Wednesday, May 25, 2005


Future of TV: Piracy will save production

A recent post on Boing Boing points to transcripts of Mark Pesce's speech, "Piracy is Good?" on Mindjack. I wasn't previously familiar with Pesce, but he's got loads of fascinating things to say here. His notion of "hyperdistribution," a new model exemplified by swarming P2P apps like BitTorrent, touches on a lot of my thoughts about where television might be heading.

If you ignore the coming era of hyperdistribution, we can write you off right now. You're in the same boat as a producer of radio plays in the 1950s; the most successful of those individuals established careers in television, but others ended up bitter and unemployed. We have to deal with the world as it is, not as we'd like it to be. The clock can't be turned back on BitTorrent. In the new, "flat world," where any program produced anywhere in the world is immediately available everywhere in the world, the only sustainable edge comes from entrepreneurship and innovation. Yet broadcast television has become a self-contained world, inside a comfy plastic bubble, breathing its own air, which - after half a century - has gone noticeably stale. It's ready to be shaken up.

The future belongs to the fast, cheap and out-of-control. Cheap productions will more easily find the advertising partners they need for hyperdistribution; costly productions will find themselves competing against so many cheap productions that they'll find it progressively harder to justify their costs in the face of ever-smaller ratings. The audiences of the future will only very rarely number in the millions. The "microaudiences" of hyperdistribution will range from hundreds to hundreds of thousands, but in that "long tail" of television productions there is a vast appetite for an incredible variety of programs. This is no longer an era of mass media and mass audiences: the dinosaurs of media are about to give way to the mammals.

I'll admit I'm a bit skeptical about some of the more utopian aspects of this model, especially as it is sometimes too reminiscent of a lot of the millennial predictions about the future of PoD that were in the air a few years ago, but I'm nonetheless optimistic. I definitely agree that producers and broadcasters ignore the positive benefits of P2P file sharing to their detriment.

Super work performed.
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