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Television Entertainment Technology

TV Isn't Broken, So Why Fix It? 839

Posted by Soulskill
from the no-i-do-not-want-to-wear-3d-glasses-to-watch-tv dept.
PolygamousRanchKid sends this quote from a contentious article at CNN that questions the need for further development of TVs and the entire TV-viewing experience. "The technology industry is absolutely bent on reinventing television. ... But nobody seems to be able to answer the big question: what exactly is so broken about TV anyway? The tech industry is filled with engineers and geeks. They naturally want to optimize the TV experience, to make it as efficient and elegant as possible, requiring the fewest number of steps to complete a particular task while offering the greatest number of amazing new features. But normal people don't think about TV that way. TV is passive. The last thing we want to do is work at it. ... As long as there's something on — anything — that is reasonably engaging, we're cool. Most of us are even OK spending a few minutes just shuffling through channels at random." So, what do you think is broken about TV right now? Is there a point at which it'd be better for us to stand back and say "We've done what we can with this. Let's work on something else"?
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TV Isn't Broken, So Why Fix It?

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  • TV ain't broken? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mholve (1101) on Monday December 05, 2011 @03:28PM (#38269834) Homepage

    Have you SEEN what's on TV?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      I don't watch much TV because I just don't have the time, but there's lots of good shows I'd like to watch. The Office, The Simpsons, Pan Am, How I Met Your Mother, Eureka, Conan, Modern Family, The Big Bang Theory, Person of Interest, Chuck... And I haven't even checked the news shows. And those are on top of the one or two I watch from my own country.

      Then there's all of those on break, like Futurama and Californication... There's great amount of good shows to watch, so it isn't that.
      • by SnarfQuest (469614) on Monday December 05, 2011 @04:17PM (#38270842)

        Brief synopsis of some of your favorites:

        The Office: Office workers are stupid idiots
        The Simpsons: Nuclear operators are stupid idiots
        Pan Am: Stewardesses are stupid idiots
        How I Met Your Mother: Sex addicts are stupid idiots
        Modern Family: Parents are stupid idiots
        The Big Bang Theory: Geeks are stupid idiots
        Chuck: Spies are stupid idiots
        news shows: Reporters are gullible stupid idiots
        Futurama: Aliens are stupid idiots.

        Seems like there's a trend there somewhere

        • by fyngyrz (762201) on Monday December 05, 2011 @04:29PM (#38271100) Homepage Journal

          You're over-complicating the content.

          Seriously, there is about zero content that isn't badly drawn cartoons, sitcoms/dramas written so as to be palatable to 90-IQ types, straight-up propaganda, or infomercials.

          Almost the only things worth watching come from sources other than the networks. And if something DOES come along worth watching, they cancel it right around episode 14.

          If it weren't for some of the productions you can buy on DVD and Bluray... and some streaming... I don't think I'd even own a TV today. But some of the movies make it all worth it for me.

          My dad used to say something along these lines: "Of all the technologies that he was aware of, television both had the greatest potential, and was the furthest from even approaching its potential." It took me some exploring, but I've decided he was spot-on.

          • Re:TV ain't broken? (Score:5, Interesting)

            by Hatta (162192) on Monday December 05, 2011 @05:20PM (#38271904) Journal

            My dad used to say something along these lines: "Of all the technologies that he was aware of, television both had the greatest potential, and was the furthest from even approaching its potential." It took me some exploring, but I've decided he was spot-on.

            Exactly. Why is it we have 800 channels of TV, and not one of them carries college level lectures? There are professors out there giving lectures every day. It would cost next to nothing to record them and air them, and would give the 5% of us who actually like to use our brains something to watch.

      • by Joce640k (829181) on Monday December 05, 2011 @04:46PM (#38271370) Homepage

        I don't watch much TV because I just don't have the time

        This neatly answers the question of what's wrong with TV: It doesn't fit into people's schedules. If you're not available when the TV company is broadcasting then you're out of luck.

        Then there's all the timewasting adverts. You might think a show starts at 10:30 but the broadcasters see the schedule time as a way to get you sitting down to watch a few adverts, nothing more. You might waste 20 minutes before it actually starts (at least, that's what they do around here).

