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Most TVs these days are LCD. Some manufacturers have completely phased out plasma. Why? Because while plasmas look better than LCDs in your home, they don’t win the brighter-bluer battle on the showroom floor.

Pause for a moment to reflect on this tragedy—this battle of who can make the most egregiously wrong image has actually caused a superior technology to fall out of favor with manufacturers. Plasmas lost by making movies look they way they’re supposed to.

How exactly is plasma superior? For the time being anyway, plasma TVs can render much darker black levels than even the best LCDs. This is the single most important factor affecting image quality in the home, where you are likely to watch movies with at least some of the lights off. It’s also something you just plain cannot judge in a brightly-lit store.

New paragraph for effect: If you are TV shopping, just about the worst thing you can do is go look at TVs in a store.

Stu Maschwitz, Your New TV Ruins Movies

Just a bit of advice for all the folks out there shopping for TVs in stores: don’t.

Ericsson has released a new report showing the rapidly changing complexion of TV use. Social media is growing like mad, and although Ericsson downplays it, an additional 7% in cord cutting since 2011 is like a tire iron coming through the windshield.

[And I wish they would stop talking about TV ‘consumption’. No one is consuming anything. Let’s just call it TV use.]

The Game Changer For TV: 5G

Maxwell Wessel makes the case that the status quo of today’s entrenched cartel of TV networks and cable companies could be disrupted by an alternative to cable internet: Wimax.

Maxwell Wessel, The Inevitable Disruption of Television

For about a year now, I’ve been warning producers that disruption is coming. And for about a year now, the conversation has ended the same way. Bundling good. Internet expensive. Studios infallible. If I can pull myself together before boarding a plane, I always respond with Rogers’ observation. The ecosystem will develop. But after this last trip, the standard response wasn’t enough. I felt compelled to not only to speak in generalities, but to find an actual solution. So I did.

As soon as I landed in Boston, I committed to finding a substitute for my bundled internet / television package. Something that would break away from the overpriced value chain. And in just one evening, I found my solution in the form of 4G wireless connectivity.

With a little bit of research, I found that I could subscribe to Clear — a disruptive internet service provider that leverages 4G technology instead of an expensive fiber-optic network — for just $49 a month. They would send me a small device (1/2 the size of a dollar bill) that would create a small wifi network wherever I took it. It would provide me with unlimited internet, allowing me to both cut the Comcast cord and reduce my monthly bill with my smartphone carrier. It wouldn’t be as fast as my Comcast subscription, promising about one third the speed of my existing connection, but it would theoretically be fast enough. So I ordered it.

In two days, I had a broadband connection and no Comcast bill. I can stream television shows wherever I am, take my high speed internet with me when I walk out of the door in the morning, and pay about half of what I did before (even including the cost of Hulu Plus).

For most people, this solution probably isn’t quite good enough. 4G internet speed is noticeably slower than wired broadband and there isn’t nearly as much content available through Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon as there is housed within a 150 channel Comcast bundle. But as compression technology improves, the 4G infrastructure is expanded, and the quality of internet video improves, my guess is the solution will appeal to more and more consumers. It’s disruption in its most basic form. And it doesn’t hurt my thesis that Time Warner, Comcast, Cox, and the Dish Network represent four of America’s 19 Most Hated Companies. People are primed to embrace disruption in telecommunications.

4G is not going to cut it for most people, even for me. I have 4G on my iPhone, and I used it as a connection when in transit or hotels that charge for internet access. But it’s too slow for watching Netflix, in general. LTE-Advanced, also called 4.5G, on  the other hand is theoretically capable of up to 1 gigabit, around 10 times faster than 4G, but in practice it will only deliver 15 megabits per second, only a hair better than 4G’s normal 12 megabits.

But the thinking is right. Imagine a hypothetical 5G standard, which actually delivers 1 gigabit/second. I am predicting that we will see that come about in the next five years because the adoption of high performance mobile devices — smartphones and tablets — is where the action is today, and the benefits of always on connectivity are so great.

So, then we will see the end of the cable internet choke point, and the collapse of the old TV cartel. Yes, today you need the cable connection anyway, so forcing people to buy the triple-play of TV, internet and phone service seems to make sense. But everyone has a cell phone, and uses that preferentially, so the phone line via cable  is superfluous. Once the internet via cable becomes superfluous the TV cartel will break down.

