Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Heads, Get Ready for A Thumping

There hs been some cheering among cable and satellite TV providers -- as well as those, like us, who watch TV from the web -- that the move into digital media is re-shaping the viewing world as we know it.

But if the folks at the Internet Movie Database (IMDB.com) have their way, what viewing habits we have now might radically be changed. Their goal, according to a keynote given at the SXSW Film Festival in Texas this week, is to stream online, with the push of one button, each of the more than 1.3 million movies online that they feature on their site.

IMDB notes there will be some difficulties -- namely with getting the streaming rights. Content is still King of the Internet, and you can bet that with this kind of one-site-streaming in the offing, the folks who hold the copyrights will hold them dear until enough money is dangled in front of them.

What'll be interesting is to see how the competition will shake out on the web. Already, Netflix is in this market, along with sites like Hulu. (I could include YouTube here, but since Netflix and Hulu want about this the "old fashioned" way and actually obtained permission of the copyright owners, rather than letting any bozo post copyrighted content to the web for all the world to see, I'm not sure I want to.) While one-stop -streaming might be appealing, ther is also the issue of competition. Whoever comes out on top will be in position to thump a lot of heads.

And, how will they pay for it all? Obviously, the model they have to pursue is free, because the Internet opened that door long ago and can't do much of anything to close it. If they charge for the content, another site will pop up and offer it for free, and given that most folks don't worry about or don't recognize they're watching bootlegged content, guess which model is going to win out in the end?
This all ties in with something that happened at home this week: The Nielsen TV ratings people have asked us to be a ratings family. This, despite the fact that when they asked us preliminarily a few months ago, my wife cautioned them that while we do own three television sets, we do not have broadcast or cable TV in the home. We watch movies. We watch taped TV programs. She watches a few current cable TV programs, but always directly from the web. They don't seem bothered. They sent us three TV viewing habits diaries and want us to record what we're watching, and when. It doesn't seem to disturb them that we don't watch much at all. So if suddenly the ratings for your favorite TV shows drop precipitously, it's probably because of us. I apologize in advance.

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