        Yes there's TIVO to timeshift things but it's only a half measure. You still have to be sitting in the right room in front of the right screen and you have to remember to program it to record the shows you want.

        So far the only answer to these problems has been BitTorrent. But if the MAFIAA gets their way then pretty soon you'll have the outside world disconnected and/or be sent to prison for doing that.

    • by somersault (912633) on Monday December 05, 2011 @03:34PM (#38269984) Homepage Journal

      Apparently they don't care

      As long as there's something on â" anything â" that is reasonably engaging, we're cool. Most of us are even OK spending a few minutes just shuffling through channels at random

      That was acceptable when there was no other option, and when you were just wanting to relax for a while. There are much better alternatives now though. Even if those alternatives also involve just passively watching media, why should you settle just for something "reasonably engaging" - probably punctuated by ads every 10-15 minutes - when you have streaming options available? Even before I overcame my strange desire to build a collection of media, I much preferred simply buying everything outright than putting up with adverts. These days I'm happy with streaming and rentals.

      • by Anrego (830717) * on Monday December 05, 2011 @03:41PM (#38270172)

        While I too tend to prefer buying a series and watching it straight through (I don't care about the advertisements, more the lack of waiting a week between each chunk), I also fondly remember the "sit back and casually watch whatever is on" thing.

        Discovery channel, comedy central, and TLC (back when it was about learning and not decorating houses..) were great for this style of consumption.

        • by michrech (468134) on Monday December 05, 2011 @04:07PM (#38270670)

          I used to watch TLC pretty frequently. Now it's all programming about decorating things (houses, people, etc), pimping out your toddlers, and irresponsible child birth (both in having absurdly large families, and those that *somehow* "don't know" they're pregnant, etc)... Used to watch Planet Green until it started running reruns from other Discovery channels. I do watch a lot of Discovery Science, though I don't hold out much hope that Discovery Networks won't fuck that one up also. :(

        • by Mista2 (1093071) on Monday December 05, 2011 @07:48PM (#38274082)

          Stop the stupid new format on discovery shows:
          Credits, 10 minutes telling you what's combing up in the show.
          Ad break
          Quick recap, some content, then a few more clips of things to come
          Ad break
          Recap of the previous segment, a little new content, and again the same 10 second teaser clip
          Adbreak
          Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz oh shit, I go so bored I switched it off, so I don't know what comes next.

      • by shaitand (626655) on Monday December 05, 2011 @03:43PM (#38270226) Journal

        TV is different from streaming in that content is pushed to you rather than pulled by you. Although I like the empowerment of pulling all my content pulling means that I mostly pull the content that is in my comfort zone and that I am already somewhat familiar with. Movies with actors I've enjoyed in the past or even that i've already seen and really enjoyed. The amount of exposure to new actors and new content is limited. For instance I will pull the latest season of dexter because I enjoy the show but I wouldn't be likely to pull the big bang theory because I've never seen it.

        However with broadcast TV I might stumble onto the big bang theory and leave it on a few minutes and find I enjoy it. Then I can go download the rest and watch it marathon style without commercials if I so choose.

    • Re:TV ain't broken? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by alphatel (1450715) * on Monday December 05, 2011 @03:36PM (#38270034)
      Advertising has been the driver behind commercial TV for decades. Money still pours in [nytimes.com] non-stop to commercial networks and some are looking to capitalize even more with product ordering forms [nytimes.com] in case you thought it couldn't get any worse.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 05, 2011 @03:36PM (#38270040)

      That's a writing/funding problem, NOT a technical issue.

      From a technical standpoint, TV has been fine for decades....

    • by Jeremiah Cornelius (137) on Monday December 05, 2011 @03:36PM (#38270052) Homepage Journal

      My response to the question as well. The problem with TV is not technology.

      What is broken about TV is content. Direct TV is amazing! There are now 1000 channels, with nothing on. The technology improved this from 50, a mere decade ago.

      I don't wan' a "History" channel that gives a platform to observe crackers welding hotrods, or a chance to watch "Like Water for Elephants" at 7.99 USD.

      I am afraid to even ask about the listing: "Dave's Old Porn".

