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Weekly Features
Letter from New York
Mathew Tombers is Managing Director of Intermat, Inc., ( a television company which executive produces programs and consults with industry companies on a variety of issues. Intermat, Inc. is currently involved in approximately thirty hours of television in various stages for a variety of networks. He is one of the Executive Producers of OFF TO WAR, a ten hour series for Discovery Times and for a one hour on international adoptions for Discovery Health. He has consulted a variety of companies, including Ted Turner Documentaries, WETA, Betelgeuse Productions, and Creation Films, Lou Reda Productions as well as many others.

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 corporate moniker.

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 anything else.

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 screen.

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. [It’s on Tuesday, the 30th at High Noon, for those of you who might be in Washington, D.C.]

Todd Broder, a talented young producer with whom I occasionally work, is not only producing IT’S ALL GEEK TO ME for Discovery Channel and DON’T SWEAT IT for HGTV, he’s also producing original content for the web on 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 it’s only available on the web or your phone or you who knows what? It reminded me that in the 1980’s folks made a point of differentiating what was on cable from what was on “television.” No more and I suspect it won’t 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.