A Small Exploding TV Reality Check

Lots of folks are talking about “exploding TV” right behind Mac Mini and other problems Apple is having with bloggers. Jeff Jarvis, Fred Wilson and Chris Anderson are leading the conversation. I don’t agree – I think the difference has to be made in TV (as we know it) and content created and distributed on the Internet by individuals and indies.

Here are some actual numbers which show that exploding TV is one with a really long and I mean long fuse. An average American watches four hours of television and assuming that he gets to pick and choose at a rate of 99 cents an hour, well his/her average spend is going to be about $1465 a year or about $120 a month. Add the download costs – say a good 6 megabits connection, which is about $50 a month, you are looking at $170 a month. Average cable bill is about $52 a month. Not including the cost of specialized gear like darling of the moment, Akimbo or TiVo, the delta is just too wide.

Unlimited television, which can be manipulated at say extra $10 a month if you get the cable DVR, versus a micro-niche download model? Take your pick! I guess, its safe to say that television is not going to change from being a push to pull model for some time. However, it might go from total push to some manipulate status. Remember, there are only 2 million TiVo customers – and given the time and marketing dollars that company has spent, it should be a cautionary tale. Moreover, it is a model which is very US centric. And one more thing….

In the US Digital TV report, eMarketer Senior Analyst Ben Macklin describes the slow start of VOD: “Watching any movie or TV show at any time of the day or night with full DVD functionality is undoubtedly an attractive proposition for most consumers, but VOD has not turned out to be the cash cow cable operators were hoping for, at least not yet. While VOD has become widely available across the cable footprint in 2004 (satellite TV operators, such as DIRECTV, do not have the bandwidth to offer on-demand services). eMarketer estimates less than 10% of cable TV households were regular users of the service in early 2004. Furthermore, cable operators are providing increasing amounts of VOD content for free, indicating, perhaps, that the future of VOD will primarily be a service to reduce churn rather than a significant revenue generator in the short term.” (eMarketer report link)

Does it mean it will never happen? Can’t say that, but safely can say this whole explosion might take at least five years at the very least. And like the Bells, I don’t take the television companies lightly – they always figure out a way to subsume the revolution.