Why TV Won’t Die?


Speaking at Always On conference, George Gilder, the fallen pundit, used his mumbling style and big words, to paint his vision for the future of TV. TV must die, he said. Mark Evans, correctly said it was “far from novel or insightful.” Given Gilder’s track record during the optical boom, it is hard to believe anything he has to say. Many a few times, I questioned his unbridled optimism and how it synced up with market and economic realities. Well, we know exactly what happened.

His view of TV doesn’t sync with market and (networking) realities. Still, Paul Kagan, a cable industry analyst, and Wired editor Chris Anderson are defending Gilder’s muddled view of the TV world.

Gilder, predicted death of TV in his 1992 book, Life After TV, and then again in Telecosm in 2000. Well its been 14 years, TV did not die, just mutated itself. Broadcast over the air, became broadcast over the pipe. It learned and adapted new tricks like VOD and PVR. But it did not die. TV will continue to mutate, slowly, but die? I might be long gone before that happens.

Mark Cuban writes, “George and others seem to think that unlimited choice is the holy grail of TV. It’s not.” I kinda agree with him. I have said that watching television is a passive activity – whereas unlimited choice makes it interactive. TV’s passivity is what makes it tick. Cuban follows his first post today with why Broadcast TV will never die. Mark, basically is answering the theoretical assertions of others by bringing up real technical and networking challenges of Internet TV.

> …the problem with IPTV is the N+1 Disaster. In an IPTV world, there isnt enough bandwidth reserved on the network so that if every channel is requested.

Consumers, not the early adopters, have a certain expectation from television. The quality of image is one such expectation. The networking infrastructure challenge of video-over-the-Internet cannot be understated. I think it will be many years before we will be able to get the same QoS on what Anderson describes as “Internet TV.” A proof of consumer expectation is VoIP services and the 911 brouhaha. Back to Gilder – before we take him seriously again, folks remember the past… just saying!



Podcasting right now is mass chaos — thousands of individual shows with very few standouts. If George Gilder thinks TV will ever end up like that, he’s nuts.


In the next decade or two, networks that don’t specialize in live TV may start moving from a broadcast model to an on-demand model. Some might even begin shifting to some form of RSS+BitTorrent for new series. (“This official Sci Fi torrent of Battlestar Galactica is brought to you by Verizon Wireless.”) Even if they do, though, there will still be TV networks, because there needs to be some orderly system out there to connect advertisers to shows and pay for production. Not everyone is going to pay $9.95/mo. for each individual network, a la HBO, if each one only has one or two shows worth watching.

In fact, the podcasts that survive next year’s big shakeout will probably be affiliated with networks and associations (Podshow, AMP, TSFPN, etc.) that build their audiences and develop new advertising models over time.

And there will always be live broadcast TV, too, because nobody’s going to wait to watch the Super Bowl on TiVo three days later.

Jesse Kopelman

Well, it is clearly hyperbole to say that TV will die. After all, radio isn’t dead yet. That said, I think broadcast will continue to become more irrelevant (especailly in terms of specific “channels”). Om, I would say that PVR and VOD are not TV. To me, TV is broadcast. Once you introduce time-shifting you are not broadcast. Broadcast will always have a place (how can you beat the cost of a single satellite beaming to hundreds of millions of people), but it may become less and less the ultimate content delivery model as aggregation and time-shifting through PVR takes hold.


Here is the problem. Consumer taste is such that in order to create content with true mass appeal, huge amount of economies of scale & scope need to exist for the content creator. Furthermore, only content with mass appeal can recoup the tremendous amount of fixed capital invested in such a content. (a catch-22)

Peer produced content can be viable in niche markets and it can be nicely profitable for the content creator. But to truly make a lot of money like today’s studios. You either need to be the aggregator of the micro-content (ie long tail) OR be creating content that has wide range of appeal (companies that already exist today).

In the end, the “long tail” theory never said that the HEAD of the distribution will ever disappear because of rise of peer-production. If you dig deeper, in fact, the head of the tail is pre-requisit for the “tail’ to become viable – through cross promotion & networks effects. Today’s TV (the head) will not disappear because of peer produced content (the tail) will need it to prosper.

More on this here . . .



That’s why I give podcasting about another 8 months. Podcasting is closer to a fad than HotOrNot.com – I’m not sure I would want to be Odeo right now (actually I would, because yahoo will mistakenly buy them)

Thomas Hirsch

Brandon — Well said. Note that watching TV, a movie in a movie theatre, or reading a book is not passive, the consumer is really involved IF (big if) the product is good. What will kill TV, podcasting, or blogs for intelligent people is junk. (There will always be many millions of people who are happy to just kill time by consuming junk entertainment, hence the trash that dominates TV and cable now.) I find Om Malik’s blog to be just about the only one in its topic worth reading — wide ranging and very intelligent. You learn something by reading the site. Presumably in time other blogs in the topic will drop out or just be ignored. People want to go to as few places as possible to be fully informed.


I think it’s about the content. There are a bit too many internet-hippies which believe in “vlogs” and “citizen media” – the country/world doesn’t give a damn. They want to see well-scripted, professionally-developed, entertainment, not this “guy in the living room” shit. There are way too many people stuck in their own world right now.

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