Thursday, January 31, 2008

Television is about to be swallowed by a “True Multimedia Experience”

The Internet won't replace TV it will swallow it. Television as we know it is about 50 years old. Thats a long run for any technology but something better is emerging.

Now this doesn't mean the experience of watching video is going away, it means the experience of watching TV is going to get a lot more immersive. The experience of a TV show, we might even still call it TV, won't begin and end with any given episode. It will be surrounded by a multitude of other media.

“Multimedia is old news”, you say, “boring”. Well thats not possible you see because multimedia never happened. The vision was there but the technology wasn't. Interactive TV – boring. Full motion video in our video games – boring. Web TV - Who wants to surf the Internet on a low resolution TV, on a dial-up Internet connection – double boring.

What was needed to make multimedia really work was lots of processing power. Check, modern computers can juggle video with ease. High resolution TVs so all types of media including text is legible on screen. Check, High Definition TVs are now the standard. High penetration of broadband Internet. Check, modern broadband connections can pull down video in faster than real time. And one more thing we didn't even know we wanted, Social Networking.

Social networks don't just appeal to the technically inclined. 'Regular people' use social networks and this is what makes them so valuable. Social networks are the most efficient way for millions of people to interact, exchange ideas, and gossip about all things that interest them.

Social networking capabilities will be integrated into the websites of TV shows. Fans of TV want this level of involvement. Witness the way TV watcher have not only embraced reality TV but hang on every twist of fate befalling their favorites participants. They relish in the emotional roller coaster ride and immerse themselves in the lore of their favorite shows.

People have always enjoyed talking about what they watch on TV with their friends but the Internet brings a hole new level of interactivity. Video will only be a part of the experience. Supplemental and mini episodes, alternate endings, downloadable music, literary fiction, video games, merchandise and contests. This is a true multimedia experience. Video only experiences will be considered shallow.

Users of social networks spend more time on these sites than any other. This solves another problem. How to monetize TV shows that are streamed over the Internet. Since fans won't leave a site as soon as they are done watching a show. Targeted ads should be quite lucrative.

Much of what I have written about here has already begun but no one has pulled together all the pieces. TV production companies are still coming to grips with this change and don't quite trust this new medium.

The pull of the Internet will prove irresistible. The Internet is where the people are. So it is to the Internet they must go.