I was once told a definition of technology was, ‘creates a need that did not exist prior to fulfilling it’.
It’s an interesting idea, that before a technology appears, we have no need for it. However, after we are exposed and become used to a thing, we need it. Such definitely seems to be the case with things like cell phones and television. Many of us today can recall a time we didn’t have those things. I didn’t have a cell phone until I was in my twenties, and it still didn’t work very well. Even to this day, I have no idea how to download an app because every time I’ve tried, it’s failed to download properly. Yet I have friends who almost cannot function unless they have access to over a dozen apps I’ve never heard of.
Television’s that way, for sure. I love television as a medium. I’m a huge fan. And yet, I’ve realized a growing unease with the medium. As more and more channels become available, surprisingly less is appealing. I took a moment to study my viewing habits recently – tracking what I watched much like one might track one’s eating with a diet journal – and I discovered I only watched six shows on television: Daily Show & Colbert Report, WWE Wrestling, Jeopardy, Big Bang Theory, and Agents of SHIELD. Everything else I watched, I streamed online. I suppose technically Daily Show and Colbert shouldn’t count since I watch those onDemand rather than at the time of their broadcast. So that would debatably bring the number down to only four.
(For emphasis, I want to reiterate that we’re talking about ‘viewing at broadcast time’, not streaming, not onDemand, not Netflixing)
1500 channels (give or take), four TV shows.
A huge number of those channels are going to waste.
Today, the WWE announced the release of their WWE Channel, a pay-per-view service that will deliver all their (considerable) content live and streaming, with the exception of their broadcast shows – Raw, Main Event, and Smackdown – which will be made available for streaming immediately after their initial broadcast.
If you aren’t a wrestling fan, don’t worry, the point isn’t wresting – the point is a la carte channel and entertainment purchases. For decades, cable providers have had a strangle hold on their customers, forcing them to buy channels they didn’t want. If you’ve ever purchased cable or satellite, how often have you looked at the channels available and asked ‘why must I pay for this’?
The WWE Channel offers the potential that you may not have to in the future. If this bold experiment works, then many other channels will follow suit. You may be able to completely circumvent your content provider entirely and buy the individual channels you want, and watch anything else you desire later thanks to the likes of Netflix, Hulu, etc. The potential is mindboggling.
There are going to be pitfalls, to be sure. Powerful networks like NBC or ABC may band together all their content into one service, thus necessitating purchasing a block of channels rather than each individually. But purchasing six channels to get two still looks far better than purchasing several hundred channels to get two. And content creators – especially blossoming, fledgling creators – may have some trouble. If you want a case study of that, look at the payout rates of Pandora or other music-sharing services.
But for now, let’s focus on the potential. Let’s acknowledge that today, television may be changing. And it may be changing sooner than you think.
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I will be a special guest at RoFCon this weekend in Virginia Beach, VA! Come out and see some of my panels or look for me at the Haven Publishing table where I will be signing copies of my new book, Rhest for the Wicked.