The Future of TV – Content

Photo of cable tv headend rack. Louisiana. Now...

Photo of cable tv headend rack. Louisiana. Now closed out of business. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Since cable TV became a nationwide product the content has been delivered by the cable providers in large packages that differed little from coast to coast. Small rural systems have typically smaller line-ups, but the programming available in the big cities is about the same everywhere.

The first big crack in how programming is delivered came with Tivo which let people record TV to watch later, including the ability to skip commercials. And quickly following that was video-on-demand from the cable companies. Now we are seeing a large amount of programming available on the Internet and I think we have turned the corner and consumers now have more say than the cable companies in how and when they watch content. This trend will strengthen and greater numbers of people will step away from traditional packages. I looked around to see what others are expecting for the future of content and here are some of the predictions:

Content Participation. This started in a mild way when home viewers could vote each week for the winners of shows like American Idol. This got millions of viewers heavily invested in the outcomes of such shows. Expect a lot more of this in the future and to a much greater degree. There will be programs that are driven by the viewers. The viewers will get a say in the plot development, the introduction of new characters or getting rid of existing ones. The shows and characters will participate in social media and become part of fan’s lives.

Viral TV Production. Even better than participation, viewers will be able to help fund new shows they want to watch. To some extent this has happened to a few shows today that were discontinued by networks but then picked up for independent production for the Internet. Viewers will not only get to participate as backers of new shows but will have the ability to have some say in the creation of content. I can picture Star Trek fans funding episode after episode forever.

Produce Your Own Content. Anybody who has witnessed 14-year-old girls watching video will see that a lot of what they watch is clips made by their friends or by themselves. As it becomes easier and easier to make your own content, and as this content is easier and easier to play anywhere, a lot of people are going to produce content to share with their friends.

More Local Content. To a large degree local content has died on cable TV. Larger markets have local news, but there is a lot of demand to watch local content such as high school football and basketball, parades, government meetings and other local events. The Internet is already producing ways to channelize local content and I expect local ‘channels’ to pop up all over the country. There is no reason that every high school, every college, every church can’t have their own local channel of web content.

Fewer Network Channels. I think everybody expects that as more content is on the Internet and as some of the more popular content becomes available on a per-pay basis that many of the existing cable networks will die. It’s been reported that 80% to – 85% of cable channels don’t make enough money to stand alone in an a la carte cable world.

Different Perspectives. Expect programming that will offer different perspectives. This has been done a little in the past with shows being filmed with different endings for different viewers, but expect a lot more of this in the future. There will be shows that will allow the viewer to watch the show from the perspective of a specific character.

Personalized Ads. Of course, with all of the good changes that are coming, there is a lot of consensus that ads will become more personalized. Of course, advertisers think that this will make you like to watch their ads since most of what you see will be aimed at you, but I suspect that is going to make most people even more jaded about advertising.

Sensory TV. As a science fiction fan I have been to a number of movies that purported to invoke the sense of smell, taste or touch during movies. I must say that movies with Sniff-o-rama were a little less than successful! However, it is predicted that in the near future that it will be possible though personal electronics to make a viewer really invoke the different senses. This will begin with gamers and will involve wearing helmets or goggles that will trigger brain sensations. But this will move eventually to wider programming.

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