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Saturday, May 19, 2007

Another End That's Near

It's no global Armageddon, but it sure generates more phone calls to TV engineers!

A new website is out that explains the impending end of analog over-the-air TV--hopefully better than the kids in the aisle at Best Buy do. If you have the opportunity, please direct your nearest soap-opera-watching little old lady to this website. Of course, you'll have to show her how to use a computer first.


Lee Shelton said...

Analog, we hardly knew ye. Rest in peace.

Of course, this whole switch to digital may not matter. Television as we know it probably won't even exist in 10 years. What do you think, Chris?

Chris Wilde said...

Quite. This switch to digital is part of television changing, as we know it, though granted this particular change only amounts to improved picture quality and, in some cases, multiple programs per channel over what is still a fixed stream of content broadcast in a linear schedule.

The "convergence" of television and the web does not quite seem to be happening as forecast; there is still a difference between sitting at a computer screen and kicking back and watching TV--not the least being that it's still pretty hard to get enough bandwidth for "broadcast-quality" video and audio over the web. But, bandwidth will grow and some form of convergence--or at least similarity--between TV and internet technology is bound to happen. And I'm not certain how much longer those big electrified sticks in the air in Shoreview, MN and Alleman, IA will be feeding enough viewers to justify their cost of operation.

To stay in business, local television must become agnostic on their method of delivery, and start to focus on their content. Mostly, that means local and regional news and weather (and maybe some "journalism" while we're at it??). Local stations are no longer necessary for the distribution of network entertainment programming. On the other hand, neither the big four networks, nor, nor a lone blogger with a video camera, can match the resources of a traditional local television or newspaper operation in doing front-line local news gathering and original reporting, or match the built-in brand recognition and promotion power they have for building marketable web audiences. We need to take advantage of that head-start. Meanwhile, newspapers are losing print circulation just as fast as TV is losing broadcast viewers, and it will be interesting to watch who wins as they both start to focus more on 24/7, non-linear, web-based news delivery. One sign of the times is that TV stations are now starting to hire full-time writers for their websites, and newspapers are starting to hire videographers for theirs!

Personally, I think this is a good thing. The more my employer can start to focus on news reporting, without the time limitations of a 30-minute newscast restricting content, and the less we are in the business of distributing vapid, lowest-common-denominator network entertainment programs, the better I will feel about my job. Now it's just a matter of the corporations that own us realizing that the days of getting 30-40% profit margins out of network programming and rip-and-read newscasts are disappearing, and that to stay profitable at all they're going to have to start immediately reinvesting existing capital into local journalism, compelling local content, and digital delivery methods for both.

Geez! Where did all that come from? Well, you asked!

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