More Television Future Shock

Do you need a TV station to have a TV show? Yes and no. The advantage of a TV station is, it is a known commodity, usually with a well visited address.

If our newscasts on Channel 8 were to move tomorrow to the SciFi Channel, ratings would plummet. That’s not to say bad things about SciFi, we just have better channel position with more traffic.

The disadvantage of a television station is it usually has high fixed costs. Smart operators are trying to work those costs down through automation and other technical advances. Sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn’t – but it’s obviously the wave of the future.

This leads to a question. Is it possible to have a successful TV show without having a TV channel (or cable network) behind you?

I’m wondering if the answer is yes after having seen a show produced by It features Kevin Rose who was on Tech TV’s The Screen Savers.

The show I saw last night was well produced, but on a topic so technically dense that few except the chronically nerdy would have watched. There were no commercials – how can it be economically sustained? Using the bittorrent protocol it took around 10 minutes to download.

Of course, it was free.

What I watched looked as good as anything produced for over-the-air or cable TV. If it had been something more attractive to a wide audience, with some way to pay the freight, I think it might be successful!

Bittorrent is an interesting distribution method, because it uses the collective bandwidth of the users, not a central server paid for by the program’s distributor. That’s a major cost saving when each viewer needs to receive hundreds of megabytes of data.

For attractive media (defined as something a specific group of viewers would seek out, because it scratches a specific itch) this might be a godsend.

Think of subject matter like photography, knitting, ham radio and kayaking. Each of these has a dedicated base of fans who want to see more on their hobby or avocation, but there’s not enough audience tonnage to make this work on an established channel. Because the audience would be sharply targeted, each set of eyeballs would be worth more to advertisers or underwriters (this is non traditional media – why not a non traditional economic model).

It could be commercially viable – though more on the retail level than the mass marketing we’re used to on TV. In other words, it makes sense for a person or small group of persons to do this. It doesn’t make as much sense for a larger, high cost basis organization to get involved.

The big question is, will people do all the things necessary to download these files? Is there a way to preserve the cost structure as it is and make it seamless for the end user?

This could be very exciting.

One thought on “More Television Future Shock”

  1. Hey Geoff it’s great to hear that you have been keeping up with the peeps from tech tv. I am a regular reader of and have also been downloading the new systm episodes. they are great, a little bit too advanced for me but i do find them interesting. apparently leo laporte is still on tv in canada doing the ‘call for help’ show. i have downloaded a couple copies of that show, but i really do miss the old tech tv with ‘the screen savers’ and ‘call for help’.

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