Saturday, October 22, 2005

Poll Results - The Video iPod

Last week I asked the question: Would you pay $1.99 for a network TV show using the Video iPod? The results are kind of interesting. There were seven responses. At the bottom were Yes, No, but I would pay for original content, and Bittorrent roolz, iTunes droolz with no votes. In third place we had No, I have a DVD recorder/PVR/VCR with one vote. And the winners - since we had a tie - were Maybe, depends on a lot of things and No, the screen's too small with three votes each.

The one respondent who wouldn't buy a Video iPod because (s)he had an existing recording device represents the comfortable status quo - the person who has a device which records programming as it's broadcast, and is happy with that. The question, in the United States at least, is whether the industry will be able to push through broadcast flagging which will make it possible for the content producers and distributors to prevent this sort of free reproduction, nominally to prevent piracy. The original FCC ruling was overturned in May of this year, but there are rumours that the industry will try to find another way to get it through. In such circumstances buying content - suitably protected against piracy - may be the way the industry is driving people. In a similar vein, I had expected to see at least one person voting for Bittorrent simply because using it is "free" and let's admit that Bloggers can be a pretty tech savvy crowd (I've considered Bittorrent for shows that I've missed or can't see otherwise). The downside of Bittorrent is that it can sometimes be hard to find content and of course the fear of a knock on the door from the MPAA.

Let's look at the two winning responses next. I think that for network TV shows the screen on the Video iPod is too small, and unlike its audio relatives or the Photo iPod (at least as I understand that device) you can't render the video content on this device into a more viewer friendly format - speakers for the regular iPods versus a video screen of some sort for the Video iPod. What I hoped to find from this response is whether people were interested in having the ability to legally pay a fee to get programming that they can view when they want and the problem here was not with the idea but with the specific device they were being asked to use.

As far as Maybe, depends on a lot of things, I only got one comment - from Harry Heuser who publishes the blog broadcastellan. He wrote: "Such technology is a good thing if you don't have access to certain television channels (while living abroad, for instance). On the other hand, I regret the further fragmentation of the audience. I enjoy tuning in for a shared experience, knowing that millions are watching at the same time." He has a definite point about audience fragmentation. It's something that I've noted for many years about movies. It used to be that people would go to a big theater with 800 or more seats, frequently filled. Sure there were fewer theaters which meant fewer options but it was a collective experience. Compare that to the theater where I saw Serenity a couple of weeks ago. There were 134 seats (I counted them which shows just how few there were not to mention the boredom of the wait for the show to start) of which about a quarter were full. Thirty or so people does not a collective experience make. It was the same with television. In the days of three networks in the U.S. and little or no cable penetration people talked about the TV shows they watched and people usually saw the same shows. There aren't many collective experiences left in the era of the 500 channel universe. Harry is also right however when he mentions that this can be a good thing if you don't have access to certain television channels. Of course that's how cable - and the original fragmentation of the audience - got started. Of course I don't know if iTunes will sell a show like Desperate Housewives (just as an example) to customers outside of North America. For a long time they didn't sell music to Canadians.

This leads us other response. I expected votes for original content since the poll question specifically mentioned "network TV shows". Original content may indeed be the thing that the Video iPod is best suited for. I know of a couple of producers of content in the technology field (notably Kevin Rose) who are producing content that is at least compatible with the iPod. I also know that after Firefly was cancelled by Fox, there were viewers who were willing to pay to keep the show in production. It may be that downloadable content is a way to make make things like that a reality.


No comments: