Sunday, January 8, 2012

Is 2012 the Year Media is Revolutionized?

The new year is upon us again. Many folks have looked back on 2011 in many different formats, and contexts, covering many aspects of the past year. Everything ranging from events that happened in current media, ala, ETv, to TCM, and their annual look at all of the actors, directors and other classic Hollywood personalities who passed last year.

Of course there are are obvious losses like Peter Falk, and Steve Jobs.
Much as been made of the loss of Steve Jobs. Yes he did revolutionize the way we think of and use media, even the hardware we use to work with the media.
His earliest days with Steve Wozniak , one of the co-founders of Apple Computers, lead to a great leap in technological advancement, not just in computers, but in anything that a microprocessor could be put into. As microprocessors got smaller and more powerful, they became more accepted by the general public.
Soon there were a handful of theses new devices that played a new digital music format called MP3, which is a compressed copy of the music, thus taking up less space on a hard drive , but still sounding reasonably good to the ear. What Jobs did in 2001 with the IPod was take the big clunky MP3 Players that were out there, and redesign them into a sleek elegant , easy to use, player that worked as good as it looked. Along with that he developed ITunes, to handle the interface between the music and the computer, Mac being the only computer it would work with for several years.
Eventually, ITunes was developed for the Windows platform, thus opening up the IPod experience to the rest of the world.
The Importance of Steve Jobs on the world can't be understated, However, its easy to forget at the end of the day he like the rest rest of us was just a man, but a man with a grand vision.
Many of us have “grand visions” of ideas or concepts that we would like to make happen. However, the reality is that very few of us have what it takes to articulate what they see, much less being able to lay out a plan or pull together a team to make it happen. Steve Jobs, was one of those rare few, who were in the right place at the right time with the right vision. Apple has big shoes to fill, to continue the grand vision Steve Jobs let us with. I read recently that Apple is working a new version of the Ipad, and Possibility's even a Apple Tv. All rumors, until they are announced. However, the upshot of the rumors is that Apple is still working to redefine the way we use and treat Media, preferably keeping as much as possible in their wall garden of Itunes.
The predictions for 2012 have been varied and interesting. The main point most of what I’ve read is centered around two things. Mobile, and tv content. There seems to be a drive towards making as much content available on as many mobile platforms as possible, which is good. However, content distributors need to figure out ways to keep the content available on as many venues and platforms as possible. Having ones content limited to one place is essentially putting all your eggs in one basket. If that basket falls through, your left with a mess. However, if you have several deals with different distributors, such as Netflix, Amazon etc, and one goes bad, you still have your content out there hopefully making my money in the other places. And a bunch a smaller deals taking less for each one could pay off in the long run. Eliminating pay walls, and sign in as much as possible is something consumers will appreciate. and help keep them going back and using a service that has the content they want, without hoops to jump through to see it.

CES is this week, Jan 10-13, For those of you don’t know what CES is, here are a couple of links , This is the Be all and end all of consumer electronic shows. Held every year in January, in Los Vegas. It brings out the best and brightest and biggest, and even some very small electronic are showcased here. Everything from 55” and up tvs and a variety of tablet PCs will be seen including accessories to go with them. and items one probably hasn’t even thought of yet. many items will be prototypes or first generation. How many will actually make it to the consumer hands remains to be seen. The hype and clamor of CES is matched only by the Hulu of the Super Bowl, In many ways CES is the” Super Bowl “of the Tech Wold. The difference being, that there are usually no clear cut winners. There will be some who shine and bring products, that consumers need or at least think they need.. How many of those products will actually make it to market and how many consumers buy them once their there remains to be seen. And there will be many more with great concepts or products, that for one reason or another will never be seen again. Little companies who spent their last dime to get there and rent a booth at CES and in hopes to make a the right impression with people who can help them get their idea or product out of the development stage. Essentially do or die, and if they don’t get deals they need they go home very empty handed.

