 😉
Computerization Of Pay TV Systems – Will Its Potential Go To Waste?
One sign of the times here in the Information Age has also been the gradual computerization of traditional TV systems. Satellite TV of course is somewhat computerized, but here in the digital cable age even cable TV is getting like that as well. As this computerization continues, I’m wondering at what point the hardware will be in place where cable operators will be in a position to have an assortment of channels but offer their customers the ability to pick from them and make their own lineup and thus their own bill based on what they actually want to watch at home. A la carte service has been a hot issue among consumers especially as these developments have come about. At what point will the endless packages and bundles become strictly an artificial limitation on what consumers can have?
This point also applies to hardware too. Last week Comcast landed in The Consumerist yet again because they didn’t seem to grasp the simple idea that if they offer different types of rental equipment they should leave the door open for those consumers who might want a specific item and retrieve one for them if they do. 😛
I’m just cracking up here because imagine if a rental store that rented big TVs, furniture, etc., didn’t let you pick out what you wanted even if they had multiple SKUs available of each type of item. That place would go under in no time, but in the world of cable – forget it. Who cares about common sense, even if cable providers stock multiple types of tuner and recorder boxes? And these folks wonder why so many consumers aren’t huge fans of cable companies. 😛 The question thus remains, as video entertainment networks become more and more computerized, how much will the potential of this new technology be harnessed?
The Big Content Problem And Catch-22
What do last year’s Netflix uproar and this year’s Pay TV uproars about rate hikes have in common? Big Content. One problem with people’s dislike of the Telecom Industry is that despite all the shenanigans it engages in from time to time some legitimate business behaviors do still take place, such as if something beyond the control of the phone or cable company raises the operating expenses of the business that cost is passed along to the consumer.
Even in my neck of the woods the local cable providers landed in the TV news with a consumer uproar over rate hikes, which on the surface make sense, as did the uproar over what Netflix did last year. Companies should not be making everything more expensive when the economy is crappy and nobody has any money. People complain about the government raising taxes when the economy’s bad, but the private sector isn’t completely innocent of this sort of stuff either.
In the case of cable companies though, the rate hikes and channel lineup changes were legitimate when retransmission fees are factored in. Here’s an example from Fierce Cable, but a Google News search could probably dig up some more examples. Basically local TV studios collect a fee when their content gets transmitted over a cable TV network so essentially local over-the-air stations if they really want more money can try to get treated like basic cable channels even though they’re over-the-air local stations. Some of that sort of nonsense led to some of this year’s rate increases, but unless you actually follow this sort of stuff, would you ever know how any of this works? Of course not, so in the eyes of regular folks who just want their cable TV, this just looks like “once again the cable company is screwing me taking more of my money when I’ve had to tighten my belt with my finances elsewhere.”
The same thing happened with Netflix too. People got mad at Netflix when the real culprit behind their rate hikes was the threatened increase in streaming license fees from content providers that at least contributed to last year’s Netflix price restructuring. Unfortunately, as with Pay TV providers, it’s the company in the middle collecting the service fees each month that has to be the punching bag when that’s all the customer sees. :-\
As this awesome entry from Steve Blank’s blog back during the SOPA/PIPA fiasco clearly shows, if a company does business with big content providers, it’s not a matter of if but when the delusional nature of that industry makes the operators look bad. :-\
…Then Comes The Conflict Of Interest…
This kind of Big Content nonsense is where incumbent broadband providers’ massive technophobic conflict of interest comes from, which of course leads to the continued strangling of the development of broadband technology here in America. The future’s clearly a world of IP-based technology, preferably fiber as far as wired connections go, but what about these companies’ existing sources of revenue, especially when content providers continue to kick against the bricks and bring Pay TV service providers along for the brick-kicking ride? :-\
Uproxx recently ran an article predicting the complete implosion of the cable industry within the next 10 years based on this sort of stuff, but I’m not so sure the industry’s looking at an implosion situation here. I’m thinking more of a change or die situation where any companies who do go under or get bought out will do so because of missed opportunities that they didn’t take to save themselves. :-\
So, What’s Next?
Personally I think if Comcast and their “partners in slime” go forward with turning Hulu into the Great Paywall Of Video On The Internet Hulu’s basically done for, but don’t expect consumers to just go along with this or cord cutters to want to come running back to the Pay TV services they’ve parted ways with just because Hulu got sabotaged to death. If anything, people dead set on content on demand over Pay TV that they have zero interest in paying for will find a way to get their stuff, even if it’s completely offline, though I’m sure if Netflix’s or Redbox’s DVD business gets more subscribers/customers because of this they won’t mind the business. 😉
I’m mostly concerned about satellite TV providers though. Sure they may be bragging about having all kinds of HD channels now, but what happens when cable starts catching up, or better yet, what happens when “cable service” starts meaning broadband more than Pay TV? Satellite broadband a.k.a. “satellite fraudband” isn’t exactly what I’d call enticing these days when one reads the fine print with all its caps and limits. Maybe we should expect satellite TV providers and phone companies with their growing obsession with wireless stuff to eventually try to merge and turn everything into a giant wired vs. wireless fight? That would certainly be interesting from a geek’s perspective. 🙂
Hey cool. Since I’ve started writing this mega-monster of a blog entry this Hulu story has finally made it onto The Consumerist. 😛
Stop The Cap! too. 🙂
Let’s see what happens with all of this. Hmmmm…… 🙂