Tuesday, December 08, 2009

The Internet and Entertainment

People are talking about the proposed deal between Comcast and NBC and what it will do to the business. NBC owns Hulu, which streams many popular tv shows (and many not-so-popular ones) for free, allowing people to watch shows any time. The speculation is that this will no longer be free, that Hulu will go behind a paywall. Comcast claims this won't happen, but because online streaming sites are not yet profitable, it seems like a paywall is one avenue for revenue.

The thing is, most people pay for tv already, via their cable bill, so having to pay to watch the same shows on another device is irksome. Some people, like Coates, don't pay for cable and instead watch via Hulu or iTunes, paying for shows as needed. Ideally, I think, one would pay one bill and then have access to the same content via whatever device you want to watch it on whenever you want to watch it. If I get HBO by paying extra through my cable company, I ought to be able to watch those shows on my computer or my iPhone without having to pay for it again. Right now, that's exactly what I have to do in most cases. In theory, the cable companies are working on a system that will allow subscribers to log into a site and watch the same shows they might watch on their tv on their computer.

But the elephant in the room in all of this is the changing habits of tv viewers. People just don't plop in front of the tv anymore at specific times. They have certain shows that they watch, but not necessarily when the network airs them and often without the ads. I watch very little tv myself and we've considering cutting off our cable and buying what we need through Amazon, which downloads to our TiVo box (for which we have a lifetime subscription). Yesterday, over lunch, I finished watching The Biggest Loser from last week, which I recorded via TiVo. And that's usually how we watch tv. We record 5 or 6 shows and then we watch them when we have time. All of us are more likely to be online than in front of the tv when relaxing. If we were in a pay per show situation, I suspect the cable company and the network might be losing money off us. So, the big question is, how do you allow consumers to continue in their tv watching habits and still make money?

I like my tv. It's big and it's in front of the couch where I can stretch out and relax. What I'd like is to be able to watch the show I missed last night and forgot to record without having to pay extra. I'd like to turn on my tv and be offered that option. I'd even be willing to watch an ad or two.

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