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August 05, 2005


John "Z-Bo" Zabroski

Chris, to say all broadcasting will die is a bit extreme. It may in fact happen due to disorder in the market place. However, for Cuban to be "myopic" he would have to ignore market fragmentation and the random scatter of choices.

Claiming the death of broadcasting is ignoring the Long Tail power-law distribution and certain facets of modern programming. For instance, the Internet likely will not be capable of handling 55 million viewers worldwide for the Super Bowl any time soon, and, even if such technology becomes available, the very nature of the modern sporting event necessitates that sporting events will slow disorder down. Commercials in live events allow broadcast teams to re-organize themselves for two minutes and get ready for another 10 minutes of programming. I think this is an example of where you won't see the death of "TV" as Gilder describes it; you will see the spontaneous production of order from disorder instead.

Overall, I think both Gilder and Cuban would serve each other well to combine their viewpoints. Each opinion has something the other is lacking and with very little overlap -- if you look at each of their arguments carefully they are not diametrically opposed but just a battle of semantics. More time should be spent looking at how these two viewpoints can be rather easily combined.

Another thing, Cuban is suggesting there will not be a death of channels but a change in the way channels operate: "we can quickly go back to a point that makes it easy to find another selection." That centralized trackback point is perhaps the new "channel" and if I might add a very nice new form of advertising and allow for freer markets in advertising...

mark cuban

Chris, the vision of the internet as a replacement medium for broadcast tv died when we sold Broadcast.com to Yahoo. Why ?

Because we were the only organization fighting to implement multicasting on networks and fighting to have those networks integrate into a single multicast enabled net.

Broadcast TV is just that. Broadcast. It can reach 1 to millions , live, in realtime.

Until the internet is reconfigured, it wont.

Hence, Broadcast TV wont die.


thanks for the update chris.

btw, broadcast tv and longtail video are not mutually exclusive. In fact broadcast tv enables long tail video.

People want to dream that their video will make it on TV or into theaters or be picked up for DVD distribution. That enhances the investment made into video that in turn fills the long tail.

Combine the dreamers with the personal or smaller financial interest creatives and you have a long , replenished tail.

The tail will always be long and strong, and in aggregate give broadcast, sat and cable a run for their money and keep em honest, but the net, as it is today and the next few years at least , cant support broadcast and that tech limitation will keep the door open for broadcast tv for a long time to come


TV doesn't offer an important thing: choice. What about the fact that, unless a consumer wants to see a program right when it comes on, they really don't need TV... or the fact that they Tivo it, remove the commercials (which is the reason for the broadcast to begin with -- to draw eyeballs to toothpase and toilet bowl cleaner advertisements), and watch it later?

Okay, so the internet does not have the technology (yet) to do broadcast... but what if being able to broadcast isn't all that important (just a hypothetical)?

The only time I see broadcast as integral is when there's a event that has to be carried live; something that everyone is going to want to see right when it happens versus later, like a football game. Non-event entertainment tends to try to create the illusion of an event, but this is on very shakey ground w/ consumers... They are so busy, time is of the essence. First and foremost, they want to fit entertainment into their tight schedule.

Perhaps consumers are not as lazy as some might think. Perhaps they are not lazy at all, but proactive. I think the trend has bend that consumers can't find the content they want, so they channel surf. Thereby missing all of the commercials and becoming discouraged... looking for a better alternative, like the internet. Something to cater to their limited time and increasingly idiosyncratic tastes in entertainment.

People are really migrating away from TV, in my view... it's been happening for years. For an event, TV is great.. I admit that. That is it's core competency, I think.

John "Z-Bo" Zabroski

@Mark Cuban

There might be a trade-off for some people where they might accept lesser fame (fame being one dream) for more ownership of their own content (being your own boss; seriously, how good does it make you feel to know your sweat equity is what gave you the fame you have).

Another thing is the path of least resistance from boredom is not TV for everyone... for some it's video games (whether it is consoles, PC Games, or Internet flash games like those on miniclip.com)... and, on an even more esoteric level, for a friend of mine the path of least resistance from boredom is doing physics problems, because that is what he loves to do. Although esoteric in example, my friend is actually a really good example of how it is not for everyone: Doing what you love to do overrides Aaron Spelling's comments. You can also use the Internet to find what you want to do, providing what you want to do is on the Internet and you know how to use the Internet to find what interests you. Not enough of your friends like discussing junior hockey? Then like me you can go to hockeysfuture.com, read about future NHLers and after you are done with that you can go to discuss junior hockey on their message boards. This might not seem like "the path of least resistance" since there is work involved, but here is the sick thing: The work in finding your special interests takes you away from your boredom as well.

Also! there is one form of television programming we might see the death of, at least in one demographic, but not because of finely sliced aggregation through FCC licensed vendors: Syndicated programming. Mark has made the point in the past that teenagers are a demographic with more time than money and they will find ways to rip content and share it among friends rather than pay for it. TV Syndication, like Seinfeld, depends on the shelf-life of previously produced shows. It's going to be impossible in the future to productively syndicate shows whose demographic are teenagers; it might be possible to syndicate very old shows a'la Nick At Nite to adults who want some childhood nostalgia.


