The release of Hulu last week, the video on demand joint venture between NBC and Fox, signals the ongoing deconstruction of television programming as well as the continued convergence of the TV and PC. We also saw evidence of this at the Consumer Electronics Show in January through devices that enable us to watch and interact with the internet on our tvs. For me this is a ‘where is my flying car’ kind of thing. I’ve been wondering for over a decade when this convergent moment would happen. I’m not ready to proclaim it’s finally here but it feels like it’s getting awfully close.
So what are the implications of being able to ‘watch’ the internet from one’s couch. Well for one, the exodus from standard tv programming to internet content will only hasten. Video on demand and these next-gen tv sets, set-top boxes and mobile devices allow you to consume what you want, when you want and where you want. This will result in an exploding market for content and big changes on the media horizon. Here are my 9 Predictions for the effects of this convergence over the next few years:
- TV Networks struggling to maintain market share with sub-standard, more cost-effective products (reality tv anyone?) will continue to lose market share.
- Popular blogs will produce and distribute more original video programming, some will become ‘networks’.
- Mainstream TV (which now includes a large number of big cable stations) will scramble to adapt programming, acquire content start-ups and reformat much of their content.
Wouldn’t it be nice to have cheap, high-speed wifi blanketing
the entire United States? You’d be able to access the internet from
anywhere, which would allow you to stream entertainment during long
road trips, keep up-to-date on mass transit arrivals and
departures, fall back on google maps when you become lost, or just
not be tethered to an ethernet cord when you really just want to
watch your kids play in the backyard while doing a bit of
Sound appealing? Google thinks so too. And they’ve proposed yet
another solution to make this high-speed internet dream a
Here’s the plan: The February 2009 conversion of all U.S.
televisions from analog to digital will free-up an extraordinary
white space (basically, gaps of bandwidth in the previously
saturated television spectrum), that could be used to project
wireless internet signals throughout every home in America
ex parte filing with the FCC
states that “[t]he unique qualities of the TV white space – unused
spectrum, large amounts of bandwidth, and excellent propagation
characteristics – offer a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to provide
ubiquitous wireless broadband access to all Americans. In
particular, this spectrum can provide robust infrastructure to
serve the needs of underdeployed rural areas, as well as first
responders and others in the public safety community. Moreover, use
of this spectrum will enable much-needed competition to the
incumbent broadband service providers.”
Sound like a win-win for everyone. So what’s the problem? TV
broadcasters, wireless phone manufacturers, and even the
NFL are worried that utilizing this white
space will interfere with their programming, service or wireless
devices. Google argues that this would not be a problem due to
low-cost “spectrum sensing” which would prevent signals from being
The genre known as reality television sprang into existence
thanks to a drop in camera costs and increased digital storage,
editing and effects capabilities. Now, as we enter the acceleration
era, consistently dropping technology costs and new software
capabilities will enable a radical transformation in in the sorts
of reality shows we see on broadcast television and on YouTube.
One particularly potent reality TV catalyst will be nascent
virtual worlds technologies like Second Life, Multiverse and There which will not only
make possible high-end machinima (animation
via virtual world action capture, which is already taking off), but
also totally new, ultimately genre-busting, broadcast worthy
Back when I lived in LA and worked in reality television and at
the same time encountered virtual worlds for the first time, I
would often image the amazing reality shows that will soon be
possible as production technologies and practices evolve. For your
enjoyment and as a demonstration of just how crazy television
programming is about to get, here’s my current top 10 list of
future virtual world enabled reality TV shows that I’d love to see
1. U-BOAT: 25 contestants live aboard a submarine set and
engage in the historical experience of a lifetime. They must
quickly learn to navigate the craft through a virtual ocean
simulation and a string of dramatic WWII
battle scenarios. To both the contestants and the viewer at home it
looks and feels as if these modern day Americans are actually
piloting the submarine and narrowly staving off infamous Nazi
2. THE BOARD ROOM: The new
flagship marketing vehicle for Milton Bradley is an augmented
reality game show that allows contestants to literally step right
onto their favorite all-time board games. To the audience at home,
it resembles The Price is Right in game structure, but visually
looks like the participants have jumped into a Tron-like world with
their favorite games all around them.
