Television used to be simple. No disruption needed. You simply walked across the room, turned it on, then walked back across the room and plopped down on the couch. Sooner or later other family members joined you in the room and you watched TV…together.
The first disruption in television was the addition of the “second television.” That disrupted the family. We no longer had to all watch the same thing. Johnny Carson used to joke that he was the most watched entertainer during “whoopee.”
The next disruption came from CATV (Community Access Television, commonly known as cable TV). CATV meant one big antenna would ensure a good picture to all who could connect to it. That, however, wasn’t the disruption. The disruption came when WGN started to sell itself as a SuperStation, making their channel available to all these burgeoning CATV’s across the country. That was the start of the 500 channel universe.
Disruption went into a state of neutral as year-after-year more and more of us became cable customers. A true disruption didn’t occur again until the mid-90s when DirecTV and Echostar introduced Direct Broadcast Satellite, or DBS. Over time nearly 30 million households chose DBS over-satellite, driven primarily by the fact the satellite dish went from eight feet across in your backyard to eighteen inches bolted to the side of your house.
The next major disruption, Internet television, has been around since the mid-90s. It’s still a work in progress. Perhaps the best known example of disruption came from Mark Cuban and Broadcast.com back in the day. We were able to see through Broadcast.com that converting broadcast to broadband was possible. The next disruption, disruption within a disruption, came when Apple cut a deal with ABC to put Desperate Housewives in iTunes. That was the beginning of the end for TiVo.
The Mother of All Disruptions (yet to come)
AppleTV and GoogleTV, and maybe even Netflix, are setting the stage for a disruption the likes of which we’ve never seen. Alliances never before thought possible will be formed that bring more and more control over content to you, the viewer. Your thumb is about to take control of the universe, the television universe that is.