Tech Talk 3 – Where’s the bytes?

I started to see what I believe will be the shape of future media delivery. I don’t know if we will ever get rid of the traditional TV telecast. Enough people will probably still want to watch the local/global news and sports in the traditional manner, some folks wanna watch Law and Order, commercials and all, and zone out, and we may not need to get rid of one method of consuming these media items in order to expand and create new methods. I believe that “in the future”, every aired episode (we will get to “new” content later) of every show, every movie, every song, etc, will all be available to everyone one earth on any device they want, at any time. (I don’t add “who can access the internet” because making that happen is another piece of the puzzle – not forcing people to use it, but making sure that there is a relatively simple and inexpensive way they could if they wanted.) Of course, for some kind of fee depending on the system. More on the shape of this aspect a bit later.

I don’t know exactly what form this will take, and who we would pay or subscribe with, but it seems really silly that we can’t say, “Honey, tonight what do you say we watch Andromeda? I really liked that show but I missed a bunch in the middle and I missed the conclusion too. I always wanted to go back and watch it from the start.” Then march over to the TV or computer, scroll to Andromeda, select season 1 ep 1, have already paid your subscription fee, or authorize payment for download, then begin watching. (Or Dallas if you are dying to know why anyone cares who shot JR. Insert your own inner passion.) We are closer to this now, but still a ways off.

I picked this example because minus the “Honey” part, this is a ripped from the details of my life account. I want to watch Andromeda. I liked the show. Not all the eps were super, and they had more one-off or ‘throw away’ eps than I care for. But I liked the large strokes of the show. The concept was great, and there were several engaging long term story arcs. But I never got to see it all.

Now you can’t pay to download it from anywhere legally. They aren’t making any more of the DVDs. You can’t even get the disks from netflix. They aren’t on Hulu. They aren’t in the Comcast OnDemand back catalog. They aren’t on Sci-Fi. You can find dvds for sale online, but new/good condition complete series sets are pretty pricey. Piecing the series together from several different vendors, one season, or partial season, at a time turns out to cost about the same.

This may be good for a few weird collectors (weirder than me anyway ;)), but I can’t understand why the people involved in making the show would not be interested in continuing to generate residual income from their work. I don’t want to pay some guy named Fortinbras on ebay 800 bucks to (hopefully) receive a bunch of dvds that I don’t really want anyway and then be limited to watching on my laptop, or spending a week with handbrake converting the dvds into iPhone compatible mp4s (that look too low res when I do watch on the laptop). But I would happily pay the going rate at the iTunes store, 25-45 bucks a season depending on release date and quality. They give me two versions if HD is available and my computer sorts out which is the best version for which device. I don’t have to rip two different copies from the dvd in handbrake to have max res on two different devices, give them distinctive names like btvs.313.pod.mp4 and btvs.313.lap.mp4.

On demand creation of physical products from digital media is extremely simple and cost effective. I won’t let this crawl too far here, but it is a great time to mention books. There will be a separate but related story on books, bookstores, ebooks, podcasts, podiobooks, podcast novelists, and the crossover success stories of a few folks who turned their free podio books into actual print book deals. On demand printing has been available in the book industry for years now. It is not the cheapest option, or the most profitable for an author, but it is possible and one way to generate income off of your work. We will discuss some of the better options that have been developed for book publishing when we get to the podio/audio/ebook story. But for TV and movies, Print On Demand is a fine business model for anyone seeking dvds of old shows. There is not much in the way of stock you need to keep around. Blank cases, disks, label making equipment, a printer and paper for the booklets – everything else is just digital info. There is even less stock needed and probably more profit potential in running On Demand paid downloads.

I know that the tech is there. The tech has been there. This kind of tech has only gotten better and easier over the years. The things I discovered about pirate groups and how they run demonstrate that it can not only be be easily done, it is being done right now and has been for years. The way things are, avid, dedicated, willing to pay, potential consumers get what they want whenever they want it, and because it is illegal and free, no one gets paid, and occasionally, someone goes to jail or pays a fine. The way things could be, anyone could get whatever they wanted to watch or hear, legally, from any country whenever they wanted, and pay for it, and the creators and the industry continue to make residual money, no one goes to jail, and everyone can find out who shot JR. (It was Alex!) (I just made that up. I hope there isn’t an ‘Alex’ on Dallas, and I really hope Alex did not shoot JR. I don’t truck with spoilers.)