Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Day 22: We Control the Vertical, We Control the Horizontal

As I've mentioned in this blog before, my family is ready to cut the cable (coaxial, that is).  We won't be renewing our cable TV subscription come next month after our move.  My plan was (and I suppose for the time being, still is) to subscribe to Hulu Plus.

Hulu, for any who might not know, is a web video service that replays content from television.  Hulu is nominally free and gives you access to television shows on many of the most popular networks within a day or two (sometimes longer) of their initial airing.  Hulu Plus is an $8 a month premium service that gives you more access to shows (complete seasons, and the like) as well as some other perks.  Basically, it's the best thing going for translating the "push" (get the content when and how the provider says you can) content of old-timey T.V. to "pull" (get the content when and on what device YOU choose), like EVERY SINGLE THING ELSE on the Internet.

And I know what you're thinking; yes, it's completely legal.  Hulu charges very little up front, but supplements the income with ads (a la Google, which charges nothing up front), and then it uses a (large) portion of that income to pay the content producers (big giants like Viacom, Time-Warner, Comcast, etc.).  It's all up and up and above board.  In fact, one of the reasons these large content providers might look positively on this method of content delivery is because it makes a serviceable and attractive alternative to illegal methods of distribution; mainly bit-torrent and the like.

There are two basic paths forward for old media (television, radio, movies, and music).  Plan A: make your content as widely available as possible on many different devices, accessible whenever and wherever the consumer chooses and do so at a reasonable price (a proven method for reaching modern consumers with exponentially more options than people in say, THE FIFTIES), OR Plan B: fight endlessly to force consumers back into the box of the pre-digital revolution using a business model perfected in the FIFTIES which assumed that content delivery and content production of high quality material could only be handled by the very few wealthy corporations who have managed to buy out or otherwise eliminate any other competition (an patently false assumption).  Unfortunately, the major content providers of old media have once again chosen Plan B.  (When will they learn?)   

An article in the New York Post yesterday announced that Hulu was taking the first steps to change the way they do business.  If the plan goes through, only persons who can prove that they currently have a cable subscription will be allowed to purchase the premium subscription.  That's right, Hulu is looking to transform itself into nothing more than a fancy, out-sourced, cloud-based DVR.

I've never been more sure that the writing is on the wall for television.  Remember this in five years, there was another way forward and the content providers CHOSE suicide.  This gambit is NOT going to force tech savvy people who've already left TV back and the television industry can't hope to stop (or buy out) the title wave of good (and getting better all the time) content produced strictly for the web.  In short, the world doesn't play their game, anymore.

Speaking for myself, I've never wanted cable less.  I won't be blackmailed, period; and all this is going to prove to me is how little it turns out I actually need television anyway.

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