First, let me just say, “Warner Brothers, I salute you.” Damn, Dukes of Hazzard reruns, any time I want. Now let me say, “Warner Brothers, I curse you.” I’m getting so confused and adding BitTorrent to the mix ain’t gonna help.
I am writing this from my comfortable place: the couch in my living room. Across from me is my television. For a long time, we, me and the television, did not have a comfortable relationship (being a book person, I disdained the moving picture on the smallish box; it was one of those faux intellectual things that I now laugh about), but now I understand the beauty of TV. Even the dumb shows sometimes have purpose.
About my television. I have had access to a television, give or take, my entire life. If I recall correctly (and I do), I memorized the TV Guide during my 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th years, mostly because it is the duty of the oldest child to control the viewing habits of her siblings. I take my duties seriously.
Since my first encounter with television, there has been a remarkable consistency in our interactions. I turn on the television, sometimes manually, sometimes using a device known as a “remote control”. If I don’t want to watch the program I’m being fed, I change the channel. What with technology and all, there have been innovations. I can “record” programming for later viewings (earlier, it was a linear thing, then I got TiVo which is non-linear; TiVo is like the best thing ever, except Chinese noodles).
What hasn’t changed is the basic interface. If you take the variance in remote controls out of the equation, every television works the same way. You turn it on, you watch programming, or you change channels. Maybe you want to add choices and you subscribe to cable or satellite. Maybe you want to add gadgets, but they still work with the channel concept.
Unless you live in a house with more remote controls than sense, watching television doesn’t require too much thought. So that’s why I’m scratching my head these days. CBS is Windows MediaPlayer or RealPlayer. ABC is Flash. Warner Brothers is using BitTorrent. NBC is something else (more on NBC at a later date). Fox is flirting with iTunes, but that doesn’t seem to be where their heart is. One can only wonder what crazy thing the CW will come up with.
Sure the networks are playing nice with iTunes — it’s where the people are. But the nets want you to go to their sites and get your online television there. NBC is even trying to fight back with what (I suppose) is a “come out fighting” attitude:
Now, instead of searching the web for “borrowed” NBC highlights, you can go to the source! We’ve taken your viral favorites and gathered them into one convenient location. Watch. React. Tell a friend.
The networks want me to think of their websites like I thought of the channels of my youth. Except — and I think this is a key except — when I switch channels, I’m right there with the programming. Right. There. I’m not staring a home page, trying to figure out where to go (please, networks, use your websites, you’ll see what I mean). I’m not downloading software.
The television model has survived because it works for consumers. It’s not perfect, and we’ve modified it in our individual ways. But we all start with the same basic interface. Why should the online world be any different?