Friday, October 13, 2006

Mainstream: it'll never happen.

I've had an epiphany. Well it's been building for a while.

To cut a long story short ... there is no point trying to get a disability TV show on TV any more. Not on the big mainstream channels. Whatever you might want to see as a disabled viewer isn't going to happen.

Informed realism in the way I would want it isn't going to make it before TV starts to fragment hugely and 'mainstream' as a concept dies.

Mainstream, as we know it now, isn't going to be around for too much longer. To put it another way, everybody wil be a broadcaster soon.

If you want your ideas to 'get out there' and succeed then and other similar sites are going to be the answer. And if you remember that the web and TV are going to be less and less distinguishable within the next 5 to 10 years, it's not going to be a geeky backroom 'sit forward' office thing, it'll be a living room 'sit back' experience.

Lets stick with YouTube for a sec. Google have just bought it for just under a billion pounds. Already they're discussing that the business model for YouTube in the future will include advertising. The suggestion is that, if you upload a video, you will receive a share of that advetising money. And so if you can get enough people to watch it, via whatever means - viral marketing, press publicity, word of mouth, blog talk, whatever - you could be sitting on a small fortune that could sustain your lifestyle as an artist. An artist with a following could make lots of money if 90,000 or 8 million people click onto their latest video.

Who will be the stars of the future? Minority markets could well drive huge numbers of hits, especially if they are starved of the kind of content they'er after on mainstream channels. That's if channels still exist. By May next year we will be saturated with dozens of new ways to download, vodcast, podcast and share television and radio. Sky, BBC, Channel 4, Ch Five and even the usually slow ITV are all developing their various Video on Demand / iPlayer models.

They may be on the net to begin with but how are we going to be consuming video in the next few years anyway? The iPod TV is going to launch next year. The new Windows Vista operating system (replacement for XP) is launched with more multimedia capability and emphasis on transmitting to your TV set. BT Vision launches this November: it's a broadband TV set-top broadband box; some are calling it Freeview plus because that's what it is - Freeview ariel TV integrated with a seemless broadband offering that will let you get Video on Demand from its servers.

Sky are buying up broadband companies like nuts. Why? Because rupert Murdoch realises now that he has a hell of a white elephant on his hands. Sky has 9 million households with ugly great dishes on their rooftops. Lots of people would like to get rid of those dishes, dishes he gave away for free! He badly needs to get into what's been dubbed 'multicasting' - TV delivered over the web (IPTV protocol for the geeks out there). You can't do Video on Demand with a limited satellite system, nor via the airwaves with current Freeview boxes.

ADSL via your phone will be the main driver of multicast / Video on Demand TV. Broadcasts from many to many unlike broadcast which is from one transmitter to many. Advertising will be a dream too on this multicast platform, direct ads for the kind of person it already knows you are based on your TV viewing habits that it monitors.

Back to the disability point though:

production companies could well soon have the upper hand over what we now see as the main broadcasters. Content is king. If you've made some content, wy do you need a channel to show it on when Video on Demand exists? Why does Endemol need to sell Big Brother to Channel 4 if it could just stream it for itself?

You could just put your home made TV show up on your own website/servers in the future. All you need to do then is get the message out there that your show exists or get it listed somehow on the electronic programme guide connected with the set-top box system you've got with BT or NTL or Sky or whoever.

The first stage of Video on Demand will be a closed circuit, BT Vision for instance will not immediately be hooking up to the entire internet from this November we think but that will have to change.

They're already talking about including YouTube players in settop boxes. Or BBC / ITV players. Who will get there first? Whose software will be king? Don't know. Will it even work like that? It'll definitely be hooked up to your main broadband connection though.

What will mainstream be? The things at the top of the electronic menu this evening?

Disability groups round the world, creative people etc, should be thinking hard NOW about possible productions. I predict lots of applications to the Arts council to make TV shows in the near future. I predict a supportive network for minority TV. I predict also that some minority TV shows will get picked up by what we now call the mainstream. The 'mainstream' broadcasters will find that current easy-to-watch bubble gum TV might be discarded in favour of very niche shows that individual viewers have heard about. The mainstream will be wanting to go niche too.

This isn't a fully worked up article, it's a stream of consciousness that I'm hoping to turn into an article soon. Am interested in any feedback from anyone on this.



