I won't get into the details about Disney's news yesterday about making some prime time programming available over the Internet. Of course, the hitch is you have to watch the commercials, but the sheer novelty I'm sure will far outweigh the inconvenience among early adopters.
As a shortcut to the details, I'll refer you to a heartfelt posting yesterday from Jeff Pulver. I say heartfelt, because as anyone knows from Spring VON, that Jeff is now championing video, and as he says at the end of his post, "welcome to the age of Broadcast 2.0". I couldn't agree more.
We've seen the signs leading up to this. NCAA March Madness over IP was a hot story just recently, as was Disney's earlier deal with iTunes for downloading episodes on the iPod. All steps along the way, but now we're talking about live, prime time TV - not re-broadcasts, or one-off events, which lend themselves very well in a pay-per-view model.
Yesterday's news gives real legitimacy not only to IP as a content delivery channel, but to the PC as a bona fide endpoint for viewing broadcast content. It wasn't that long ago that VoIP was not taken seriously because nobody believed that people would want to make phone calls on their computers. Doesn't that just seem so quaint now?
Bottom line is this - the Internet generation is different!!!!!!
Their world revolves around the PC, and now they have the tools to do just about everything that's important to them there. Gaming, chat, email, VoIP, iTunes, and now TV. Is it really that big of leap for this audience to embrace TV on their PC? I don't think it is. Coming back to Jeff and his love affair with Slingbox, and you can certainly see an industry starting to shape up now around viewing broadcast content that's viewed anywhere but on a TV.
If this isn't broadcast 2.0, I don't know what is. IP is quickly starting to reshape the business of television, and I'd say the faster the networks jump in and start experimenting, the better. Habits and loyalties change real fast in the IP world, and the business models are going to change too.
My main concern at this point is the impact this may have on local TV affiliates who rely on the big networks for content, but also on local advertisers for revenue. I can see people flocking online to watch big name franchise shows like American Idol that have a brand supported by hugh national sponsors. But if your PC viewers are mobile - watching shows while on the road, local advertising may be useless.
This could have implications about the kinds of programming that are viable for PC viewers, and we may end up only getting safe, mainstream fare at the expense of the diversity supported in the 500 channel cable universe. I'm getting ahead of the game here, and I know all kinds of programming alternatives will emerge. But I can also see how the food chain for advertising and content will be disrupted, with no way of telling yet how it will turn out.
Coming back to the title of this post, that's still the song that sticks in my head when I think about how IP is starting to impact broadcasting - much the way it did for telecom in 2004. It also reminds me of an article I wrote for CNET News that year on that very topic, entitled "I Want My VoIP". Re-reading it now, I realize that the basic story line hasn't changed much - once people discover that this technology works, the demand will materialize, and the market will become real. I have no doubt Disney sees things the same way.