Television viewing isn’t broadcasting anymore

Wherever I go in the broadcast world these days, the conversation eventually drifts to the future, something I believe will be more net-centric than broadcast or mass market-centric. While most broadcasters can easily see what’s taking place around them, there remains a strong belief in the broadcast model. For me, it’s not an “either/or” future, and I think that’s important.

But something occurred to me this week that I thought I’d share with you. As every broadcaster knows, the first focus group they encounter is in their own homes, and generally television viewing is pretty strong. Mike Sechrist has a veritable theater in his house, with over-stuffed seating and an enormous HD projector screen (Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s in-home theater!).

But here’s the thing: there is a big difference between television viewing and the broadcast model. For us, television is basically what we have today. It comes via cable or satellite, for the most part, and we have difficulty imagining that it would ever be any different. What most folks don’t realize is that cable already uses Internet Protocol (IP). The Telcos are developing IPTV, an expensive way to turn copper wires into what the cable companies are already doing. TV over IP is a different animal. This is the streaming video technology — that which makes up the various broadband channels that are popping up everywhere. All of these sources will be available to Mike’s projector, and viewers will have choices about how and where they view them.

Maybe you’d rather watch ZeFrank and Rocketboom on your computer at work. Perhaps you like to surf YouTube in your home office or on a laptop in the kitchen. Maybe you choose the porch or your bedroom for Comedy Central’s Motherload, CNN’s Pipeline, MTV’s Overdrive, or CBS’s Innertube. Perhaps you download movies and play them back in your home theater? You might want to use Apple’s new iTV to transfer downloaded network shows from your iPod to the computer than runs your theater, so you can sit and watch them uninterrupted. And maybe you watch sports the old fashioned way.

It’s all television viewing, and this is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of problems for the broadcasting model.

Like I said, it’s not “either/or” to me, because broadcast “signals” will always be around. When TV stations move to all-digital in 2009, people will enjoy HD offerings more easily, but they will still be just one pixel on the page that is television in the years ahead.

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