A view of television from seat 6C on United

May 10, 2007

If you regularly fly United Airlines, you might think the most important development of late is finally getting Coke back. Even after five years of Pepsi, Pepsi, Pepsi, I still ask for Diet Coke. I must have heard a thousand times in my life, “Is Diet Pepsi alright, hon?” (alright I know, it is only flight attendants approaching mandatory retirement that call me hon…)

Today the most significant event in the skies, United Airlines or otherwise, is unfolding right in front of me. Between the seats I see, sitting in 5D, an attractive young woman watching what looks like an exercise show on her Video iPod. Sitting across in seat 5B, a very large man with a portable DVD player is watching Curb Your Enthusiasm. Up in 3B, a thirty-something man in a t-shirt watches Star Wars episode IV on his over-sized laptop.

Remember when we took our laptops in an attempt to keep working? Remember when we’d write email after email and then synch up using our modem plugged into the phone in our hotel room? It seems now our laptops remain in our briefcases in favor of our PDAs. If we bring them out, we bring them out for entertainment purposes.

Today, instead of using my DVR to catch past episodes of The Office or 30 Rock, all I needed to do was fly United. Sure, they’ve had at least one of those shows on in the air for quite some time, but now they are back-to-back. It is all NBC all the time and in the air. As I glance forward to the front of the plane I see 1B and 1D wearing their headsets, their heads tilted way back watching The Office. Someone in each of the rows 2,3,4,5 and 6 is also watching, including me.

So it seems now that our entertainment follows us even if we remain device-free. Still, it makes you wonder. I’ve gotta believe that in the not too distant future, if I’ve missed The Office, that I’ll be able to queue it up right there in front of me. And not the episode everyone else is watching, but my own episode. And, since it appears United has sold ads to support their efforts, I am guessing my experience will be free.

As Chief Titan, I wonder how I can make this experience work for both viewers and broadcasters. The ads United queued up are terrible. I doubt I’ll ever enroll at a college in Hawaii. The solution is simple. You have to assume everything is going to be personalized in the future. Think Personal TV combined with FREE TV. If that can happen, then why not take our local experience with us? I am sure my local NBC affiliate would be more than happy to queue up a few ads knowing that I am on my way home. TODAY, let’s coin the term geo-relevant and start a revolution…

Viewers should demand geo-relevant ads, geo-relevant content, geo-relevant television experience based on who they are, where they are and what interests them. Television can and ought to work that way. Oops, time to put my seatback and tray table in their full, upright and locked positions for landing…the future of television will have to wait until I get to the office.