      • Re:TV ain't broken? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 05, 2011 @03:39PM (#38270124)

        Dave's old porn is great. Think MST3K but to blurry porn

      • by NatasRevol (731260) on Monday December 05, 2011 @04:13PM (#38270776) Journal

        This is fundamentally what's wrong with TV. The subscription model.

        I dont want 1000 channels of random cram, repeated every 4 hours. You're going to get repeat crap when there's 1000 channels to fill.

        I want about 25 channels of stuff that *I* want to watch. And I want to be able to actually chose those channels. And add or subtract channels I'm (not) interested in. I don't ever want to see a hunting/cooking/househunting show. But I do want to to watch hockey games/history/movies. You can't, the subscription model says you have to have both.

        If the price is $1.99/channel/month, I'd get what I want for about the same price without having to surf the channel guide regularly.

      • Re:TV ain't broken? (Score:4, Informative)

        by LWATCDR (28044) on Monday December 05, 2011 @04:27PM (#38271070) Homepage Journal

        The problem is cost. Back in the day you put up an antenna and got free TV. Now thanks to cable companies their are fewer and fewer network stations. I live in a town of over 200,000 people and I can get one network OTA and like 14 channels. If their was no cable companies I would get all the major networks because they have made deals with those small stations. Now the stations get to double dip. They charge the cable companies and show commercials. The Cable companies also get to double dip and bundle channels you don't want to subsidize the ones that you do. I would bet you big bucks that a lot of people wouldn't pay what ESPN is asking.
        I can tell you that OTA HD is so much better than the recomppessed crap on cable. If you live in a good sized city or near one I really suggest getting a cheap set of rabbit ears and see what you can get OTA. You may be shocked.

    • by Megane (129182) on Monday December 05, 2011 @03:37PM (#38270070) Homepage
      I've tried turning up the brightness knob, but it's just as stupid as it ever was.
    • by Anrego (830717) * on Monday December 05, 2011 @03:38PM (#38270090)

      It's actually starting to improve..

      There are some honest to god sitcoms popping up. Still not worth getting my cable back yet, but it at least looks like the reality TV thing is starting to fade.

    • Re:TV ain't broken? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Blind RMS Groupie (218389) on Monday December 05, 2011 @03:41PM (#38270186)

      Yea, it's been a vast wasteland [wikipedia.org] for the past 50 years.

    • Don't miss it.
       

    • by s1d3track3D (1504503) on Monday December 05, 2011 @03:47PM (#38270296)
      Exactly. You know the saying there are 500+ channels and nothing is on.

      For me TV is broken because I should be able to watch anything I want when I want.

      I should be able to click on the TV and watch any episode of the original Star Trek (for example) at any time (it would also be nice to have a 'you may also enjoy', or 'related' to learn about things I may not be familiar with in the genre [or, perish the thought, new programs in development])

      TV should be at my control 'for my entertainment', not treat me as a passive audience for what ever is programmed at whatever time.

      (Yes, I realize this is probably not a realistic expectation. I am also aware of the wide array of recording devices, Tivo, etc as well as Movie streaming devices. (Roku, etc) I also realize that the blocker in my vision is more about licensing then technology, still, this is how I would like 'TV' to work)
    • by elrous0 (869638) * on Monday December 05, 2011 @03:48PM (#38270320)

      Yeah, 90% of everything is crap and always has been. That doesn't mean everything on TV sucks. There are a lot of great shows in that 10%. Unfortunately, they tend to get cancelled while shows like Keeping Up With the Kardashians get renewed. But 90% of people's tastes apparently suck too. Every time I get depressed about it, some great new show comes along to renew my faith.

    • Re:TV ain't broken? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by sheehaje (240093) on Monday December 05, 2011 @03:49PM (#38270342)

      The problem with TV is the cost to get what I want. My FiOS TV costs half of my $200 Verizon Bill (Internet and Phone are also on it). Which isn't much value to me, but is to my wife and son. I watch 3 shows regularly: Daily Show w/Jon Stewart, Pawn Stars, and now for some reason American Horror Story. I also watch the NFL and sometimes Baseball. If it wasn't for my wife, I would definitely cut off TV out of the equation, but she is a stay at home mom (cost of Daycare doesn't justify her working and having someone else raise our kids). Things like Sesame St. and Disney programming are great for my son. But of 150+ channels, we maybe hit 6 or 7 of them in a week.

