January 11, 2007
In the antediluvian days of 1984, when the personal computer
revolution began for real, it was the Macintosh that truly
opened the gates to change. I marched out and spent an obscene
amount of money to join the revolution, and have been known
among my friends since then as an early adapter. I had the
first car phone on the block and one of the first flip phones,
etc. etc. etc.
Much of the news this past week has been made out in Las Vegas
where the annual Consumer Electronics Show was held and the
spotlight was focused most brightly on Apple, once again,
which, tellingly, has dropped Computer from the
On January 9th, Steve Jobs, the once and future king of techdom,
unveiled two devices at the show. One is Apple TV, a mid-priced
device that will store about 50 hours of video and allow computer
streams to be seen on the big box in the living room. It also
has a remote control that allows you to control all the media
flowing toward the living room.
With great noise, fanfare and attention, Steve Jobs unveiled
the iPhone. Its arrival has been trumpeted on the front pages
of many newspapers; in some more prominently than virtually
It underscores, puts an exclamation mark after, and puts in
bold typeface with italics that video is rapidly moving into
a completely unwired, un-tethered universe. Jobs announcement
of his iPhone drowned out earlier announcements of other manufacturers
and carriers that they were moving to place local television
broadcast affiliates and some cable networks onto the tiny
For all those doubters who have been nay-saying with: no one
will ever watch television on such a tiny screen! I refer
them to my numerous friends who received video iPods as Christmas
presents and have been gushing about the video experience.
What is real and what is upon us is that truly portable [and
pocket-able] video has arrived with a bang and is moving mainstream.
Its arrival is affecting viewing habits and therefore revenue
streams and the financial models which will feed producers.
At Real Screen, I am moderating a panel: Dollars For
Digital, with individuals from AOL, Google, Nat Geo
Ventures, Comedy Central and the production community. We
will attempt to divine how producers and networks can make
money from the changing technology and the opportunities it
is providing in ubiquity and variety. [Its on Tuesday,
the 30th at High Noon, for those of you who might be in Washington,
Todd Broder, a talented young producer with whom I occasionally
work, is not only producing ITS ALL GEEK TO ME for Discovery
Channel and DONT SWEAT IT for HGTV, hes also producing
original content for the web on heavy.com. Producing for the
web is becoming a viable opportunity for producers.
I recently received an article, e-mailed to me, of course,
from my attorney, Mary Ann Zimmer, that posited that we should
just call all video television, even when its
only available on the web or your phone or you who knows what?
It reminded me that in the 1980s folks made a point
of differentiating what was on cable from what was on television.
No more and I suspect it wont be long before webisodes
are just considered television episodes.
Certainly, the venerable N.Y. Times came down on that side
of the equation on January 11th, when its Arts section had
an article about Motherlode, the rude, crude and very funny
broadband site of Comedy Central, calling its content: television.
We are living in, I think, the Third Age of Television. First
we had the days of broadcasting, then we had the days of cable
and now we are in the days of total television, everywhere,
all the time and CES brought us a new round of devices that
make it possible.
So much is changing, so much is staying the same; television
producers and television consumers are living in what Dickens
described as the best of times...the worst of times.
Those words were used to describe the world at the onset of
the French Revolution. True then, true today; true for a political
climate and true for a technological re/evolution.