Is it a TV? Is it a PC? Is it a Mac? Is it a mobile phone, PDA? What is it?

October 31, 2006

It doesn’t matter. What matters is that it is connected to YOUR entertainment

Questions, questions, questions… We all ask them. We all getasked them. The industry right now is grappling to answer questions about content, entertainment content, as opposed to the feeling of being content. Both are important though, aren’t they? Who wouldn’t want to be content? Questions…

The industry has finally figured out that convergence is upon us. It isn’t just about television anymore it is about entertainment. It is about the consumer benefiting from connectivity. It is about the billion device universe. The questions that have been asked or should be asked are about keeping order in this billion device universe. How do you do that? How can a content owner have any warm and fuzzy feelings about YouTube? Does Google spending in excess of $1.65 billion for YouTube suddenly bring order to an otherwise order-less universe? Nope. Is there hope?

Questions… The funny thing about questions is that unless you ask the right person the right question then getting the right answer is really hit-or-miss. But, if you ask the right person the right question, perhaps even at the right time, then you’ll get the right answer you are looking for.

Here are some of my all time favorite questions (I took the liberty of answering them):

What is the meaning of life? I don’t know.

What does it mean to be average? Not sure I can answer that.

Is there anyone else out there? Probably…

The lights are on, but is anyone home? That depends. Let me check it out.

What about Bob? What about Bob?

Does anybody know what time it is? Does anybody really care?

Over the last several days Sunny Titan has had me doing final interviews with candidates hoping to join our broadcast sales team. This morning one of the applicants set down on my desk what looked like every tattered page of my Blog, complete with highlighting and bound together with a rubber band. Clearly, he had been doing his homework. I was impressed. This was going to be a good interview.

And it was a good interview, except for when asked me how I felt qualified to talk about the future of television. He immediately caught his faux pas and restated something along the lines of “What can you tell me about the future of television?” Hmmm… What can I tell him about the future of television? And why am I in a position to tell him? Was I second guessing myself? Nope.

In that instant I was immediately time-shifted into a reverie which starts about twenty-two years ago when I first met my eventual father-in-law. Rightfully so, he was quite interested in finding out what I thought the future looked like.

Up until the time I met my wife, she’d been dating a med student (every eventual father-in-law’s dream come true). I, on the other hand, was a washed up hockey player, who held little interest in med school. Everything I owned was in my car and the bank owned that. Still, I knew I was eventually going to do something. It’s just that I couldn’t explain exactly what it was. [Note to potential son-in-laws: It never pays to be inexact about your future when talking to potential in-laws.]

Well, as I am sure you’ve surmised, back then those of us who didn’t go to med school got into creating software. When we weren’t developing software,  we were watching television. Over the next few years we started using bulletin boards or using ELM to send messages to our developer brethren. The television was always on in the background, waiting, lurking, or being used for video games, and etc.

Long about 1992 it became clear to me that the PC and television were on a collision course of unprecedented proportions. Factor in the inherent connectivity created by the Internet and there you have it. Back in the very early 90’s, electronics giant Philips created a technology known as CDi (Compact Disc Interactive). I was president of Interactive Resources, the leading CDi authoring tools and plug-in company. Had the CDi technology been connected to the Internet we’d all have one today. Instead, it wasn’t. Most titles tended to be niche in nature. Very few purchased the titles which were created for the general populous. CDi thrived briefly in Europeonly to be rendered obsolete by the Web.

In 1996 I was fortunate enough to be sitting in a conference room listening to lawyers fight over copyright. The meeting lasted eight hours. When it ended, and before I made it to the cab line, I heaved my lunchbox-sized cell phone to my ear and called Mini Titan. I told him that if this copyright issue was as big an issue as it is today for satellite, imagine what it will be like when everyone is streaming everything on the Internet. He agreed. We built the solution, now called TitanCast, and we waited.

So you see, the future of television is about connectivity. Sure many of us will get cable for the duration of our lives. Most of the others of us will get satellite. Others will use over-the-air antennas. ALL of us will have an Internet connection and ALL of us will have multiple devices which are high speed enabled. Like an outstanding assistant, most of our devices will be capable of multi-tasking.

Advertisers, content owners, rights holders, and broadcasters will all vie for the best position on the screen, your screen. Your screen will be a connected screen. If you missed My Name is Earl, all you’ll have to do is point, click and stream it from your local NBC affiliate. Content owners will create video syndication deals for delivering content over-the-web, most likely with the same guys who pass their content over-the-air, over-cable and over-satellite. Simply put, the system that works today will be replicated for delivering content over-the-web. The best part? You are in control. You’ll see great content for free like you do today. The ads you’ll see will be different because you’ll be using a connected device to get the content. That means a smart company that places itself in the middle of that mess will make the content owners feel happy because their content is protected. They’ll make advertisers happy by delivering timely and relevant ads. They’ll make the broadcasters happy because they have content and they have ads. You’ll be happy because in the future of television you, the viewer, are CONNECTED and in CONTROL. Any questions?