3. REQUIEM: Each episode of
Requiem features one near-death person (young, old, terminal,
famous, interesting, compelling life story) as they leave behind a
3-D “plot” of land for the world. Each individual is given the
opportunity to create a 3-D world in which they deposit memories,
images and descriptions of loved ones, candid descriptions of
historic and historical events, favorite memories, renderings of
their dreams, final farewells, and warnings to society. (cont.)
With web and interface technology advancing rapidly, the television medium is quickly approaching a new age in which sitting on the couch facing a screen will no longer be the most popular way to consume broadcast content.
Long gone are the days when everyone would crowd around the television at 9:00pm every Thursday night to catch the latest Seinfeld episode.
According to the Nielsen ratings, it appears the annual new season blitz that once drew in more than 20 million viewers is on the decline. Among the top ten shows of the first week of premieres were Dancing with the Stars and Grey’s Anatomy. Each received respective numbers of about 20 million and 18 million viewers as compared to over 25 million just 5 years ago.
So what’s the reason for this sharp drop? Some have speculated that last year’s writers’ strike had pushed people to the cable networks. Other contributing factors include the increasing abundance of cable channels and time-shifted viewing.
Prediction: Alternate Reality Gaming and Reality Television will converge in a big way by 2013.
Alternate Reality Gaming is a new “interactive narrative structure that uses the real world as a platform, often involving multiple media and game elements, to tell a story that may be affected by participants’ ideas or actions”, as defined on Wikipedia. Basically, that means a fictitious scenario played out atop the real world.
To date, most of the massively popular ARGs such as The Lost Experience and I Love Bees have been largely organized through the web while serving a broader marketing purpose. But as the genre 1) continues to gain in popularity and 2) the cost of high quality video production continues to decline, it is likely they will gradually develop into a self-sustaining industry capable of generating programs that equal or exceed contemporary broadcast television quality.
This will be made possible by the proliferation of ultra-cheap and capable DV cams, easy and broad wi-fi transfer of footage, smart footage databses, and robust computers/editing programs that can effortlessly manage more video feeds and increase prduction quality in numerous other ways.
For example, it will soon become possible to organize a theme party (i.e., Presidential Campaign Trail), set some basic game rules (i.e. Everyone Must Dress Accordingly, Deliver Stump Speeches, then Vote for the Party President), record the entire experience, and then quickly edit it into a final product good enough to air on, say, a channel like VH1. My guess is amateurs will be capable of producing such programming inside of 5 years time – though by then the primary audience will likely be web-based.
That being the hypothesis, here’s a list of 10 other ARG/Reality Show concepts that I think could be produced over the next 5 years:
1.THE SENATE: This active political reality show pits 100 Americans against one another as they seek re-election by effectively role-playing a live Senate situation. Political parties are formed and dissolved, legislation is proposed and voted on, current events and wild-card situations add spice and flavor. Ultimately, the show serves to mirror and parody real-life politics.
2. FANTASY WILDERNESS ADVENTURE: Small fun-to-watch groups role play a harrowing Robin-Hood-style journey through the wilderness. They proceed from elegant or hilarious sketch-to-sketch and interact with B-actors and extras playing various medieval roles. The final product is an edited story that can be inter-cut with other groups on parallel or complementary adventures.
3. HISTORY: Participants are placed into unique historical and fictional scenarios and must use their role-playing skills to turn the situation to their advantage, often creating alternate versions of past events. The best role-players proceed to the finals where they interact with one another in a grand scenario. Expert judges (historians, psychologists, acting coaches) eliminate the worst player-actors until just one is left standing.
4. HACK ATTACK: America’s best hackers all try to crack a multi-layered and formidable website. They film their efforts via web-cam and provide interview commentary via Skype. The best footage, of both the game leaders and the most interesting personalities, is cut into regular episodes.