We will be getting our internet connection from our mobile devices, and pumping the video and audio stream to the dumb TV in the corner from there. No cable boxes. No cable companies. No cable bills. No cable TV networks.

Twitter Sucks The Oxygen Out Of The Third-Party Client Ecosystem

Twitter changes the way that third-party clients can interact with the service, tightening the clamps that they put in place last year. Basically, that end of the ecosystem is effectively dead.

Matthew Panzarino, Twitter API Changes Set Maximum User Cap for 3rd Parties

There’s no way to sugar coat it. These changes effectively kill off the growth of the third-party client ecosystem as we know it. Twitter wants people to be using its official apps and seeing tweets exactly as they’re displayed both there and on the web version of Twitter. This has a lot to do with features like Twitter cards and advertisements, which in turn have a lot to do with Twitter’s partnerships with media companies and brands.

The silver lining, if you can call it that, is that your favorite clients that currently exist will likely stick around and there’s nothing that is going to stop you from using them or the developers from continuing to work on them. The caps are sizable and there is room for many, like Tweetbot, to continue to grow.

But it likely does kill off the desire for others to get into the client game, which is just fine with Twitter. And, at some point, those clients will hit their maximum limit. That’s when their developers will start having to ask some hard questions about their business.

The future is all about Twitter and its official apps, you might as well get used to it.

Panzarino lists all the tech specs of the API throttling, but it doesn’t matter. It’s over. Get used to official Twitter clients.

Twitter doesn’t want to be an Erector Set, where anyone can build a crane or a race car or a bridge. They want to build a well-engineered customer experience, where Twitter can push sponsorships, new sorts of pages, new kinds of inline expansions of URLs where they can pull in media content, and where they can make deals with the publishers of that media.

Erector Set - ‘They buzz with action’

Just think about the possibilities with TV. Imagine clicking on a URL from HBO that allows a sixty second clip from Game Of Thrones to be run, along with an HBO banner along the bottom. But the context for the URL to be expanded has to be managed in a specific way across all clients, so that Twitter can get paid by HBO, and where customers can rely on a consistent experience.

Twitter is headed right into the central DNA of medialand, and no third party clients are invited along for the ride unless they have already been absorbed as organelles already, like Tweetie and Tweetdeck. The rest are evolutionary dead-ends.

Forget Cord-Cutters: Cable Companies Should Worry About Cord-Nevers - Rebecca Greenfield via The Atlantic Wire

http://www.theatlanticwire.com/technology/2012/08/forget-cord-cutters-cable-companies-should-worry-about-cord-nevers/55380/

Rebecca Greenfield collates a bunch of commentary about the slowing growth — almost non-growth — of TV subscriptions in the US. Around 400,000 Americans cut the cord last quarter, but cord-cutters aren’t the trend to watch: it’s cord-nevers.

Rebecca Greenfield via the Atlantic Wire

Cord-never numbers are particularly hard to measure. A cable company, of course, can’t report the amount of people who never subscribed to them in the first place, but we can do some piecing together to get an idea of the changing trends. U.S. census data found that 1.8 million new households were formed, but that only 16.9 percent of those signed up for pay-TV services, according to Ad Age’s Dan Hirschorn. The TV industry has been flat for years; U.S. households continue to rise. Meanwhile, as cable subscription rates have stayed flat, Internet subscriptions are on the rise. Comcast added 156,000 net broadband subscribers, an 8.4% increase; Time Warner added 59,000 residential high-speed Internet subscribers. While something like 100 million U.S. households subscribe to TV services, the U.S. 2010 census data had 120 million households with Internet — those numbers have only risen since then, with these companies reporting increased subscriptions. And what do people do on the Internet? Watch things. Though the most popular Internet activity, as of 2010, was social networking, video saw a 12 percent increase, according to a Neilsen report. Though, those numbers include people with cable.

