Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Thank you, God - Nelson's Back

On Thursday, May 10th, 2007, I wrote a blog post about Nelson - a man who was being deployed to Iraq - and how his deployment made me feel.

Two nights ago, just shy of one year overseas, Nelson walked into one of our karaoke spots. He's home and in one piece. Not a scratch or a mark on him.

Thank you, God. Now could you please work on bringing the rest of them home?

Please check out my novel, In Fashion's Web on Amazon.

Who Needs Television?

That’s exactly what I began wondering when I started watching “Lost” on the Internet a few weeks ago. I became addicted to the series during season 1, three and a half years ago. It is, in my opinion, the best written script on television. But I never watched it, because I had missed the bulk of the first season and I didn’t want to start in the middle. I decided to wait until I could watch the pilot and all the subsequent episodes in order.

I finally got that chance three weeks ago — halfway through season 4. And I did it on the Internet. ABC makes every episode available through its website. So there I went. I watched every episode from seasons 1, 2, 3 and the first half of 4 (before the writer’s strike) sitting in front of my computer, all in a space of about three weeks. I am now fully caught up in time for the first new episode since the writer’s strike ended, scheduled for next week.

The whole experience was really great, and it changed my views on television as a medium. I was in control of what I watched and when. I wasn’t beholden to a TV schedule. I could pause, replay, fast forward. There were commercials, but most of them were just 30 seconds — not the four to six minutes of advertising you get from the broadcast networks.

And I realized, who needs television? I wished I could do that with every show — watch it when it’s convenient for me. For a fleeting moment, I thought, hey, that’s what TiVo’s all about. Maybe we should get TiVo. But then, I had a second thought. Who needs TiVo? Will watching TV on the Internet put TiVo out of business?

Experts say that the “second screen” — the computer — will never replace the first screen — the television — because people want larger screens and they want to be able to sit and relax in front of them without doing any work. I get that. And I agree with that. But we all know that there are companies figuring out how to hook up computers to the television, and early adopters are already doing it.

So what happens when early adoption moves to early majority and all of a sudden everyone is sitting back on their leather couch in front of their 60-inch flat screen surfing the Internet for TV shows? What happens to television then? And TiVo then?

A major paradigm shift is taking place in 2009 — all of television is going digital. The significance of this is, all television is being formatted to fit the Internet medium. When that happens, the question will become, how many broadcast networks are smart enough to take advantage of it?

I watched approximately 72 episodes of Lost on the Internet. Each show had one advertising sponsor, which generated approximately 10 commercials. That’s 720 impressions just on me. How many mes were out there last week? And the week before? A hundred? A thousand? Just 10,000 people watching on the Internet would generate 7.2 million impressions. That’s a sizeable number.

But here’s the big catch: as much as I said I wasn’t going to watch those commercials, I found myself doing it again and again. There was a 30 second countdown to click back to the show. Many times, those 30 seconds were up before the commercial ended but I clicked back to the show anyway, missing the tail end of the commercial. But there were plenty of times when I found myself watching the commercial and forgetting to click back to the show until the commercial ended.

This is a major paradigm shift in consumer behavior. And I’m sure I’m not the only one. In fact, I’m certain this is a trend that will only grow.

Will this result in the generation of online-only television? New shows that aren’t good enough to bear the multimillion expense of a television pilot but would cost less to produce for the Internet? There is tremendous potential here. And I’m ready to be the guinea pig. The test case.

Now I find myself 10 days away from the next Lost show being available and there is nothing I can do but wait. Sigh. I guess I’ll just have to watch television.

Please check out my novel, In Fashion's Web on Amazon.