Thursday, December 17, 2009

Rich With Television

The Intertubes are abuzz this morning with news that Google – which, in some eyes, is quickly turning into the Wal-Mart/Microsoft/McDonalds/McDonnell-Douglas of the Internet Bad Boys – is exploring whether to charge a fee to we ordinary folks who want to watch “premium content” (meaning not stuff like this).

Or this.

So all of you who can’t go through the day without your portion of LOLcats can relax.

But what about folks who, say, watch other stuff, such as Air Crash Investigation, a show I was introduced to by YouTube and watch exclusively on YouTube now? We may be out of luck. There are three options here. National Geographic may opt to leave things as they are – the episodes I watch are still available more than a year after I watched them, so I have to assume NG is either unaware or doesn’t care that their stuff is on YouTube. NG may opt to have the episodes canned and replaced by their own for a fee, or NG could simply tack a fee on to the videos already posted. Either way, I’d have to say I’m not really willing to pay per episode, nor per month, to watch this stuff, because I don’t pay for cable TV either. What will I do if what I watch becomes premium content? I won’t watch it any more.

But does that mean they shouldn’t charge for it? No. That just means I’m cheap. A lot of time, money and talent goes into making these shows, and those who make it ought to be recompensed. What Lucille Ball started with videotaping shows for later re-broadcast – the birth of the re-run – was great for us. We got lots of TV. Sure, most of it is bad TV, but there’s still a lot of content out there. We got it free on broadcast television because advertising worked. Today, not so much. Cable introduced subscription TV along with ads, and we lined up for it around the block. Then the Internet came along and tried to give it all to us for free again. Free may be nice, but free doesn’t pay the bills. And maybe free has opened the floodgates for the boatloads of crap we introduce into our lives. Watching too much television or listening to too much music because it’s so cheap to consume is just as bad, in my view, as buying a lot of cheap made in China crap from Wal-Mart. I don’t look back on my life and say, like Jack Handey, that I’m rich in television.

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