These cord-never numbers matter more than the cable-cutters because the people who tend to not ever sign up for cable are young — and the youth is the future. Americans ages 12 to 34 are spending less time in front of the TV, found another Neilsen study. As of February 2012, for three quarters in a row, there have been declines in viewing among Americans under 35, The New York Times’ Brian Stelter reports. He attributes this decline to a shift to streaming. “Young people are still watching the same shows, but they are streaming them on computers and phones,” he writes. Right now the cable industry has maintained stable subscription rates because of an elderly population that’s watching television more, adds Stelter. But, those people won’t be around to change the future. The broke twenty-somethings who survive off of Hulu, Netflix, bootleg streams of their favorite shows, and stealing each others’ HBO Go passwords now, might get used to a life without paying for cable, causing a generational shift in the way Americans consume things. That’s what the cable companies should worry about. 

And some people are simply watching less of the mass-marketing oriented Hollywood mumbo jumbo, and doing other things. 

I expect a revolution in what we call TV, and it will emerge from the rise of the second screen, and the separation of advertising revenue from broadcasting (see Social TV and The Second Screen). Imagine if Twitter built a variant of its tool that was geared to a richer social experience around TV. And imagine that millions of people watching the NBA playoffs are using that app to socially experience the playoffs, running the game on the dumb box in the corner and the Twitter app on the iPad or iPhone or laptop. And imagine that Nike decides to pay Twitter for ads on the second screen. How will the NBA or ESPN respond? What law is being broken?

This is like cord-cutting, metaphorically. It’s cutting the link between advertising dollars and the ‘owners’ of the TV products.

So the revolution comes when the networks and the cable companies loose a large slice of their ad revenues. It will be just like the newspapers losing the classified business to Craigslist. 

On the other side of that collapse will be new TV, but first it will all fall to bits. And then I will finally be able to buy access to a single NBA playoff game, or just the Women’s Beach Volley Ball at the Olympics, or just Game Of Thrones from HBO, because the natural unit of TV is a show, an episode, a game, just like the natural unit of music is a song, as iTunes proved.

NPD: Global LCD TV Shipments Fall for First Time - Tess Stynes via WSJ

http://blogs.wsj.com/digits/2012/06/20/npd-global-lcd-tv-shipments-fall-for-first-time/?mod=e2tw

We have officially passed peak TV:

Tess Stynes via WSJ

Global television shipments fell 8% in the first quarter from a year earlier, as LCD-TV volume posted its first year-over-year drop, according to research firm NPD Group.

LCD TV shipments fell 3% to 43.1 million units from a year earlier and were down by a third quarter-to-quarter. World-wide TV shipments fell 32% from the fourth quarter to 51.2 million.

As TV becomes absorbed as ‘just another sort of media’ by the Web it is being transformed into New TV. New TV is about a swarm of devices — smartphone, tablet, PC, dumb display, but not just a dumb TV in the corner.

Demand for gigantic monitors will decrease — except for the older demographics — because people aren’t just using TV in the living room: it’s wherever they are, using whatever displays that are available. And the payback on a 50 inch bulb decreases if you are watching in bed, on the train, in the bathtub, at a friend’s house.

The WSJ piece makes no effort to thread these numbers into some larger societal trend, which is a shame.

Doc Searls on Apple’s TV Plans

Doc Searls zooms in on ESPN as the biggest impediment to New TV:

Doc Searls - How Apple will turn the Net’s top into TV’s bottom

The main thing that keeps cable in charge of TV content is not the carriers, but ESPN, which represents up to 40% of your cable bill, whether you like sports or not. ESPN isn’t going to bypass cable — they’ve got that distribution system locked in, and vice versa. The whole pro sports system, right down to those overpaid athletes in baseball and the NBA, depend on TV revenues, which in turn rest on advertising to eyeballs over a system made to hold those eyeballs still in real time. “There are a lot of entrenched interests,” says Peter Kafka in this On the Media segment. The only thing that will de-entrench them is serious leverage from somebody who can make go-to-market, UI, quality, and money-flow work. Can Apple do that without Steve? Maybe not. But it’s still the way to bet.

Doc doesn’t make the analogy to the old music system, where the labels owned the talent, the distribution systems, and were in tight with Tower Records and all the rest of it, but it’s very similar.

Sports programming is one of the few areas where TV is growing. So making a deal with ESPN and others (like the World Cup and other soccer leagues, as was rumored earlier in the year) could be turn out to the Gordian Knot. And who more likely than Apple?

