I got into a bit of a lather when I heard this interview
Wolff on Innovation Hub (a great podcast BTW). The topic was the future of
television and he expressed an inflated prediction that “Television is the new
television” and that no changes to the industry are forthcoming or necessary
for it to succeed.
It seemed to me that
he thinks they can do no wrong. Are you serious? I agree with his argument that
the demise of TV has been greatly exaggerated. But the truth is much more
nuanced – as it usually is.
First, let’s define what we mean by television. I can think of three components:
- Video-based content that we consume in episodic form in
units normally ranging from 30 minutes to 2 hours.
- A single-purpose appliance that we use to watch the video-based
content and otherwise sits there unused.
- A set of broadcast and cable companies that provide the
video-based content to be received on the appliance.
So how will each of these three components fare going
This is where continuation is strongest. We love episodic video
and it is not going anywhere. If anything,
it is getting better (Madmen, House of Cards, Game of Thrones, Orange is the
New Black, etc. etc.).
There are still changes coming of course. Maybe 5-10 years out we might be moving
towards headsets a la Oculus Rift. We might be able to change our view of the
scene in real time (like we can do to some extent with advanced sports
We also might go in the opposite direction with some shows –
just audio and using our imagination on the video. That is what podcasts like Serial are after
all. I subscribe to more episodic
podcasts than I do video series already.
Another change I see is that the length of episodes will
drastically change, in part because of changes to the other two
components. Already, we can get shows
that are 5 minutes long and episodes released almost every day on You Tube. We
can also get 2 hours once a month (which is how I get my American History TV).
And I can also see producers creating episodes of different
lengths and frequencies for different users. One group of users might want an
additional side-plot episode in between the weekly main feed. Another group
might want a monthly 30-minute summary episode to catch up or to avoid the time
Here is where we already see the change. Most of us still
have the TV appliance in our living rooms, but we also watch episodic video on
our laptops, phones, and tablets. Other form factors will emerge as well unless
the VR headset beats them to it.
I can imagine an appliance that hangs on the wall, connected
to the Internet, that handles all of our person to person (AKA telephone), media
consumption (AKA television), and interactive (AKA computer). And when not in
use, it has photos, paintings, or other visual media (AKA art).
Of course since we multi-task our media, we will still have
our phones handy. So we can tweet comments as House of Cards is playing or . .
. . (insert your favorite media multi-tasking here).
This is probably where the biggest changes will be. There is
no reason to have broadcast providers, cable providers, Internet media
providers. Everyone should focus on what
they are best at. Some might be content producers (Disney). Some might make
appliances (Samsung). Some might provide cross-industry access (Google). Apple
might continue to provide closed eco-systems but that will be the exception.
Most importantly, being forced into silly bundles will
slowly but surely fade away. ESPN can
only force me to get and pay for 17 different ESPN channels for so long before
I cut the cord (which I have!).
So this is my prediction. Feel free to share your own or tell me where I am wrong.