The rush for online TV is doomed to short term failure

In the past few days we’ve seen several announcements about online TV and movies. Amazon have launched a service to deliver films and TV programs online. Yesterday saw upgrades to the iPod to allow movies to be watched. AT&T earlier announced their online television service. The technology rush to use the advantages of broadband to deliver vast amounts of data have been met with some euphoria because it is an astounding development. Getting the huge amount of data for a three hour movie down your phone line is quite amazing. But, even though it will work technologically, there’s a missing ingredient. It doesn’t seem to me that anyone has considered how or why we watch TV now, or how and why we go to the cinema. Remember the invention of video? Everyone said it would be the end of the cinema. We now have more movie screens than ever before with record numbers visiting the cinema. Why is that do you think? It’s because the movie itself is not important. We go to the cinema to be with other people; it is a social function. Equally, why is TV so popular? Because it allows families to be together in the same room. Video and DVD rental is still popular, in spite of the cheap availability of movies from retailers, because it allows us to have friends round to watch a film and have a pizza. Online TV and downloadable movies are unlikely to do that at the moment. Watching movies on your iPod will be a minority activity – perhaps for journeys. Watching TV on your computer will hardly become mainstream. Only when we get true convergence of computing and TV technology will it be possible for us to download and use movies as a social activity. Getting the family to sit round the computer and watch the latest episode of “Lost” is unlikely to be commonplace. However, specialist TV, such as business programming, now that’s another thing. Niche information for individuals; that’s the way the Internet TV companies should go – not entertainment.

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