The future of television, perhaps?
This week, Apple introduced a new iPod that will play video. That’s something that has been talked about for ages. Personally I didn’t see the big demand for that. Since it’s Apple/iTunes related, the materials on there would likely be all DRM protected things. Plus, as several folks have said, content drives these kind of innovations, and for most people watching these things amounts to movie trailers and music videos. Neither of which strike me as a compelling business model.
However a subset of the new video iPod announcement is the big deal, I think. It’s the fact that part of the content available for play on this new machine is TV episodes from ABC’s Desperate Housewives & Lost. While I don’t pesonally watch these shows, I recognize that they’re popular. Extremely so. What’s happening here is episodes of these series are being made available on iTunes for download for $1.99 each the day after they air. Commerical free. There aren’t many shows up there at the moment (only 5 total), but the concept is intriguing.
If it catches on like music and iTunes did, the potential for fans of various TV shows is staggering. I’d wager that most folks who are fans of a particular show would be interested in tuning in to these downlods at $2 a pop. Folks said TV shows on DVD would never catch on, and they’re now a huge percentage of DVD sales. I read online where 20% of all DVD’s rented are of TV shows. If this becomes a big deal, then folks who are fans of obscure television shows have hope that some shows could be revived and distributed. For example, I’m a fan of a extremely good show that was on Fox for three years called “Herman’s Head“. It’s never been released on DVD, and never been re-run (that I’m aware of), since it first aired back in 1991-1994. I’d love to get a good high quality version of this. Hell, I’d settle for syndication, so I could see it again. But no, it doesn’t fit the usual definition of “syndication”. Shows like this could be revived in a digital format such as this, as it would more or less be pure money to them.
It might also give hope to shows like Star Trek Enterprise. Not that I think it would come back, but if shows could raise income based on things like that, one would think that networks or production companies might be willing to produce more more episodes, leave shows on longer. You have to figure a show like Star Trek has a big built in audience of people who would pay $2 per episode to grab copies of their show. It would allow the folks making a show to get some sort of direct feedback on how popular their shows are.
Mark Cuban, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks has a lot more to say about this on his blog. It’s a fantastic read on the subject, and he’s far more erudite on the subject than I could ever hope to be, so I direct you to his blog entry for further reading.
Would I pay $2 an episode for TV shows over the Internet? Yeah, probably. Especially with stuff that isn’t easly reachable to me (legally) like the new Doctor Who from the UK. I’d pay for that in a heartbeat, wouldn’t even think about it. I really hope this catches on. A lot.
UPDATE: There’s a good story at Engadget about this stuff, with some more thoughts than Cuban or myself had. Check it out.