Charlesdawson said...

Damon, if we are going down the same track as Public Access TV in the States, God help us.

I forsee millions of people making programmes in their kitchens or garden sheds, each which will be watched by about 5 other people; that's the ultimate in niche broadcasting.

That is, if it takes off at all...whatever happened to Citizens Band Radio? That was so big in the States but a non-starter here.

Now in the US, people can broadcast pretty much what they want as they are covered by the First (I think) Amendment, which insists on freedom of speech. That is emphatically not the case in this country.

Look at how the Powers That Be leaped to block Canal when it was found that UK residents could access its porn broadcasts; and no, I don't have either cable or satellite!

I forsee one roiling mess. Our Govt really, really hates the idea of a broadcasting system it can't control, or hadn't the BBC noticed?

Damon said...

But the difference here is the social networking aspect. It's being referred to as 'collaborative broadcasting'.

Part of the problem of Public Access TV, and the internet in general, is that it is too difficult to find the good stuff in amongst the crap. And there is a wealth of crap.

Collaborative Broadcasting is where you rely on other people to find the good stuff. Other people vote on it, basically, or add it to a 'Favourites' list. You can then tap into like-minded networks of people to find the good stuff.

If you type in 'Lost' for instance, if you're a Lost fan, then it'll create you a Favourites list based on what other Lost fans are also watching. Tap in 'Lost' 'Six Feet Under' 'Question Time' and 'Buffy' and you will get an even more honed Favourites list.

On the web, this is what they're calling Web 2.0 ... or similar such schemes.

Navigating your way through the rubbish is a potential nightmare. Logon to a disability network' (where the network is other people, not the broadcasting company) and you'll find your content.

Damon said...

Oh and also ... part of the point is that making TV is now much easier and cheaper than ever before. Broadcasting yourself is also much cheaper and easier. Previously disabled people wouldn't have been able to do this. Now that they can, it'll be possible to point at well-made programmes. The Mainstream broadcasters cannot envisage or even guess at what 'good disability tv' might be. They need to see it. Because it's now much cheaper and accessible to make and share it, they'll be able to see it and nick ideas, attitudinal change, etc.

'Public access' is a different model on linear 24-hour TV channels. With Video on Demand, many programmes won't even be accidentally hit upon, they'll get zero viewers. So the key is with the networking, the publicity and the number of viewers. Viewrs breed viewers.

But there will be many ways of choosing, including using decent keywords to tap in what you're after.

I think it's all change! TV as we know it will die.

Or maybe TV will stay as it is? Nawwww.

These are my thoughts, some of them, and I commit them to you.

It's interesting though, no?

Charlesdawson said...

"Part of the problem of Public Access TV, and the internet in general, is that it is too difficult to find the good stuff in amongst the crap. And there is a wealth of crap."

You said it. Trying to find information for a client on informed consent for surgery, I typed Informed Consent into Google and the first three hits wwere to BDSM* sites....and I would hate to tell you where I nearly ended up when I tried to get information on anal surgical procedures!
*I had to look it up, too

Agent Fang said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Agent Fang said...

I think you're right, Damon. Very interesting. More blogs like this please. I have rambled too, dammit, only logged on for five minutes in my break! (deleted first reply cos of rambly spelling mistakes...)

Look at the response to the Ouch! podcast - the signatures on the petition. It's international. And the variety of people who signed! Youtube already has its own stars. (I always knew Waynes World was prophetic).

There's always muck in with the brass - but ever since it was ITV versus the BBC that's been said, hasn't it? Now theres more choice - but like you say, more ways to filter, to point to the good stuff. We are more savvy and quicker to catch on and the technology changes even more quickly.

Skill in entertainent is still a valuable commodity and I don't think that will diminish on the new platforms. I think we will see new styles and issues previously suppressed through 'management decisions', grow from new ways of communicating. Now that upper level of approval can be bypassed so the audience ultimately decides.

I'm very excited about the potential of content for artists... it's a good time to be working in a minority (or elite as I like to say) area.

Yes. All hail the disability culture revolution. I just completed a project where one of the finished pieces (from a disabled person) says "We're the next generation of super-heroes"... Hahaha. Oh yes we are.