Where is TV going?

Video recapping what was discussed in Media Industries class at University of Ottawa.


The Future of TV

In Tuesday’s class, we discussed the future of TV by looking at two articles, similarly titled. One was “The End of TV as we know it” by IBM and “It’s not the end of TV as we know it” by Sheila Seles of MIT. The main reason for the former’s title is because of supplementary content, powered by the Internet in the form of forums, blogs, and streaming sites in addition to another very powerful force: the growth of user generated content.

Dr. Strangelove says it took 50 – 6o years for us to realize user generated content, which some people call “guerrilla rebroadcasting”. This has now become a global phenomenon. One of the best examples of this is YouTube. As well, in addition to creating content, users are as distributing it via the internet, becoming broadcasters of this content. One example of user rebroadcasting is JustinTV.

These reasons are part of why TV might have an uncertain future adjusting to this new reality of increasingly more supplementary and user generated content becoming more commonplace However, I think it will still have a place. Streaming the Internet on our massive TV screens will likely be one of it’s future functions, albeit hopefully not it’s only function. What I think we are looking at, which is by no means a stretch to say, is that this is another case of media displacement and TV will adjust to the new technology which is the Internet to find its place.

Another reason why user generated content has been able to thrive is because of how Dr. Strangelove believes companies are acting.  “Old media companies are acting like old empires.” What he means by this is that old media companies like the big conglomerates we see today (think Rogers, Bell in Canada, Time Warner in the U.S.) haven’t yet been able to shift and align to their  user’s needs. Ex. paying for 500 channels when you only watch maybe 10. They haven’t provided solutions to our viewing habits, which new media (Internet) has, where we are able to more easily customize the content we want more effectively, paying less through streaming services like Netflix or Hulu or nothing at all, by using torrents or free streaming sites.

However, we did close on the thought of how the shift to new media, might not all be well and good. We talked about how the new media corporate culture could be just as toxic as the old media corporate culture. When assessing this, you can look at how so much time is spent as an individual in front of a laptop/computer screen, not interacting with others. Will this be a legacy of new media? The thought of being “alone together” that MIT professor Sherry Turkle has examined in her book. Time will tell how the disruptive the Internet will be on our culture, interaction with others, and media consumption habits.

The Early History of the Internet, How it’s disrupting the TV industry

Yesterday’s class focused on the history of the Internet, the stock market bubbles, piracy, and TV. We began our class looking at the work of a Mr. Henry Blodget, an Amercian equities analyst with CIBC Oppenheimer. During the tech bubble, Blodget was accused of securities fraud, by making recommendations to others that countered what he had written about and published in the media. He paid millions in fines then went away, barred from the securites industry for life. Now, he is an editor and CEO of businessinsider.com, allowing him to earn back his millions, while the clients he worked for I doubt can say the same.

We shifted our focus from Blodget, to a timeline looking at the beginnings of the web and Internet. It looks something like this:

1993 – The internet is commercialized. Up until this point the web was private but now everyone was able to get online and set up shop. Similar to what Facebook was like when it initially came out, only open to Ivy League schools,  it soon went public and worldwide. Now it has over 800 million users and growing, as well as they are hoping to go public on the stock market this year.

1994 – The web came along in the form of the web browsers such as Mosaic, Netscape, and Internet Explorer. According to Dr. Strangelove, the browser transformed the web into something that looked like TV, something which we could already understand. This allowed mass adoption into the medium, as the familiarity of a similar looking medium allowed people to trust the web.

1997 – 1999 – The internet hype machine takes over, all types of  basic domain names get scooped up (ex. petshop.com, cars.com). Predictions that “bricks will be replaced by clicks.” What this means is people thought that retail stores would soon cease to exist, and e-commerce would become the dominant way of doing business. Dr. Strangelove had an interesting comment on this, saying that we like the “circus” of shopping, and how some have compared it to a “religious experience”, with malls, such as the West Edmonton Mall, one of the largest  in the world, serving as “cathedrals” in which we indulge in our shopping desires. Furthermore, we like to touch, feel, our clothes, and this is the one thing missing from shopping online.

With all this  faith put into the internet, it soon translated into  people throwing large amounts of money  into these compaines, creating the 2001 dot.com bubble. Blodget, and many others like him profited from this, while the retail investor suffered.

We then looked at the disruption that the Internet is doing to the TV industry. Business that use the Internet such as Netflix, Hulu, and others are changing the way we receive content through our TVs. Piracy of TV shows, by using the internet, has made distributors wary and seeking more control over their content.  However, Dr. Strangelove, brought up an interesting statistic: “80% of U.S. piracy occurs overseas in developing, developed, and uncontrollable areas, such as China.”

Strangelove also went on to say that the number of people pirating so they don’t have to pay isn’t the reason why piracy is knocking down industries, it is more because business’ aren’t adapting. Look at how many good movies have come out the last couple years?Can you name many? It was on this point I tend to agree. I can’t remember the last good movie I went to. Strangelove believes that business is sticking to a 20th century business model in the consumer’s 21 century world.

Our class finished by looking at the idea that TV essential is free (by using streaming sites online) but if it’s packaged right, we will pay for it. Paying for Netflix, which I and I know of many others close to me do, is an example of this. Therefore, we as consumers have to get the right content from our content providers, so we get the most out of our dollars. Because bundling and paying for HD at over $100, when I only want to watch sports and the news as the current solution right now, is simply not right.

New media firms are turning from oligopolies to super monopolies

Yesterday’s class was good because of the quotes. Beginning with the one that titles the blog: “New media firms are turning from oligopolies into “super monopolies”, as Dr. Strangelove puts us. He made us centre on this point by looking at Comcast, and how it is the only provider in city after city after city in the U.S. This is a new trend,one in which other new media companies are striving copy. It goes back to the oft-repeated quote we discuss in class from the former media company Canwest: “If you can read it, download it, we want to be the source.”

“If you own the menu, you own the audience.” – Dr. Strangelove.

According to Phillips we are moving to 15,000 shows. That’s a pretty big menu and assuredly it all won’t be strictly available via traditional TV methods. Much of it is to be found online, with YouTube, Netflix, and individuals (it was here I mentioned Tom Hanks and his “Electric City” webseries) providing popular avenues to find great choice for consumers. News today of a possible slip by Amazon, that indicates the possibility of them getting into the TV production business.  As does the news today of Netflix talking to U.S. cable companies. to get on cable.

“You can’t always get what you want.”

This quote from that Rolling Stone song applies to policy decisions. However, according to Strangelove over time, corporations/governments will eventually get what they want. Although, SOPA/PIPA have gone away for now, they will come back, trying to gain more control than before.

So as consumers we must be aware of these new media companies as they move into “super monopolies” in efforts  to deliver content, that will lock us into their systems.

Jenkins’ Covergence Culture, the Changing Smartphone Market

In yesterday’s class, we talked about Henry Jenkins, a prominent media industry analyst. According to Dr. Strangelove,  in Jenkins’ book “Convergence Culture”,  he talks about how media consumers (us) and the corporation are coming together, converging our interests. This is in stark contrast to what we have seen in things such as the Occupy movement, where citizens interests are diverging and in direct opposition of the corporations interests.

Jenkins talks about how consumers and the corporation will move together to co-author content. However, Strangelove believes we are moving away from that and more into a centralized model, rather than a decentralized one which consumers would prefer. The reasons for this are obvious. Media ownership and concentration. Ironically enough, this is the topic that as a group we decided to cover for our video documentary. Furthermore, with the recent case of Megauploads suggest, government/corporations are making industry (internet) tightly regulated.

Another thing we looked at is Apple and how they are currently positioned in the smartphone market. It appears that market dynamics are shifting, with companies planing to release smartphones cheaper in price. This may prove a challenge for the iPhone, which in some countries, such as China and India, is just too expensive to afford.

However, a company taking action is Nokia, who this week announced a cheaper Windows phone. In fact, according to Strangelove, by 2016 half of the smartphones will be less than $300. So what will Apple do? Surely the world’s #2nd most valuable company next to Exxon Mobil, which on some days is #1 when its stock rises, will continue to try and be one  step ahead of the competition. With an ever-changing market, the importance for corporations to continue to innovate to meet consumers demands and position themselves for future growth is paramount.

Geist hits SOPA/PIPA out of the park

Tuesday’s lecture was all about Michael Geist and his work concerning digital piracy, including SOPA/PIPA. We watached one of his lectures/speeches where he looks at the history. One of the first things we looked at is how there is different layers of protection in the digital world, according to Geist. The 1st laywer is copyright. The 2nd layer  is digital lock rules, technology rules. An example Geist gives is region coding to DVDs, which locks certain TVs to certain countires. The 3rd lwayer, is legal protection for the lock itself, thus any attempt to get around the lock is infringement. Making the mere act of infringement is breaking laws.

The stock market and the big tech companies

This was by far my favourite class. We combined two of my favourite things, the stock market and technology, by looking at the big three players in the tech industry, Apple, Google, and Microsoft to see how they are doing in their fight for market share. The first thing we examined was a chart comparing the social networks Google+ vs. Facebook. Today, with Google+ around 100 million  users and Facebook at 800 million users and counting, the compairison isn’t even close. However, it took Facebook 44 months to get to 100 million users while Google+ has done this under a year, in about 8 months. Interesting. So it could be argued that Google+ has a lot of room to run, especially as they push it across their other platforms YouTube, Blogger and Andrioid phones.

For the rest of the class we would go through more charts of data about the companies. It was revealed through the data that Apple’s success and distince in market cap with Google is primairly due to the Iphone and how this additional another revenue stream has added to their bottom line. It’s no surprise why then that Google is trying to counter by purchasing Motorola Mobility last year for $12.5 B to try and close this distance.

Strangelove pointed us to the failings of Microsoft as an internet company, with their search engine Bing well behind Chrome (I believe 65% to 20% market share in the U.S.) and how they continually lose money, quarter after quarter in the online space. To air some of my disagreement with this, I went to talk to him after class.

One on one we were able to discuss my views on Microsoft, my hope for a RIM bounceback,  Apple, Google, Gold, and Warrent Buffet. It was good being able to unload. Looking forward to more next week.