5. SECRET AGENT: Ordinary Americans are placed in extraordinary spy situations and must react and solve their assignment. They must unravel clues, decide which characters to trust, and ultimately survive the adventure. The winners are the ones who score the most points by achieving goals in the shortest time span.
Crossposted from Superconcepts
As consumer choice increases, and software teaches us to multi-task, attention spans are getting shorter.
TV appears to be the first casualty of this change of attitude. Simply the advent of more channels started diluting TV audiences in the late 90s. Sheer volume of choice has made people realize that they no longer need to watch what they’re told to watch, that the TV doesn’t have the same power over their lives any more. Even quality programming hasn’t saved it, as the “On Demand” paradigm has put timing in the hands of consumers.
As well as choice and control over TV content, the rise of DVD, the internet, and video games has further dispersed consumer attention. The new generations are growing up with an abundance of choice over their entertainment. This alone is causing them to demand choice and control in everything they do, something that is soon to have a major impact on our lives.
Move over Ray Kurzweil, here’s the Scenario Land version of the upcoming Singularity Movie. And guess what – the Singularity just happened!
Note: Make sure the movie loads fully before watching. I am trying to upload it to YouTube, but the feature is still buggy as Xtra Normal is in beta.
Using the new Xtra Normal platform, the above video took just 30 minutes to produce. This forward-step in super-user-friendly machinima brings us just a little closer to a scenario that I like to call The Toon Point, the time when virtual-world-generated video equals the average quality of a Saturday morning cartoon created in 2005. (Why 2005? Because that’s roughly when I began thinking about the notion of a Toon Point.)
Ever since my days in the West Hollywood Metaverse House, as my buddy and former roommate Jerry Paffendorf likes to call it, I’ve been a fan of virtual worlds and looking forward to The Toon Point. Due to their ability to incorporate and network other communication technologies, the potential of virtual worlds as an Interactive Communication Technology is simply astounding, and is reflected in their rapid diffusion patterns.
It has been estimated that about three million TV viewers will let their sets go black when the digital conversion takes place next February. “Approximately three million viewers could stop watching their local channels, which would have a serious impact on local TV ratings and their advertising rates.” About nine million people today have yet to make the conversion to digital broadcasting.
So what about rural areas of America?
Internet is already hard to get in places “out in the boonies.” Some use the words Digital Divide to describe third world countries and their lack of technology. What people fail to realize is that there are places in America that are likewise impoverished.
In an article about the town of Grove, New York, reporter Stephen Watson explains how small towns like these are lacking high-speed internet, cable, and even cellphone service. “They are part of a growing digital divide between those with access to cutting-edge technology and those without, a gap that cuts along demographic, economic and geographic lines.” When you consider how much work is done on the internet these days, it really has become a lifeline for many people in remote locations.
Upwards of 50 million people have access to web video through their televisions today thanks to Google, Sony and Nintendo, who have collaborated to bring YouTube videos to the Wii (50 million units sold by March) and PS3 (12 million units sold) through a custom version of the popular site modified for larger home screens.
From the YouTube blog: Currently in beta, the TV Website offers a dynamic, lean-back, 10-foot television viewing experience through a streamlined interface that enables you to discover, watch and share YouTube videos on any TV screen with just a few quick clicks of your remote control. With enlarged text and simplified navigation, it makes watching YouTube on your TV as easy and intuitive as possible. Optional auto-play capability enables users to view related videos sequentially, emulating a traditional television experience. The TV Website is available internationally across 22 geographies and in over 12 languages.
Many bloggers, including this one, have been anticipating this moment for some time, speculating that 2009 will at last be the year of Web Video on TV. Today's mostrous event clinches that moniker, making it extremely likely that by year's end upwards of 100 million game console viewers will have access to YouTube and other web video broadcast platforms through their traditional televisions. (Simply factor in the XBox reaction and ongoing Wii and PS3 sales.)
Couple that with the explosion of TV units capable of playing online video and we could be looking at 150-200 million total devices, a future that Google is looking to accelerate: