Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Television? Come on, let's be real.

Talks about establishing an "a la carte" model for cable television have come back up to the surface recently, and i find myself wondering if it's too late for everyone to even bicker over such a model.

I mean, does everyone still really watch television on television?

I know that there are still plenty of folks out there that like their TV the traditional way: by appointment only, no timeshifting, no on-demand. But, everyone that i personally know gets their television in different ways -- mostly online. And i don't roll with a necessarily tech-savvy crowd, either.

My mentee is 17, and he and his friends access their shows through sites like It's kind of like a library of links to streaming videos hosted all over the web. And almost every show you could want is on the list: sitcoms, dramas, anime, cartoons... They even have full-length movies (watch out itunes, netflix, movielink, etc.!) all neatly alphabetized, eagerly awaiting your mouse's click.

And these aren't links to shows created specifically for the web. No, these are genuine network shows, created by and for network television.

Not every show is available all the time, of course. Those DMCA takedown notices can cause the links to break occasionally. But check back in a couple days, and you'll find that the links have been updated.

Can sites like this be sued? Maybe. Napster got sued for hosting a centralized server that allowed people to trade files containing copyrighted content. So, sites like tv-links could be found guilty for essentially doing a very similar thing: hosting a centralized location that allows people to link to copyrighted content.

But even if sites like tv-links are sued, I don't think it really matters. Suing napster didn't do much to revive the music industry, so i don't think it'll do much for the television industry, either. The fact is that the world of content delivery is changing, and networks need to find a way to ride this new tech wave, rather than push against it and angering everyone in the process.

I own a television, but i rarely even turn it on. I watch all of my shows online. In fact, i'm just about to "tv-link" an episode of Planet Earth while I catch up on my RSS feeds.

So, bicker about "a la carte" all you want, cable network people. And get mad all you want, major network people. I don't know if it'll really matter for that much longer.

*UPDATE*: Here come the lawsuits.

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