Monday, April 10, 2006

ABC taking TV online

ABC announced today it would offer four of its most popular shows -- “Lost,” “Commander In Chief,” “Desperate Housewives” and“Alias” -- available gratis on its Web site during May and June.

Network TV has been moving in this direction for the last year or so -- you can plenty of current television on iTunes. And, if the networks can keep the ad dollars when they move the product online, it makes all kinds of sense to switch to an on-demand model.

However, what I'm wondering is what this means for all the affiliates out there (I'm looking at you, KRDO). Their network, their partner, their content provider, is doing everything it can to go behind their backs and deliver content directly (and without any local advertising, naturally). That's got to be disquieting, don't you think?

Internet delivery is not ready for prime time. It's still too slow, the image quality is lacking (especially compared to high definition) and if by some miracle 20 million "Lost" fans actually tried to download the show instead of tuning in on Wednesday, it would crash the servers so fast Einstein would go cross-eyed.

Nevertheless, direct, on-demand content delivery is obviously where things are headed. And so it's not too soon to wonder what it will mean for local broadcasters and content providers (I'm looking in the mirror on that one).


At 7:46 AM, April 11, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

IPTV, baby!

I look forward to the day where we can watch what we want and not have to bother with local affiliates.

I can watch the Twins game from Minnesota and the wife can watch Good Morning Arizona from Phoenix.

Like newspapers, I think local affiliate TV stations are next on the Super Highway chopping block.

The old media can hold on as long as they like, yet eventually the public will demand that this ridiculous affiliation system end. At that point, only the strong will survive in local markets.

Thoughts Andy?

At 8:34 AM, April 11, 2006, Blogger AndyW said...

In a perfect world, local TV stations and newspapers would transition to the Internet seamlessly, shedding their physical shackles and competing as information providers.

The problem for both TV stations and newspapers is that we have millions and millions wrapped up in equipment -- printing presses, broadcasting towers and so on. We need to hold on to those really expensive anachronisms, because we need them to reach the bulk of our audiences. The percentage of our audience getting their content over the air or on their doorstep will steadily decline, of course, but we can't shed those encumberances as long as we need them to reach our community.

This is obviously going to produce a financial crunch in the not-too-distant future when the revenue from old media sources can't support themselves. And I wonder to what degree locally focused information will ever be self sustaining. The current Internet business models are not friendly to local newsgathering.

Personally, I'd like to see the cross ownership rules abolished so that newspapers and television stations can band together to create a local brand and a dominant online presence that might/maybe/could attract a large enough audience share to be financially viable.

What that would look like, I don't really know. I sort of envision a free distribution tabloid -- sort of like the free alt weeklies we have now, but with more news -- combined with a very strong Internet presence that includes video. We shall see.


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