13 May 2008

My Dream Media Configuration is Nigh

Not too long ago, I told some friends that I envisioned television of the future as being more directly consumer-driven. Networks & cable would continue on for two reasons, but would not be the main viewing medium. The first reason to keep old-school television going is that most people don't like change. I know many people who have purchased TiVos for their parents, only to watch them use the minimal feature set that would be mostly analogous to a VCR. The second reason for TV to stick around in its current form is to provide a good combination of randomness and authority. There's a lot of content already out on YouTube, Veoh, FunnyOrDie, iTunes and so on, but a lot of it is BAD. Or it's great, but it's not really a series with things like long term plotting or character development. So I want some kind of gating function, some source that says "Yeah, we thought this was good enough to throw our money and our name behind."

But I don't want to watch TV on cable anymore. Even lovely, beautify digital HD cable. I want to buy my shows directly. It eliminates commercials, it eliminates (or augments) inaccurate Nielsen ratings (well, once networks take downloading seriously), and it should allow for the same long-tail phenomenon seen on Netflix to give indie and critical hits a fighting chance of surviving.

Now, you may be saying "iTunes does that, already, silly" and this is true, but I am a) just generally opposed to iTunes for their stupid DRM and b) I want to veg on my couch while I watch TV, not sit at my desk. The answer to my prayers was inside my TiVo for a long time now - hello, Amazon Unbox!

I had only been using Unbox on my TiVo for the freebies and extras, since I was already paying Comcast to bring me TV and Netflix to bring me movies. But a series of events led me to use Unbox to watch the first season of "Heroes" and the last few episodes of "How I Met Your Mother" and I am sold. Even SD shows look great. It does feel weird to go through the fade out/fade in with no commercials (hey, maybe it's the beginning of modernist abstract TV!) and I do miss the approximately 10% of commercials that are actually good. But, hey, I can always go to my Mom's house for that.