Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Cable Box Has Great Potential

My problem with today's cable box is that it is slow to respond, unfriendly, and hard to navigate. It's primary duty is access to DVR and VOD. It is clunky, inflexible to my needs, and inconsiderate to my viewing habits. Recently, my family was watching a movie on demand that we purchased. In the middle of viewing, it abruptly turned to a show to be recorded. Why? Because both turners were set to record and the box couldn't even ask what we wanted to do with this conflict. So it stopped the movie. Disappointing.

At the same time, I am hopeful that we will someday look back and laugh at this early generation of connection. The converter box offers great potential. Combine the advantages of slingbox with the software of Tivo, add in connectivity to gaming a la Wii and Playstation and create a device that talks to all the devices in the home and puts the controls in the hand of the user. Remotely set your thermostat, get activity on your sump pump, know who is at the front door, watch a pre-recorded tv show or your local baseball game on the road, and then set a recording schedule for your dvr from your same hotel room. Wired, wireless, at home, and remotely, interconnectivity and communication is key. The cable box talking to all these devices and easy to use is essential. The company that can deliver this value will win the user and viewer.

Hollywood on Strike Again?!?!

The old adage goes that those who don't learn from their mistakes are bound to repeat them. The recent writers strike should have taught all the parties in Hollywood that a strike does no one any good. Want proof that Hollywood suffers, just look at the recent announcements of all the new shows premiering this Fall. Do you feel the excitement? Neither do I.

The old standards, American Idol for one, despite being the number watched series, is losing viewers. Different year, same format, same silliness, same inane banter. And its success has spawned so many similar shows, including dancing competitions, that the uniqueness and appeal have worn thin.

Broadcast in general has seen viewership decline as cable provides the comfort food of reruns and original series that reach valuable niches. And now online video adds another resource for entertainment away from the TV. The fragmentation of viewing choices naturally leads to a loss of viewership by the old guard.

And an actors strike will only further drive away viewers from broadcast. Both parties are at a loss and both have a financial stake to come to agreeable terms. Stop trying to come up with different rules for different platforms. At the end of the day video content is a stream to be consumed; where there is revenue, there are costs associated against it. Be creative, otherwise you will only further kill the golden goose and have to watch American Gladiator 24/7.