You know, with all this talk about narrowcasting and broadcastimg, I've never heard anybody mention the social aspect of TV. Let's just say that TV allows for unlimited choice. Rick can watch five hours of iguana skateboarding programming a day thanks to user recommends. What about when his friends are over? Mr. Anderson, you yourself said the water cooler effect is dying down. Rick likes iguana TV, Joe likes Mafia baseball programming. Who wins? Will Joe have to yawn through five hours of iguana programming? I think TV will work like the web does today. While some people enjoy narrowcasting and switching between a guided by voices concert and leftie documentaries, most people will stare blankly at the MSNBC default home channel.

Doc McClenny

What is TV?

Is it a picture on a TV set or a streaming video on a PC? What about a PC connected to a TV?

Is it live content, streaming VOD, download, store, and play later?

Do if find it from a PC web application? From an Interactive Program Guide? From a recommendation engine?

Is it only broadcast TV if it is broadcast over-the-air? What about cable only networks? What about IPTV only networks? Internet only networks?

Until you agree on what feature set defines TV, you are arguing past each other.


chris anderson

I'd argue that "traditional TV" is: "Ad-supported video that is broadcast at set times on a limited number of channels (terrestrial, cable, or sat)".

Everything else is a wide spectrum that ranges from subscription non-ad-supported TV, like HBO, to streaming video online. It's easier to say what traditional TV is than what it isn't, since that's obviously an open-ended set of new technologies, business models and viewer behavior patterns.

christopher grove

I've just read the post and the Mark Cuban quote mentioning suggestive programming made me think a little further about that. Given that a lot of the worlds TV channels are (heavily) biased (yes I know that you can't have unsubjective media, but I feel that a lot of media are currently taking that point to a greater extent than is healthy) and given that the easiest way to censor information is to simply not talk about; surely the possibilities (and practice) of media manipulation are going to increase to frightening proportions under this new model, aren't they?

chris anderson


I'm not quite sure I'm following your logic. The best way to get a diversity of views and information out there is to lower the barriers to entry to video distribution, which is what a post-channel TV future promises. The "suggestive programming" model that Mark and I are talking about just concerns the UI, or top-level video guide that most people would use to access this. Sort of like a version of Google News tailored to your own interests and viewing patterns as an example. All such filters promote some things and hide others based on whatever recommendation model they're programmed to use, but if people want uncensored media then that's what they'll provide--collaborative filters are, by definition, democratic.

christopher grove

OK, I'll try and be a bit clearer.
I agree with the point that you're making. However, if you don't want people to see a specific piece of programming, you can take the suggestive technique and use it to 'hide' the programming that you want to censor, by using the suggestion programming technique to direct people towards programming that you want to show, and away from programming that you don't want them to see.
The same thing is already done with books in France. If the media doesn't want people to read certain books (due to differing political views for example), then they simply don't do a book review on the book, and less people discover the book (and you could say that the book becomes a long tail product).
You say that collaborative filters are democratic, but surely the extent to which they're democratic is linked to the options that are made available to the user, isn't it?
Now while I can't see any point in a a sales orientated site using this tactic; any media organisation linked to a political standpoint would find it even easier to push it's political position.
Is that any clearer?

chris anderson

Well, if you're suggesting that the providers of the suggestive-programming filter (cable company? TiVo?) would be in positition to decide what makes the top level of recommendations, you're right. And, I suppose, if they wanted to censor stuff by keeping it off the front page, they could certainly try. But remember that the key here is that these filters are customized to your own taste and viewing patterns, so each person's "front page" is different. Although I imagine that the companies would try to "push" some progamming to everyone's front page for marketing purposes, it's a lot harder to keep stuff *off* it, especially when there are so many different tastes and expressed intersts to censor. Censorship doesn't just annoy customers, it doesn't scale.

John "Z-Bo" Zabroski

That's a bit too optimistic and idealistic Chris. I see your point about "Push" promotions since that is one of the fundamental strategies of marketing; the opposite being "pull" promotions. At the same time I recognize your point I don't think it fully addresses Grove's comments (but I am not him so hey) Anyway, The thing is: You are also assuming that censorship is something a company inherently designs... that it is something the company intentionally puts in there. Why? I can easily manipulate behavior with enough resources and deception.

As an example, one of the flaws in these MIT/Rosenthal studies is that they are biasing the Amazon.com recommendation engine because Amazon.com feeds off buying behavior. So every time you make a new purchase you are invoking the SCARY power of The Law of Unintended Consequences. However, what if you wanted to create intentional consequences? It's entirely possible. Search engine optimization is the same thing as "Amazon.com Book Statistics Studies" in that they both try and reverse engineer filters... with HUGE side effects. Push promotions do not necessarily come from the mega-aggregators but perhaps third parties such as "special interest aggregators" attempting to influence filtering results. Perhaps, then, there is even a fifth role in Long Tail markets in addition to your Long Tail aggregators, niche suppliers/producers, filters and toolmakers... something of a screwball in Long Tail filtering, there are people whose role it is to make filters as useless as possible. i.e., by associating ones website with as many issues as possible, you have a width and depth that makes filtering out your website harder, right? There job isn't to create as much noise as possible, per say, so much as to create as strong a signal as possible.

I mentioned something like this a week ago on your blog when I mentioned I read Paul Morriss' blog and he mentioned "The Problem With Living in Thames Valley": He can't get local signals because there is a 50,000 watt London radio station in the same path to his house as the local radio stations, so even blocking out directional frequencies (strong filters!) makes it difficult to receive the right content even with the right filters. The stronger signal dominates the filter. A SWOT Analysis of the Long Tail would have to see these strong and at times improbable to block filters as a serious threat... maybe even a weakness.

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The Long Tail by Chris Anderson

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