In a Time of Disruption, it is the Consumer that Wins

January 7, 2020

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.

Disagreements about what to watch drove disruption 1

The first disruption in television was the addition of the second television. That disrupted the family. We no longer had to watch one program altogether. Because the second TV was more often than not in our parents’ bedroom, Johnny Carson would joke that he was the most watched entertainer during “whoopee”.

Having something besides local TV channels drove disruption 2

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 Super Station, making their channel available to all these burgeoning CATV’s across the country. That was the start of the 500-channel universe.

A satellite dish the size of an 18” pizza drove disruption 3

After cable the next 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, driven primarily by the smaller dish size, but also by pay-per-view movies and the NFL Sunday Ticket.

Without a doubt, the Internet drove disruption 4

The next major disruption, Internet television, has been around since the mid-90s. It’s still a work in progress. Perhaps the best known early example of disruption came from Mark Cuban and Broadcast.com. 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 into iTunes. That was the beginning of the end for TiVo. Then came the Netflix transition from DVDs by mail to full-on streaming and content production powerhouse.

After watching the Golden Globes last Sunday night, where most of the awards were showered on the streamers, you might think TV is perfect now, right? Nope. Not even close.

True, the line between content creator and viewer is the shortest it’s ever been. That, in and of itself is a massive disruption and extremely consumer friendly. Choice, really in any area of your life, is a good thing.

But, to me, choice is what needs disruption. I mean, come on now, how much time do you spend trying to find something to watch? Choice has now hampered our ability to even watch TV.

The next Bill Gates will drive disruption 5

Gates purchased what later became MS-DOS back in 1981 and created a standard that made all developer’s lives easier. Without that standard, I might still be flipping hushpuppies at Long John Silvers or caught in a continuous loop hiking the Pacific Crest Trail.

Today, while we aren’t Lost in Space, we are lost in a sea of choices on OTT and someone needs to solve for that. There is simply too much to think about.

Because not having to think about what to watch next will impact billions of people, whomever solves for that will become the next Bill Gates. You heard it here first.