How to make my mom watch Internet TV

Internet TV is one of the most important development in the world of television and media in the last 10 years. The ability of creators to shoot and distribute shows in a fraction of the budget needed just 5 years ago is certainly a disruptive force in the industry.

However, this market is still a niche, with low viewership compared to traditional media. This is a double edged sword – on the one hand there are a lot of opportunities to capture the market, but on the other hand, without getting money flowing to this industry, most of the players won’t survive – and we will miss this opportunity for good.

So why aren’t (more) people watching?

When talking with close circle of friends and colleagues, I got answers that can be divided to two main categories:
1. It is not simple enough to watch Internet TV
2. There is nothing to see

Drilling down the first category, I’ve encountered questions such as: what the hell is RSS, what is the difference between channel and a show, what are all those buzz words (UGC for example), and why can’t people just open their TV and watch this content like the rest of the shows out there. Another important issue raised was that there are many shows, and viewers don’t really know which ones are good.

Companies are trying to answer some of these questions – content discovery and AppleTV are good examples. However, on the semantic side, we are doing a very bad service to our potential viewers. I am developing a longer post about this topic, that I hope to publish soon.

The second category is much more complex in my opinion. While we can find common language rather easily, and companies are developing technologies and approaches for content discovery, content development poses a major obstacle to medium adoption. What is our target audience? We have a lot of shows targeting technology geeks and cooking lovers. The reason is simple – geeks are open to watch quality content in their subject matter in new mediums, and cooking shows answer two important needs -they have a clear market, and can be produced in relatively low budget. But what about approaching other segments? When will we have Sopranos, Prison Break, and Heroes level of shows, in Internet TV only production? Will this content increase online viewership?

In other words, what are the main barriers of Internet TV adoption? Technology, clear language or the content itself?

Tomorrow, 12th of June, in Podcamp Europe, I am doing a brainstorming session discussing all these questions, at 1500. If you are in Stockholm, drop by (free entrance) to voice your opinion. Feel free to leave comments on this post, and help us enrich the discussion.

UPDATE – see discussion results here.

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11 Responses to “How to make my mom watch Internet TV”

  1. 1 Chris Hambly June 14, 2007 at 12:15 pm

    I’m cross posting this here, I noticed the discussion also on Brogan’s blog.

    I was at this session and though I didn’t voice my views during the session, I listened intently; I thought I’d reflect a touch and then pen something here.

    In the comments above I think Justin is “bang on” the money, and you, Chris, also touch on it yourself in mentioning boxes.

    I feel the paradox is two-fold, the first being a question of finance.

    If we are (rightly or wrongly) comparing qualitatively with TV and traditional film, internet TV is very simply (from what I have seen) far too under-funded.

    The huge media empires both TV and Film have significantly large budgets in order to garner a fantastic, highly-skilled, vastly experienced, production team of writers, camera operators, lighting people etc et all, and lets not forget celebrities, the faces, the actors, the Christopher Walkers.

    In that sphere, there exists, large sums of money to pour into productions with very long lead in times, whilst not always producing exceptional quality, perhaps based on jaded judgements at the top, they do at least adhere to a bunch of what could be termed “best practises”.

    So to obtain a reasonably fair chance at competing with that mainstream situation (on various levels) will require significant investment. Now of course, and here is the paradox, unless there is a widespread user-base, there will not be the large sums of money invested in order to pay for quality content teams, or re-port the existing content. Ok, so some may slip through the net, some small teams may produce incredibly compelling content with fractional budgets, and some main-stream content will come through, yet I feel these are very few and far between.

    So for internet TV to work, the technology simply MUST be transparent. Take the television itself; it came first, the technology, not the content. People could easily buy a television, switch it on, flip a button and get fed content. Once the technology delivered simplistically, of course the content came flooding, a mass market grew up based on delivering for that medium, this grew as a function of transparent technology.

    Secondly, one important aspect (possibly more important that my first) which was not covered in the session nor the comments yet is that of “shared experienced” and also “habitual behaviour”.