Television is something I’ve talked about on many venues and have expressed many ideas on the possible future of television. There is a lot of discussion about the break up of the traditional package programing models that we’ve been using for the last 25-30 years, starting when cable companies started bundling channels together to get deals for both them and the consumers. Problem is the bundles aren't getting better, and the prices for what one typically get in a bundle has continued to rise substantially over the last few years. This coupled with increased use of DVR and other time shifting tools has made it increasingly harder to get accurate numbers of who is watching what and for how long.The traditional “shotgun approach” to advertising is no longer working, not that it ever worked to begin with, but until recently there wasn’t a better way to do it. Now with content being migrated to the web and, new ways to counts views and exactly who is watching and for how long Advertisers are looking for ways to put this to use and, the consensus is that it will scale up as the year goes on. However, they need to consider the consumer, they are tired of being bombarded by commercials every few minutes as they have been on traditional tv for years. A few well spaced, and relevant ads will do more then a slew of ads they don’t want to see. This will drive them away quicker then anything. The ala carte’ model has been kicked around on and off for years, What that means instead of buying a bundled package of channels you pick and chose the channels you want. There are problems with that, same as there are problems with the way we do it now, so nothing is prefect.
The cable companies have been trying to avoid going to a model of this type for years for a number of reasons. A good article that I commented, on discussing tv and the future of IP tv is here. I read this site a lot and have commented on many of his articles over the last couple years. /Disney-Comcast-and-Why-TV-Everywhere-Alone-Is-Not-Enough/&id=3346
Poke around their site they have a number of site that they link to that have excellent articles concerning a wide varieties of aspects of the media business.

On the subject of adding content to your tv, and competing with traditional cable/sat companies; there are set-top boxes that can stream a host of Internet based content directly to your tv. A couple of more widely known ones are the Apple Tv which brings the Itunes experience to your tv, allowing you watch your bought tv and movies, not only on you computer but now on your tv. and the Roku.
Having received a Roku Box for Christmas, I find that is much more varied and interesting then I ever thought. It does the obvious streaming Netflix, Amazon and Huluplus to your tv, its only a matter of activating the account on the Roku site and box. and your good to go. However, going though the on screen channel store, you will find a wide variety of channels to chose from that will keep you busy exploring content. If that isn’t enough, there are what are called “private channels” that you you can add. For those you will need to do a google search to find pages that list them and the codes that you need to enter into your account on the Roku site. once entered, they usually show up fast and work. Boxes like this and the Boxee that can add a large amount of nontraditional or mainstream content to the consumer are something the cable and content providers and creators need to take into consideration. If they’re smart they’ll make as much content available on boxes like Roku and Boxee as they can. The basic idea is they need their content in front of as many eyes as possible.
Consumers generally only have a limited time to spend watching tv. The choices of what to watch are almost endless. Cable and Sat companies are having to work very hard to maintain every viewer they have, and attract new ones, which is harder as the choices of content, and where to get it increase almost daily.
In the end the consumer has the upper hand; they can tell content producers and distributors what they want to watch and where and how they want to watch it by voting with their pocketbooks. If ventures like Comcasts idea of TV everywhere are left to fly and get started in a big way, we will have a very fragmented ecosystem of Internet tv. which should be avoided at all cost.

So whats the bottom line for this year?
Television is no longer a big wooden box in the living room with a 27’ screen that the whole family gather around to watch Jack par, and “I Love Lucy”, and later “Gunsmoke”, and “Whats my line?” and a host of other now classic tv shows.
Today. television is more of a concept. Yes there are still physical tvs although they don’t look or work like the tv of old. What would be a more accurate description of a television would be a monitor that plays whatever is piped into it it. be it your DVD or Blue-ray player, to your sat or cable box, or Roku or Boxee, even your computer, it don’t care. Its a content/media player. Much the same as other media/tech terms we use today. The oldest of those is probably the “clicker” referring to the remote control. The term Clicker goes back to first tv remotes which did in fact click when you pressed the button .
For a history on the long and varied story of our beloved remote control see this;
Another term refuses to die is “tape” at least in terms of recording television content to be stored for later use. Tape as a recording medium goes all the way back to the 1950’s or so in studios to record records, the eventually there were consumer reel to reel recorders, and 8 tracks and cassettes. All for audio material only. In the late 1970’s into the 1980’s the rises of the VCR came about and suddenly everyone could get their favorite movies on tape. and as taping from tv became common place, the phase taping came to be. Fast forward to today. Our remote don’t click anymore, and can run a host of componets in a entrainment system. Also today the list of everyday household items that never needed a remote, and now come with at least a simple ir remote is growing everyday. Tape in the media world has nothing to do with tape anymore today its either to a hard drive, or a DVD. We use the term tape when referring to recording content to either a DVD or a hard drive.

As the media landscapes evolves over this year both consumers and content providers and creators, and advertisers will struggle to find the right balance of content distribution, advertising and control. Hopefully the consumer won’t get either caught in the middle, or left behind.

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