The Olympics has been both fabulous and frustrating. It’s been a great games with some fascinating stories of triumph and heartbreak but NBC has once gain contrived to make it near impossible for you to watch the games real time. Sure you can watch a lot online but not everything. It’s also frustrating to know that there are other content providers such as the BBC who have the content you want but to find you simply can’t access it because of rights issues. Put another way, the content you want has been created but the ability to access it on demand doesn’t exist. Yesterday’s mens 100m final was a great example. This event wasn’t shown live, instead you had to wait until almost midnight to watch the tape delayed version. CRAZY!!!! Of course the Olympics are a rare event and the prices paid by people like NBC require them to find ways of getting their money back BUT their approach is the same as many other content owners – force people to either watch it when we want them to or access it later via tape delay or some on demand service. There appears to be no other option. You can’t even click a button that says: ‘watch live for $5’. All this got me thinking about how much other content is out there that people would like to access but they don’t because it’s just too hard to get. In these Google and youtube infused days it seems crazy to be struggling to access content but we do. Some of the problem is that searching is still too dependent on our ability to describe what we are looking for and the other part is there aren’t always systems that allow us to see the content when we find it. Madness. What we need is the technology to find the right content AND the technology to allow you to access it. Here in California I have access to a mass of TV content that I don’t consume and don’t even want to consume. I’d gladly substitute 99% of the unwanted content for another few percent of content I do want. This all reminds me a paper Theodore Levitt wrote where he mentioned that people don’t want to buy fuel for their cars, they simply want to be able to drive somewhere. In other words they would never care if they saw the fuel. Likewise I don’t care what content I am given access to, I simply want the content I want. Of the hundreds of channels on my TV I could have three or four and be perfectly happy if those channels had just the stuff I want. In other words I want someone to do to the TV what Spotify has done to music. Now Netflix is trying to get there but even that has a long way to go.
I should be clear though, my argument is not just about TV content it’s about all manner of content that currently exists on the web that is either hard to find or restricted in terms of who can access it. Hence my belief that we are now in an era where the content creators have done a great job of generating material but those responsible for enabling us to access it have a LONG way to go. But when we get there we are going to experience events in a very different and even more exciting way. Until then, I’ll just have to put up with Bob Costas and NBC for a bit longer.
TV shows like 30 Rock, The Office, Modern Family etc have all come to an end for the summer and will kick off again in September. The break is a well established system for sitcoms and drama series. It gives the actors a chance to have a break and the writers a chance to create new material during the months where viewers spend less time in front of their TVs and more time outdoors. For those still glued to their screeens there’s plenty of reruns to keep them happy. At least that’s the theory. But with more and more people spending time online versus sitting in front of their TVs and with more people using their smartphones as a means of accessing the internet, there is a real danger that during this summer hiatus, viewers will find more reasons to avoid their TVs and unlike migratory birds, not return. After all, Facebook and Twitter don’t show rerun updates and tweets over the summer. Can you imagine of they did?
For this reason I wonder whether the networks need to rethink the summer hiatus. I can see it being tough to change and it brings with it a fresh set of challenges. One of the benefits of having short seasons and breaks is that low quality content and production values get the boot. We’ve all noticed when a show runs out of ideas – Happy Days, invented the expression ‘Jumping the shark’ which means a show has taken things too far and lost the plot, when it had the Fonzie, literally jump a shark on water skis. We can also tell when actors tire of a role. So perhaps there is a role for the break. Perhaps the formula is what needs a rethink. Instead of putting all the best shows in the Spring and Fall, they could experiment by putting some of the stronger shows during the summer to keep the eyeballs on the TV and off their computer screens. After all, I’ll say it again, can you imagine if Facebook and Twitter took a summer break? Bring on the re-retweet. Not.
I was unfortunate enough to be ill on Monday. This was not the after effects of too much celebration over the New Year but rather a stomach bug that confined me to my bed for 24 hours. During my vaguely awake moments I surfed through the news channels on TV as my wife and children passed messages under the door – messages like: “are you hungry?” and “hello daddy, are you alive?” I didn’t respond to any of these in a bid to see if any of them would dare open the door.
During my day-time TV surfing I was relieved to learn that 2005 was essentially all over from a financial perspective. The stock watchers on CNN and CNBC both made confident calls on what would happen to the market overall for the full year and cited many notable economists to back their perspectives. Of course I’m not going to share these predictions for the simple reason that they were total BS. Even the reporter on CNBC giving the predictions admitted that when they did the same piece a year ago they’d made a hash of it. So it occurred to me, why do this piece if you know it’s garbage? The answer is of course that we all want to know what will happen in the future and we want someone with authority to tell us so we can tell others. And of course when we meet our friends and say “according to CNN the stock market is going to see a rise of x% this year,” we’ll sound like we know what we’re talking about. But then again, if we’d actually watched the piece we’d know that they used so many caveats in their reports that they could have said the market was going to do anything.
All of which poses a question in my mind. Is the media just trying to fulfill the role we want it to in our lives or does it have a serious agenda? Surely we don’t want flakey content just to support interesting issues so we ca sound intelligent to our friends and colleagues? OK, I’m being silly here I know. Of course the media is trying to respond to our wishes, after all it’s a business and businesses do want their customers want (most of the time). I just thought I’d raise the flag at the start of a New Year and remind us all that the media could do so much more. Instead of meaningless star gazing and speculation the media could do real analysis of events so we learn. If they did that more then perhaps Donald Trump would be forced to go back to being a businessman instead of a TV personality and instead of the Apprentice we’d get some real TV.
Happy New Year!