    So the shared experience is that of regular content programming in a non time-shifted manner. My partner just loves to watch a weekly soap, a regular programmed show, on the same day at the same time, week after week, (habitual behaviour) and then she will immediately pick up the phone and call her friends and discuss the content of the show, the gossiping (shared experience). She will go to work the next day and chat with her friends about the previous nights viewing, this is social sharing, and this is connecting as a group with a shared interest. Many people will never want that fractured, I’m sure; many people will want the start, the middle and the end of the series and the same time in their lives. My little nephew gets so excited that Dr Who will be shown on BBC at 6pm on a Saturday, there is a build up, there is an expectation, there is excitement in the waiting, the not having when you want, and then the BAM you got it, now go talk about it with everyone else who watched it in your social circle, THAT is powerful.

    These two concepts are incredibly powerful for us as humans and can very easily be missed if we do not take off the geek hat, and step back at times.

    Just some thoughts to add.

  2. 4 Tomer June 17, 2007 at 5:34 am

    Aside from the points brought up here, and what Chris said, which I also agree with, I find that many people just don’t enjoy watching TV on their monitor.

    There is a certain “mode” or experience that comes along with watching TV regardless of the content itself and it is inseparable from the experience … the coach potato mode.

    I myself don’t understand how people can watch a video that is longer than 5 minutes on their monitor (I rarely will, and if I do, it will usually be content I can multitask with, usually where the visuals aren’t important… like a lecture or lesson)

    I think that as more people have their computers connected to proper big screens in the living room or other methods of using the big screen (DVRs, USB, etc.) more people will watch internet TV regardless of the quality of content… since a lot of us seem to watch anything that’s on TV anyway, it’s often about relaxation and state of mind, more than the substance of the programming.

    This is all connected to the first point you made about making it easier, but I think it’s also important to stress the actual viewing setting. (“Choose sitting on that couch watching mind-numbing, spirit-crushing game shows”)

  3. 5 Kfir Pravda June 17, 2007 at 10:07 pm

    Chris, Sam, and Tomer – thanks a lot for your comments. I writing now a post about the session and some of the comments made. It seems that two points are continuously raised – the lack of easy connectivity to TV sets, and the lack of production budget. I believe that the second one can be minimized with smart writers, but the first one is a major issue.

  4. 6 Barlow Keener June 18, 2007 at 4:41 am

    I think that if we could look at the stats we would see that the older generation and the Babyboomers are watching video on the internet. It is not always the same content being watched by the 20 something generation but it is golf on Youtube and the gold channel, CNN video clips, Wall Street Journal Video, NYT Video, Washington Post, Fox, NBC and ABC. Video here is easy to watch, great players, and content aimed at that generation.

    Think about this. The US armed forces watches live news 24 x 7 I believe TheFeedRoom built the DOD player. The National Rifle Association has a video on the net channel watched by millions who agree with their position (I don’t but the show is excellent from a technical point of view).

    So it is content not technology that is driving the email user to video – also think about the new Netflix drive for downloaded movies. That is in a sense video on the Internet. And MLB is watched by millions everyday. Soon to be followed this fall by NFL.

    You just need good content and good marketing (Kfir can provide the marketing!)

  5. 7 Kfir Pravda June 18, 2007 at 11:10 am

    Barlow – completely agree

  6. 8 eric : June 18, 2007 at 6:01 pm

    My 70 year old uncle watches my show, gardenfork, because it interests him.

    I think that is and will be the driving force, compelling content.

  7. 9 Kfir Pravda June 19, 2007 at 5:00 pm

    Eric – how did your uncle hear about this show?

  8. 10 kelly May 3, 2008 at 8:32 pm

    When it comes to watching tv on the internet, i mainly use it to watch sporting events like football and basketball, but when it comes to tv shows and movies, i just use regular tv. Many of my friends are the same way.

  1. 1 How to make my mom watch Internet TV - Follow up « Media,Technology,and Rebel Filmmaking Trackback on June 18, 2007 at 11:33 am

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