The future of on-line television

If enough people start getting their TV online, it will drastically change the nature of the medium. Normally, the buzz for a show builds gradually; it takes a few weeks or even a whole season for a loyal viewership to lock in. But in a BitTorrented broadcast world, things are more volatile. Once a show becomes slightly popular – or once it has a handful of well-connected proselytizers – multiplier effects will take over, and it could become insanely popular overnight. The pass-around effect of blogs, email, and RSS creates a roving, instant audience for a hot show or segment. The whole concept of must-see TV changes from being something you stop and watch every Thursday to something you gotta check out right now, dude. Just click here.

What exactly would a next-generation broadcaster look like? The VCs at Union Square Ventures don’t know, though they’d love to invest in one. They suspect the network of the future will resemble Yahoo! or Amazon.com – an aggregator that finds shows, distributes them in P2P video torrents, and sells ads or subscriptions to its portal. The real value of the so-called BitTorrent broadcaster would be in highlighting the good stuff, much as the collaborative filtering of Amazon and TiVo helps people pick good material. Eric Garland, CEO of the P2P analysis firm BigChampagne, says, "the real work isn’t acquisition. It’s good, reliable filtering. We’ll have more video than we’ll know what to do with. A next-gen broadcaster will say, ‘Look, there are 2,500 shows out there, but here are the few that you’re really going to like.’ We’ll be willing to pay someone to hold back the tide."

And how is this for an application of the Alchian and Allen theorem?

"Blogs reduced the newspaper to the post. In TV, it’ll go from the network to the show," says Jeff Jarvis, president of the Internet strategy company Advance.net and founder of Entertainment Weekly. (Advance.net is owned by Advance Magazine Group, which also owns Wired‘s parent company, Condé Nast.) Burnham goes one step further. He thinks TV-viewing habits are becoming even more atomized. People won’t watch entire shows; they’ll just watch the parts they care about.

Read the whole thing, which focuses on how BitTorrent is revolutionizing the delivery of media and the enforceability of copyright.  Of course we are still waiting to hear where the revenue will come from…

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