Let’s Fix It!: Online TV Distribution
All the networks, channels and distributors have plans for Hulu or Hulu-type services. Even the head of the Hallmark Channel has probably asked an intern at this point, “What’s that Hawaiian-sounding thing everyone’s talking to me about?”
It’s easy and convenient to just watch your entertainment straight from the internet. There are numerous legal ways to do so, and youngins have been doing the same illegally for the better part of a decade. There’s very little reason to own cable and satellite if you’re internet savvy. Yes, it’s nice to sit down for a show premiere with friends and see your favorite show in crisp, resolution without having to let it buffer.
But this executive detailed his plans. Here’s what we’re fighting, internet.Comcast threw a huge wrench into the works by owning NBC. Had all the networks been independent, they would have less reason to play ball with old media and instead could continue running their own distribution services. Is vertical control ever good in business? No, but I can’t sympathize much with Comcast in this scenario.
The cable companies are going to do everything in their power to tie the necessity of a subscription to your ankles. One idea was to allow people to keep Hulu free-with-commercials, but only unless you had a monthly cable subscription. This unfortunately feels more believable than Hulu Plus.
The Perfect Scenario (for the consumer)
Put content selection in the power of the audience. People have complained for years that they can’t customize what channels they get on their cable. Take that a step further and allow specific show subscriptions. I want the majority of the NBC Thursday Night comedies (Screw off, Outsourced). I want that and not one mention of The Biggest Loser.
Embrace the independent production. Gabe from Penny Arcade surmised that it should have been possible for Veronica Mars fans to continue watching their heroine after cancellation by just giving the creators and crew money and getting a lower-budget, internet-released season.
Why not? We already have sites like fundable.com that allow mass contributions, why not merge that with a iTunes like subscription service? I would gladly chip in 3-5 bucks every week if I got to own more lovingly made adventures with Kristen Bell (and it’d get her out of the movie rut she’s been living in).
The Compromise (for both of us)
Continue the online streaming model that Hulu and Adult Swim have made so popular. Don’t fight distribution methods to put those services on the TV as well as the computer screen.
Ads over paid membership, and not both. It is insane that marketing heads can’t justify a 30-second internet ad between Modern Family as one shown on TV. A view is a view. I’m more likely to watch the one on my computer screen than the one when I can flip a channel.
You can’t remove the need for DVDs and collections. Allow full season access by rotating what’s available (Adult Swim and Netflix steaming) for free. Remember, you can make money by putting ads. This is how things used to work. It can still do that.
Let DVDs keep their value as purchases by including nice special features and the attached ability to carry a piece of media with you wherever you want. I’ll still buy Community Season 2 on DVD or Blu-Ray, NBC. Don’t worry.
What’s likely going to happen (good for the networks)
Hulu becomes a unberable combination of subscription fees and ads. Show selection dwindles. Comcast and Time Warner Cable dominate the country even more and force us to buy a clumsy plastic box to access the internet-content on our TVs. They’ll call it TV Portal Hole. Glee has 20 seasons.