Long ago and far away, when I was young and new to the world of work I was given a bit of advice by a near-retirement executive at the company I just joined. I was a fresh-faced graduate from the University of Kansas, William Allen White School of Journalism with a B.S. in Journalism, Radio-TV-Film. I decided to move to Los Angeles to try my luck at landing a job in HOLLYWOOD. With a bit of luck and timing I landed a job at ABC-TV in Hollywood at their 22- acre television production facility, after I spent one television production season with Hanna-Barbera…the old cartoon factory that was located on Cahuenga Blvd.
The advice given to me was…”kid…to make it in the network television business there are three things you should never express you true opinion about…the weather, religion and television…” Now, the first two I could understand, made sense. But why not talk to others about the state and condition the television industry? I mean, wasn’t that the business we were in?
It took a bit of time but I finally understood the advice. It allowed me to stay with ABC-TV in Hollywood for almost 20 years, finishing my career in a senior corporate management position. I stayed in the television industry till my recent retirement from that career to my now full time career of writing. After leaving ABC-TV I worked in public television, public radio, and finally as Executive Director of the Public Access station in Houston, Houston Media Source.
I am telling you all of this because what I am about to discuss and the prediction(s) I will be making at the end of this blog post will have some validity. What I am discussing will have some gravitas coming from me because I spent an over 40 year career in broadcast television and now totally involved in working online.
What got me so worked up about this subject of television again, I thought I left it when I moved out of L.A., is because of my continuing interest in the overall state of television program delivery and the unlimited opportunities that exist for new, upcoming or even established program producers and content developers. I will first say that those opportunities, near and long term, are unlimited. The future of this content delivery and production paradigm is not like “they” did in the 1960’s-1990’s and it’s not like the 500 cable channels that were promised in the start of the new century. The opportunity exists because of the thousands and thousands of channels that now or will exist in even greater numbers as each year progresses in this new century.
But what really got me to thinking about this subject and propelled me to write such a hefty blog is an article I recently read that was published by The Washington Post on March 11, 2015. Let me summarize: The Post articles states in its headline, “Americans are moving faster than every away from traditional TV”. No kidding. Let me now quote the two most important paragraphs from that article:
“Adults watched an average of four hours and 51 minutes of live TV each week in the fourth quarter of 2014, down 13 minutes from the same quarter of 2013, according to Nielsen’s fourth-quarter 2014 Total Audience Report. Viewing was down six minutes between fourth quarter of 2013 and 2012. And between 2012 and 2011, viewing time actual increased for live TV.
At the same time, more homes turned to online video, with 40 percent of U.S. homes subscribing to a streaming service such as Netflix, Amazon Instant Video or HULU compared with 36 percent in the fourth quarter of 2013, according to Nielsen. Netflix is by far the most popular streaming service, in 36 percent of all U.S. homes, and Amazon Instant Video is in 13 percent of homes.”
The article goes on to say, this switch to online or streaming viewing is rattling the industry…it is a disrupter…big name content providers are scrambling for an online or streaming presence…etc. etc. You get the idea. The form factor of distribution is moving away from broadcast and cable and moving slowly, albeit powerfully like a giant unstoppable glacier, to a delivery of content online and streaming.
What does this mean for you, yeah YOU the person who is reading this blog wherever you are in the world. It means for the consumer of such content you will be getting that content whether it is news or entertainment, sports or reality TV, on your computer, tablet, laptop computer, watch, or splashed into mid-air by some full-resolution hologram device that has not been invented yet…that means no screens but projected mid-air as large or small as you want it with no change in your 8K or 10K resolution. And I predict that is exactly what will be coming next.
You as a consumer can choose when, what and how you will watch what you want to watch and how you want to watch it and when you want to watch it. You won’t get it for free. The days of getting a free limited programming set from your local TV broadcaster is still here, but in the future it will be nowhere. I wouldn’t buy a local TV station even if I had the money; they are dinosaurs and won’t be worth much going forward. Now if you want to get into the Server Farm business, I think you are smart and you will make a fortune in the future. You will make a fortune in the future because of my next point.
When I submitted my scripts for purchase by producers I knew when I worked in Hollywood it was a closed system. You had to live in Hollywood, for the most part, and you had to “know” someone to even get it read by an agent, let alone a producer. Not necessary now. There are more than a million channels on YouTube now. Not just videos, there are more than a million channels on YouTube. I will allow that most of those channels have poor production value. But with the hurtling and significant advance in equipment and software capability, that production value will improve. The question is will the stories that drive that content improve, that remains to be seen. That’s really at the core anyway of any good content you read or see, isn’t it?
But because the big guys like Apple, Google, HBO, Netflix, and so on, are investing heavily in the next delivery and content production wave, the sheer momentum and force moving that production behemoth will make online and streaming delivery THE method for media consumption. Can you imagine if someone said to you 10 or 20 years ago, you know of course you can watch any recorded or live television show you want in the palm of your hand (smartphone) or you can watch in 4K quality with a booming sound system on your 65 inch almost paper-thin monitor in your living room. No wonder people going to their local movie theaters in smaller numbers, choosing more and more to build their own movie theaters in their homes. And you don’t have to spend 10 thousand dollars or more for size, quality and experience for those studios. And you don’t have to wait for the DVD or BluRay DVD to come out. Just download or stream what you want to see form iTunes or Netflix.
I predict in as little as 5 years the dominate delivery of content will be online and streaming. Cable and broadcast TV will be hurting badly and in 10 years cable and broadcast TV may be a true anachronism.
Early black and white movie film, scratchy radio signals, early black and white television…they’re all gone. So don’t tell me that the current delivery system with cable and your local city TV transmitter won’t go the same way. Sure, you’ll get your local news and interest content; they just won’t be captured on an antenna or from that cable sticking out of the wall. You’ll get it wirelessly from a small unobtrusive content transmitter tucked up in your attic or down in your basement adjustable with a sleek and barely visible hand controller.
All of this is coming folks. So, why don’t you print out this blog and tuck it away somewhere and pull it out in 5 or 10 years. And then you will know, I Told You So. Or, if you are smart invest in the newest content delivery and content production public companies. Or, if you are really smart, produce your own content based on your own interests and desires. Make that content as good, smart, intelligent or funny as you can. They you can really reap the reward of the coming tsunami of change.
There, just beyond the horizon…do you see it coming? Can you see it…that big mofo wave of change? No, it won’t kill us, that tsunami. But it will change our lives forever.
www.frederickfichman.com (my author website)
www.geographicwestproductions.org (my new website)