Writer. Warning: opinions. My lawyer advised a disclaimer, but didn't include any jokes to go with. Damned if I can think of any either.

The TV Three Way

I imagine the fine folks who work in the TV industry right now are in a bit of a pickle. It is much the same pickle that the movie, magazine, and music businesses have been in over recent years: How can they keep making money when people can download and share their content for free?

Who wouldn’t want to watch network TV after all the work they’ve done to ensure that commercials are louder than the shows? Lord knows I don’t want to miss one second of the latest missive from the used car industry. I am told they’re also working on a special setting for your TV that allows them to show advertisements within advertisements, but that’s very experimental stuff and would probably blow your speakers clean through the couch.

In the case of the music business, iTunes came along and offered a model that seems fairly simple and works pretty well. Now everything seems happy in that world, but there is still some contention in TV land. Many a suit is wrinkled.

The TV people take timid steps into other styles of distribution, but seem reluctant to go all the way into a new idea, like someone trying to quit smoking by “cutting down”.

Take Hulu, for example. It’s a web site where you can watch any show you want at any time. It has an ad-supported model, which means that the content providers get some money for letting people watch their show. This is all fine and well, but where’s the ad-free subscription option? I would be willing to pay a monthly fee to watch The Daily Show and Colbert Report ad-free whenever I wanted, but the TV people are standing in the way, chain smoking. Why?

Well, my guess, and I know almost nothing about the workings of the TV industry, is that that idea would mean that the revenue would go directly to the show, not to the network, since the idea of a network would pretty much be dissolved. See what I did there?

In this case, the networks are like a long-time girlfriend, and consumers are like a boyfriend who has inherited a fortune. Except it’s not really a fortune, it’s the internet. The boyfriend all of a sudden finds himself with options, and starts eyeballing a new, younger, more attractive girl, played in this soap opera by online/on-demand/ad-free viewing.

You can see how some very uncomfortable conversations would be had here, and the idea of a three-way is right out.

Sooner or later, this situation is going to come to a head, and I don’t think the networks are going to like where it ends up. Let’s just hope they don’t make this any more uncomfortable than it has to be.

At least they should quit smoking. That is gross!