(via underpaidgenius)

Henry Blodget On The Fall Of Old TV

The Dirt Floor

Henry Blodget looks at his own family, and sees the demise of the existing TV business model. It’s not going to fade away this week, but as the behaviors of the larger population shift into a mode more like Blodget’s the effect on TV will be almost exactly like the fall of newspapers. I agree with him.

I Don’t Mean To Be Alarmist, But The TV Business May Be Starting To Collapse - Henry Blodget via Business Insider

In our household, as in many households, television consumption has changed massively over the past decade, especially over the past 5 years.

  • We almost never watch television shows when they are broadcast anymore  (with the very notable exception of live sports)
  • We rarely watch shows with ads, even on a DVR
  • We watch a lot of TV and movie content, but always on demand and almost never with ads (We’re now so used to watching shows via Netflix or iTunes or HBO that ads now seem like bizarre intrusions)
  • We get our news from the Internet, article by article, clip by clip. The only time we watch TV news live is when there’s a crisis or huge event happening somewhere. (You still can’t beat TV for that, but soon, news networks will also be streamed).
  • We watch TV and movie content on 4 different screens, depending on which is convenient (TV, laptops, phones, iPad)

[…]

So, what are the key points of this shift in user behavior for the traditional TV business?

  • "Networks" are completely meaningless. We don’t know or care which network owns the rights to a show or where it was broadcast. The only question that’s relevant is whether it’s available on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, or iTunes. This means that one of the key traditional “businesses” of TV—the network—is obsolete.
  • The majority of what we pay our cable company is wasted. We get broadband Internet from our cable company, and we use that constantly. But we also get 500 channels that we almost never watch, along with a couple (HBO, Tennis Channel) that we pay extra for and do watch occasionally.
  • We rarely watch TV ads, and when we do, we’re usually doing something else at the same time—like typing. Also, the ads seem startlingly intrusive, because we’re not used to them.

More directly, what this means is this:

  • The vast majority of money TV advertisers spend to reach our household (~$750 a year, ~$60/month) is wasted, because we rarely watch TV content with ads, and, when we do, we rarely watch the ads.
  • The vast majority of money we pay our cable company for live TV (~$1,200 a year / ~$100/month) is wasted, because we almost never watch live TV and we can get most of what we want to watch from iTunes, Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon.

This user behavior has been changing for a while, and, so far, it has had almost no impact on the TV business. On the contrary, the networks and cable companies are still fat and happy, and they’re coining more and more money every year.

But remember what happened in the newspaper business.

Newspapers didn’t collapse in the ’90s, when the behavior of the creative and connected started to pull away from that sort of media. It was ten years later, and the newspaper moguls were *still* blind-sided by the web despite a decade of obvious change in the user base.

Blodget says that the old TV players will have to accept this change, and that TV will become just another source of video, and this transition will mean a huge loss of revenue for the traditional linear TV players.

In the long run, we’re in an age of experience: not audience. We don’t ‘watch’ TV or ‘consume’ media anymore: we are participants and TV users, not ‘watchers’. The old guard don’t get it, but we are turning a corner and leaving old TV behind.

I expect the TV industry to put up a fight, to resist being sucked into the black hole known as the web. They will redouble efforts to lock things down, to restrict access to the most popular shows and sports, and to act as a cartel to slow the absorption of TV by the web.

The game changer — not mentioned by Blodget — is that TV is losing viewers, and people’s behavior is changing. So, other players outside the conventional TV world are buying properties that will move more and more control out of the hands of the NBCs and ComCasts of the world. Like Google and YouTube.

A company like Apple can disaggregate the linear TV model, just like their iTunes and iPod did to the music business. It may lead to more ‘TV’ being watched in the long run, but less money streaming to the middlemen that structured linear TV so they could make huge profits.

The advertising model of TV already makes no sense, since people with mobile devices and tablets are already spending more time looking at the second screen than the TV itself. The fall of TV will come with a bang, as soon as some major player — Apple, Google, or Facebook, perhaps — rolls out a dominant second screen platform and starts selling synchronized advertising there, and all without paying the networks.

In the long run, we’re in an age of experience: not audience. We don’t ‘watch’ TV or ‘consume’ media anymore: we are participants and TV users, not ‘watchers’. The old guard don’t get it, but we are turning a corner and leaving old TV behind.

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