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December 09, 2005

Future of Television Conference

Beyond TV: TVSpy.com Next Generation TV
So, I went to the Future of Television conference a couple of weeks ago and was somewhat suprised. Last year, I poked my head in to see what was being discussed and it was a big snooze. After checking out the website, I figured it was worth my time this year so I went.

Wow.. I was surprised. You wouldn't know it but there are people in TV who really "get it"... Larry Kramer from CBS most notably get's it.

Here is what I had to say on the day of:
I am writing from Future of Television Conference at NYU's Stern School of Business today. I am here for several reasons, first of all I would like to know what the networks and traditional media concerns think of the scrappy interactive folks. Second, I am here doing recon. Specifically, I would like to know how long video bloggers and other decentralized media creators have before traditional media begins to offer enough of what they are doing to satiate "consumers". (Perhaps that is not exactly my fear but close enough for now.)

First of all, I have to say that Larry Kramer gets it. He really does. He is open to experimentation. At CBS he has launched many interactive initiatives from a broadband news channel to podcasts of daytime soaps to fantasy sports sites to deep entertainment content add-ons to viewer/user photo posting to writer and producer blogs to actual audience participation through SMS. Phew..

CBS isn't the only media company doing this type of experimentation. The other networks, cable and broadcast are doing the same or similar. Notable is ABC News Now, ESPN, Playboy and the like.

The question is, whether or not this is enough. Will this engage and empower viewers enough to keep them despite the ever growing number of alternative content channels. The networks certainly know how to deliver programming to a passive audience. They are just beginning to support a more engaged and digitally connected viewer.

A later speaker in the day, IBM's Saul Berman described the audience by categorizing them in 3 camps. "Massive passives", the folks that CBS has always served, lean back, over 35, want to be entertained but don't feel compelled to buy the latest gadget or create their own media.

The next camp, arguably the focus of most of these efforts he described as "Gadgetiers". He describes this group as heavily involved in content, they are fans, will seek out other individuals who are interested in the same content they are. They will purchase the latest devices, use time shifting (TiVo) and will space shift (TiVo To Go). They are also the heavy buyers, the early adopters, in short, the people that the advertizers (and therefore the networks) covet.

It remains to be seen whether what the networks are starting to do will appeal to this group in the long run. In the short term, it is clear, if you put it out there they will come. How long they stay is another matter.

The last camp, the "Kool kids", the ones really getting all of the attention, are the hardest to understand. He suggests that this is the group that rejects DRM and "walled gardens", in short, the group that wants media on their own terms. This is the group that uses P2P software and is heavily social. They have dream devices that aren't out in the market as of yet.

I know that the kks (short for "Kool kids") are what have network executives up at night. They are the hackers and inventors who are really driving the internet. TV and media in general will fit into their game or be disregarded.

Ok.. So the big question at the end of the day? Will the cable and TV networks run scared and do everything possible to protect their business models or will they embrace the new like they must. My feeling after this conference is that they have learned something from the music industry and will try to embrace but there will still be a major shakeup and Yahoo! and Google just might become the "new" networks. Good or bad.

Posted by vanevery at 09:31 PM

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