A conversation at work:

“I wonder what’ll be in the adverts for Lost tonight?” I pondered, thinking about the imminent ‘Lost Experience’ (aka ‘we didn’t want to call it an ARG because it might put people off and look as if we didn’t think of it first’).

“It’s going to be a phone number.”

“I think it’ll be either a phone number or a blipvert,” I said.

“It’s a phone number, they said so on the web.”

“Huh,” I said. “What I want to know is who’s doing this game. I’m pretty sure it’s not anyone I know. It just doesn’t feel right. Plus it’s kind of confusing who’s behind it, with ABC, Channel 4 and some Australian company all acting as if they’re making it.”

“Probably in-house.”

“Yeah,” I agreed.

“At least they’ve finally managed to make me watch Lost on Channel 4 now.”

“Yeah… I don’t think I can be bothered. I’ll just read about it on the web.”

There isn’t much that will make me commit to watching TV at a particular time. I suppose that if I was in the US I would probably manage to watch Lost and 24 on TV, mainly because they’re first-run over there, but even then I might be tempted to just use a Tivo. The way it is now, it’s Bittorrent all the way, I’m afraid; there’s no way I’m going to put up with being months behind the US when it comes to quality TV, and then be forced to watch TV without the option to pause or rewatch a particularly good bit.

Now, that’s not to say that appointment to view is dead; it can certainly work in many cases for first-run eps for big shows. The problem appears when TV and radio networks expect people to make an appointment to view a particular show that has already been shown once elsewhere in the world. What’s the point of that? It’s not like the viewer is getting any more out of the experience by being forced to watch it at 8pm on Tuesday; might as well make it available on the web with some commercials, streamable at any time (which, indeed, ABC is beginning to do). However, when you can offer the viewer or player a real reason to make an appointment to view or take part in a game at a specific time – perhaps because they’ll be interacting with live persons, whether they be game characters or other players – they’ll be more willing to play along.

While I was at GDC in San Jose this year, I had the odd experience of idly turning on the TV and seeing a first-run episode of 24. My first reaction was, ‘Huh, I haven’t seen this episode before.’ I then realised that in the real world, TV doesn’t just magically appear on Bittorrent sites – it actually gets broadcast first! As it was, I just set my laptop to download shortly after the episode finished…


2 Replies to “Found”

  1. Live TV: hisss!
    BitTorrent: Yeay!
    Tivo + Tivo subscription + cable + cable subscription: hisssss!
    TV on iTunes: Yeay-ish… a step in the right direction, at least. I do not particularly care for the quality, but like the technology and business model, so do in fact “put my money where my mouth is” and pony-up for episodes (and also download the HD versions with BitTorrent.)
    RSS + video files + BitTorrent for distribution: the way it *should* work. It is like the Tivo “Season Pass” concept, but without going through the (error-prone) motions.

    The nice thing about the west coast (as you discovered at GDC) is that the episode finished airing on the east coast two hours before it even starts airing on the west coast. With a fast person encoding, it is on a BitTorrent network at the same time it is starting to air live on the west coast.

    The whole concept of LOST just starting to air season 2 over there seems so very wrong to me.

  2. I believe the Democracy player does RSS + video + Bittorrent, but is mainly aimed at community stuff right now.

    The one consequence of mass time shifting is that quality will matter an awful lot more in TV shows. At the moment TV companies rely a lot on promoting shows based on time, but when you can watch anything at any time, you’re hardly going to pick some random soap (or maybe you are, depending on how much I’m over/underestimating audience tastes). I wonder whether we’ll end up in a situation where TV companies don’t feel obliged to fill their schedules full of dreck and instead concentrate on a few blockbuster properties.

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