Thinking Outside the Box: Why the Writers are Striking

We are witnessing television breaking out of its traditional box. Consumer electronics giants like Apple, Microsoft and Sony - not to mention a whole slew of smaller, start-up companies - are all scrambling to come out with technology to take advantage of the idea of integrating content from multiple sources and watching that content through things other than just the television.

38 years ago, musician and poet Gil Scott Heron wrote "The revolution will not be televised." Little did he realize how true that statement would be.

Of course, Heron wasn't talking about the technological revolution, but the statement could easily be applied to this new battlefield of modern media - where corporations and the creative minds that drive them battle to claim their share of the profits from consumers.

The ongoing strike from the Writers Guild of America illustrates how close we are to the dawn of this new age. The strike is more than the writers fighting for their share of the profits right now. It has to do with the profits for their programs in the future.

Not too long from now, the content they create (and have previously created) will be made available to a much wider audience, shown through a wide variety of devices other than just the 'ol boob tube. The writers know that its only a matter of time before these "non-traditional mediums" emerge onto the marketplace, and they want to make sure that they are paid fairly for their work.

Apple's "Apple TV" system, a newly redesigned incarnation of their previously failed attempt, is just one example of the products being created to bridge the gap between content on the Internet and content on the television.

However the catch to Steve Job's idea of an all-in-one device is that it forces consumers to purchase their content only from Apple's iTunes online store or YouTube and nowhere else. This limitation, designed to motivate consumers to use one product over another met with a lot of backlash, and the product initially failed.
"I'd like to say all of us have tried," said Jobs. "We have. Microsoft, Amazon, TiVo, VuDu, Netflix, Blockbuster, we've all tried to figure out how to get movies over the Net onto the TV. We've all missed."
In another sector of the market, companies like Qualcom, Verizon and others are designing systems to take advantage of the lower frequency RF signals, once they becomes available after the big analog TV switch off takes place next year. These manufacturers know that if they can be the first to market and convince people to watch programs on their cell phones, they can be a serious industry contender in this new frontier.

Instead of rushing home to catch the big season premiere of "Lost," viewers can simply choose to have the content sent directly to their personal media devices as soon as ABC makes it available. Have an errand to run and you are not near a TV to catch the scores of the big game (whatever that might be)? Just pull out your iPhone (or something similar) and watch the game live on your handheld device.

The idea is that people will no longer be tied to just a single TV set to watch their favorite programs. And that could include other content that might not be on regular broadcast or cable television. Being able to download and watch re-runs of the Carol Burnett show could be as easy as watching your friends video podcast they just produced minutes ago: All collected and carried on a single device and watched whenever you want, wherever you want.

Once home you are not restricted to what's on NBC at that moment, either. Say you just caught the final episode of "America's Next Top Model" and they mentioned an incident or referenced something that happened in an earlier episode that season, or perhaps a completely different season. Press a button or two on the remote and the computer connected to the system (or perhaps completely integrated into the home without the need for a separate computer) will call up the previous show and you can watch it instantly.

Its a nice dream to be able to seamlessly integrate all of this content into one central location, however don't expect this convenience to be for free. Broadcasters see this more as a way for them to generate additional revenue from old content. The broadcasters know that they will be able to charge a price for this extra content, in addition to possibly selling new advertising for old shows, doubling the broadcasters revenue streams.

The writers guild sees this potential as well, and they feel that if the broadcasters and the studios are going to make more money off of the writers work, then the writers should get a share of these profits as well.

We are on the precipice of a new technological era: where broadcasters have figured out a way to make more money, yet they are unwilling to share this new revenue with the people that put them there in the first place. And with new technology still being developed, and new forms of collecting and displaying that content emerging, The writers simply want their fair share.

The revolution will indeed not be televised; it will also be broadcast to cell phones and portable media devices and streamed via the Internet directly to digital hard drives in the home that integrate all of the content into one central collection point. And the people in the trenches of that revolution should be paid for their work.

Corporate greed cannot be allowed to trump creativity yet again.


Educated Fool said...

Brilliant article...

The Judge said...

Thanks very much for that!

Its something I have a bit of information about, so writing it was pretty easy.

Ill be posting more information soon about the upcoming analog TV switch-off and the advancement of technology.

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