The Future of Television

October 18, 2010

Over the next five years, television will undergo a gut-wrenching overhaul. The result will be so different from what we know today, we won’t call it TV. We’ll have to admit that a new medium has been born, and I predict it will have a new name. During this transition, several old-guard companies will go out of business, and a few newcomers will become big enough to go public. Make no mistake – television will complete its transition from push to pull by 2015. Here is what you can expect.

Have it your way - watch anything you want, the way you want it.

  • You’ll program your TV experience from your iPad or tablet. Forget about remotes. You’ll program up your big-screen TV from the tablet in your lap.What you see on your lap will be the VJ-view: what you’re seeing now, plus all the things you can combine to tee up next. You’ll put together your lineup for the next several hours, including picture-in-picture and all the data feeds you want to see on the side of the screen. In essence, you’ll have more screen real estate than you do today, and you’ll manage it all (or let someone else manage it for you).
  • Separate camera feeds. All the professional cameras at an event will make their feeds available, and perhaps thousands of amateur cameras from the audience will be shipping as well. You’ll “follow” cameras the way you follow tweets.
  • Separate data feeds. You’ve seen the sports scores in boxes during your favorite sports programs? These are now part of the video feed. In the near future, they will become a separate data feed, so you can watch just the data however you want. You could be watching a movie on the big screen and keep an eye on several sports scores on your iPad on your lap. All the data will be available separately for integrating into almost any kind of experience. Want to know how this batter has done against this pitcher during his entire career? There will be an app and a data feed for that.
  • Separate commentary. I wrote a
    business plan for this concept about five years ago, and it’s finally
    time for it to get started. While the video feed of an event is more or
    less the same from most angles, the voice-over commentary can vary
    dramatically. People will be able to offer their commentary on sporting
    events, elections, news, cultural events, etc. – and a market for
    these kinds of sound feeds will develop. Not just for live events but
    for previously recorded material as well. Someone, for example, could
    become known as the person who explains what’s happening on the
    football field to those who don’t know the rules and want to learn.
    Someone else could be more into dishing out the personal gossip on all
    the players. Another person could commentate in Polish for a Polish
    audience. And so on. Imagine Jerry Seinfeld narrating a beauty contest or
    Robin Williams narrating over old Get Smart episodes. Many of these new
    commentators will be professionals, and many more will be people like
    you and me, who want to share what we know and have fun. You could watch
    a political debate and hear the voices of dozens of people all chiming
    in at the same time on a virtual “party line.” I recently saw a Disney
    movie, where they added comments from the two main actors about the
    production in a ticker along the bottom, and it made the movie much more
    interesting. You can imagine film crew, producers, rival actors – all
    kinds of people adding their two cents to a particular show. All of
    this and more will soon be reality. (Contact me if you want my 20-page
    business plan on this opportunity.)
  • You are the director. You’ll choose and combine all available cameras, choosing on your lap what to put on the screen. You’ll be able to search and find and get suggestions from different sources on what to watch next.
  • You don’t have to be the director. If you’re not into actively creating your TV experience, you’ll let someone else do the VJ work for you. There will be amateur and professional programmers. For example, as you watch the Olympic games, you’ll have a choice of several different professional directors. These people may be at the venue, or they may be in their basements. They might be 12 years old, but they’ll combine schedules and feeds and data and commentary in ways that appeal to you personally.
  • Your personal preferences will help drive your future experience. As you watch and listen, you’ll also rate what you see. Those ratings, combined with tons of metadata (tags and attribute descriptors) will help you find other material you’re interested in. This is sort of like NetFlix but even more tailored to your schedule and your preferences for consuming different types of content.
  • Sharing video will be like sharing tweets or URLs. You’ll have your address book right there, so if you want someone to see something, or a compilation you’ve created, you can toss the video clip or movie onto that person’s icon, and he/she will see it next time he/she is ready to watch something. It will be like FlipBook for video.
  • Your experience will be event-driven. As you watch, your system will be on the lookout for events that interest you. For example, you’re watching the news on the main screen and your favorite sports event on the secondary screen. When something exciting happens in the game, or if the score difference gets to a set range at the start of the fourth quarter, your system will automatically switch it to the big screen and put the news in the small window.
  • Your experience will be programmable. Want to chat with a friend or group while watching? Would you like to get more information on something you’ve just seen? Not only will you be able to leap from one part of a video to another part of a completely separate video, following various kinds of trails and links, but you’ll be able to program up exactly what you’re looking for. As an example, for many years, my friend Craig Hosoda published a book called the Bare Facts Video Guide. The book listed famous actors (male and female) and then, for each one, gave you the videos and scenes and timing information for seeing each person nude to some degree. It included a description of the scene and a rating. This is a lot of metadata. It could easily be programmed into a single viewing experience based on the various filters you set up. This will be great for people studying film, storytelling, and learning about particular people, places, or events. It will help teachers tremendously.
  • Your past experiences will be searchable. Do you want to see that show again where you learned how to dance the Hustle? It was in something you saw, but you can’t remember the name. No worries. Searching for things like this will be easy.
  • Your mobile phone is just another screen and just another camera. Your phone can bring you news and entertainment in the same way, driven by the same rules and with access to the same content. You can also contribute content as you go and participate more fully in events by recording yourself as you go. Your phone will provide your ticket to a concert, a way to order snacks delivered to your seat, and a way to share your experience with friends – all in ways that combine and mesh with other people doing the same thing at the same time around the world.
  • Advertising will be you-centric. Your system will know what you’re in the market for and will solicit ads for products and services you should find interesting and relevant. This will eventually become true pull-based advertising. Imagine watching your own version of the Super Bowl and seeing ads only for trips to exotic places, new restaurants you haven’t tried, and sports gear you’re likely to find interesting. No beer, no vitamins, no feminine-hygiene or incontinence products. Just stuff you might genuinely be interested in at some time in the next few months. If you have a child, you’ll see plenty of toys, safety gear, travel offers, cars, and other stuff aimed at your particular family. If you’re single, you’ll see plenty of lifestyle commercials that appeal to you.
  • Preserve context. Perhaps you stop watching a movie because you’re tired and need to go to sleep. The next day you take a plane to another city. You flip on the screen in the seat in front of you, log in, and – presto! – your movie automatically constructs a quick review of what’s happened to that point and then continues your program. Or continue on your phone or in a car (if you’re not driving). This will help you avoid repeats or find particular shows you do want to see again. You may only have seven minutes before your meeting, and you’ll see seven minutes of video material right on your phone that brings you up to date on everything in your world or lets you finish something you had been watching earlier.

What will it be called? Programmed video? Perhaps PV will replace TV? After all, we are watching the content, not the device. Where will all your preferences live? Right there on your iPad? Think again. This is the pull future. All your preferences will live in your online data locker. The big screen you’re watching is just another screen controlled by your data locker, as is your phone. Your phone can substitute for the tablet on your lap, but if you have a tablet it’ll be easier to work with at home. Remember – any tablet is your tablet, and any screen is your screen – just log in and you’re good to go. The more you think about it, the easier the personal data locker makes all our lives, and the cost of the hardware goes down dramatically.

Does this sound like science fiction? It’s well under way. For a taste of this future, visit NoTube.tv.

Here’s my prediction: No more cable TV by 2022.

Mark Suster has similar thoughts.

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