Aug 162012

This could be a watershed year for television, the year when people began spending more time on their mobile phones instead of TV. From Business Insider:

Could this be the moment that television officially lost its spot as America’s favorite medium? A survey by InMobi, a mobile ad company, of 1,055 people asked how much time they spend interacting with all forms of media.

Users responded that they watched TV for 141 minutes a day. But they spent 144 minutes a day—26% of the nine hours they used various media—with their phones.

And of course, there’s an infographic with the details. Perhaps most interesting in terms of user habits is that apparently mobile advertising does not bother us nearly as much as traditional advertising on TV.  You have to wonder if that’s just due to the newness of the device (we’re still very much in an adoptive phrase with mobile phones) or if it’s due to the way advertising is displayed on TV, generally monopolizing the entire screen in contrast to its subservient position on our phones.

On the other hand, television advertising has hardly caved in under the onslaught of iPhones and Androids. According to ATKearney, it actually grew 3% from 2006 to 2010. Corporations like taking over the screen but if mobile use continues its staggering growth that may change in the next few years.

But to the infographic:

People spend more time on their mobile phones instead of TV

May 222012

Eugene Polley Died

Eugene Polley changed the way we watch TV – indeed, he might be the inventor of one of the most ubiquitous technology devices (if we put aside the telephone) ever. Polley, who started in Zenith’s stockroom and worked his way up to the engineering department, invented the wireless TV remote control.

The first version of the remote was a handheld device tethered to a TV by a cable (it was actually called the “Lazy Bones’ of all things). Polley’s genius was to work out how one might do this through a wireless connection in 1955. The “Flash-matic” as it was called, was a ray-gun like device that you pointed (and re-pointed - it was temperamental) at the TV to change channels.

The Flash-Matic - the first wireless TV remote control

The Flash-Matic - the first wireless TV remote control

As with most new technologies, no one foresaw how it would change human behavior. Gizmodo sums it up nicely:

Cordless control allowed audiences a vastly new experience of consuming television: For the first time ever, the could switch programs without getting up to turn the dial. No longer were programs endured simply because they were too lazy to get up off the couch. Commercials could be avoided by switching channels, or muted, with just the press of a button. “Channel surfing” become a thing.

The remote also inspired significant changes in television programming and commercial airings. After an NBC research term discovered that 25% of their audience changed channels as soon as the credits started rolling, the NBC 2000 unit (responsible for primetime branding of the network) invented the “squeeze-and-tease,” the split screen credits that roll alongside the last few minutes of a program. (A current example of a show using the squeeze-and-tease is HBO’s Veep.) Commercials were moved from their between-program slot to right in the middle of a show, to avoid losing viewers to the lag time of an advertisement transition.

As with all technologies that successfully work their way into our lives, we haven’t been the same since.

May 112012
Cable TV increase and decrease in subscribers in 2010

Cable TV Market Subscriber Gains and Losses

With cable providers hurting from satellite and Web TV distribution, there’s disturbing piece from ReadWriteWeb on the effort by old media content providers to maintain the current distribution paradigm:

The Internet was supposed to change everything. Television would be turned on its head, and big cable would be screwed – finally. 

TV is different now, to be sure, and those changes will continue for some time. But the Web-destroys-cable narrative many hoped to see isn’t quite playing out that way. Recent moves by content providers, cable companies and ISPs aim to ensure that that storyline never comes to fruition.

The tension between traditional content providers and the Web’s new model of distribution is nothing new. Networks have begun to rethink the practice of making new episodes available online for free, while some of the most coveted premium content (see HBO Go) remains locked behind the gate of a cable subscription.

Last week, word surfaced that Hulu may require a cable or satellite subscription in the future, a prospect that would effectively bring an end to one of the most promising – and popular – sources of TV content on the Web, or at least transform it into something very different.

The news, which was reported by the New York Post, hasn’t been substantiated. But if it’s true, it marks the strongest sign yet that big content isn’t ready to abandon its traditional distribution and revenue models for something that, while more innovative, is still largely unproven.  

Watch Netflix and Hulu carefully as they may serve as barometers for the future, revealing to what extent traditional content providers will accept a new distribution model. Netflix expects to add about 7 million new subscribers this year but is bleeding money to pay for content. And watch for the anticipated effort this summer by ISP’s to “voluntarily” throttle down access to file-sharing networks such as BitTorrent, locking out the other alternative of just grabbing shows for free. All one can say is that the TV and cable companies are not about to willingly go through the upheaval experienced by the music industry.

Unless of course, Apple forces their hand.

Jan 102012

Okay, I can’t relate. At all. And surely this music video is just what you’d expect with a bunch of guys rapping about plaid. But the show is another thing altogether – shot entirely on iPhones. It’s not the first time Apple’s phone has been used for a production like this, but the show, Plaid Forever,  marks another step forward in leveling the playing field for video production and distribution (the show will be distributed on a YouTube channel and Tumblr). More details at thenextweb:

Jan 102012

Samsung TV Presentation at CESSamsung’s introduction of a TV with “smart evolution capability” at its keynote address at the Consumer Electronic Show (CES) on Monday is simply ludicrous. A successful marketing gimmick, perhaps, but even with gesture, voice and facial recognition (oh, and upgrade slots to boot) it won’t remain a contemporary device.

One can say “Wow” as Business Insider blared in a headline – indeed, they did beat Apple in delivering a voice-controlled TV device. And customers may get an additional year or two out of the upgrade capabilities. But honestly, whenever you see the phrase “Media Hub” in the presentation, you know it isn’t.

The reality is that the pace of innovation continues unabated,  and now it’s hit television, feeding user expectations.  Five years down the road, the ES8000 will look like a dinosaur hanging on the wall. I’m trying to imagine still using my original Palm Pilot Professional (introduced in 1997) in a world of Apple and Android phones.

Even the future of the CES itself is up for grabs – it’s not at all clear what the Consumer Electronics Show, the world’s largest annual consumer technology tradeshow, will do next year. Apple never bothers to come and this is Microsoft’s last year. As MG Siegler noted at TechCrunch:

For the fifth year in a row, Apple wins CES. Before it starts. Without showing up. 

That pretty much sums up its lack of relevance.

Sep 192011

This puts the old Jerry Springer show to shame (sort of). Alexander Lebedev, the Russian billionaire and former KGB agent (who owns both The Independent and The London Evening Standard), went from arguing to physically attacking Sergei Polonsky (former owner of the Mirax Group real estate empire). The quick brawl captured on TV spilled over into social media afterwards as the two tycoons continued to trade insults online. In case you’re wondering, they were originally talking about the global financial crisis. Polonsky may have gotten the worst of it on-camera but no sympathy here given his quote of a few years back on people less fortunate than he:  “those who don’t have a billion, can go to hell.”

Best part of this is the large glowing orb in the middle of the stage – this is a set just waiting for Austin Powers to show up.