      Here is how you improve TV: Offer A la Carte programming. Let me choose about 20 channels, and cut my bill about 70%. Right now, the Internet is a pain in the ass to watch TV on, but it's the best way to get the programming I want. If I could choose the channels I want, with the simplicity of DVR and a remote, for a cost that is reasonable, then TV would be in the golden age.

    • by Canazza (1428553) on Monday December 05, 2011 @03:57PM (#38270488)

      I use my TV to listen to Digital Radio. It's got better speakers than the radio I have in the kitchen.

      Seriously. Between that, Panel shows (like QI and HIGNFY) and the odd Film it's all I use it for.

    • by FictionPimp (712802) on Monday December 05, 2011 @04:00PM (#38270554) Homepage

      You should see the look of shock I get when I tell people I do not have TV service. I have netflix, I have video games, I have a few other online content resources, but TV....not much worth paying for.

      I'd much rather wait for it to get to netflix, watch without commercials and see it on my own time, at my own pace. You want to fix TV? Let me buy what I want, when I want and watch it how I want.

    • Re:TV ain't broken? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Darinbob (1142669) on Monday December 05, 2011 @04:13PM (#38270778)

      Agreed. The technology is just fine. The technology was just fine 10 years ago too. What's broken is the content. (actually this describes the state of the internet too)

    • by Marrow (195242) on Monday December 05, 2011 @04:34PM (#38271190)

      Maybe you don't remember the programming in the old days. It was horrible. It seemed like there was one or two shows a decade that were worth watching. The movies were bad too. We see old movies and old tv shows now that are chosen because they were the watchable ones.
      Today we are spoiled for choice. There are lots of shows worth watching. Sometimes two a day on the same channel. And there are more than 3 channels now. There used to be very few channels.

  • It's broken for me (Score:5, Interesting)

    by afidel (530433) on Monday December 05, 2011 @03:29PM (#38269856)
    I can't imagine life without a PVR, being a slave to some executives scheduling decisions is no way to lead your life. It also helps that my PVR includes comskip so I spend 1/3rd less time watching tv and my kids aren't bombarded by relentless advertising.
    • by Mashiki (184564)

      Oh you're not the only one, but for me it's a different reason. There's simply nothing on. I own a TV, it's 15 years old, it's a hand me down from my parents who thought I needed one. I think I turned it on last about 5 years ago, I'm pretty sure it still works. But, what's broken? It's not the TV, it's what's on TV.

      • by InsightIn140Bytes (2522112) on Monday December 05, 2011 @03:34PM (#38269992)
        If you haven't turned the TV on in five years, how can you know the shows aren't worth watching? Or are you just rambling the way old people always do "things were so much better before"...
        • by houghi (78078)

          If you haven't turned the TV on in five years, how can you know the shows aren't worth watching?

          If you need to ask that here, please hand in your geek card right now.
          I watch shows from all over the world that will most likely never be shown in my country. Guess how that is possible.

        • by Hatta (162192)

          If TV has been garbage for the last 40 years, what reason is there to believe that it has gotten better in the last 5?

        • by couchslug (175151) on Monday December 05, 2011 @04:17PM (#38270852)

          "how can you know the shows aren't worth watching?"

          Because TV has always been designed for the lowest common denominator. IMO it should stay that way as a walled garden of shit.

          I've had it on because the wife uses it for background noise due to severe tinnitus.

          TV was shit and is shit with only a microscopic percentage of worthwhile content easily surpassed by the Internet.

      • For me it's both.

        Well actually I watch a few series that are currently running (plus the odd documentaries), so it's not that there's nothing on, it's just that it's a tiny fraction of the shows you get on TV, showing at odd and inconvenient times. Pretty crappy deal considering the subscription fees AND ads.

  • What Indeed (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Moheeheeko (1682914) on Monday December 05, 2011 @03:29PM (#38269868)
    What is so broken about TV? It isnt giving tv manufacturers ample reason to charge onbcene ammounts for a new tv.

    Now a 3-d tv, thats a good reason to spend 2k on right?

    Right?

  • by Sez Zero (586611) on Monday December 05, 2011 @03:30PM (#38269872) Journal

    TV is broken because, with a few exceptions, content is tied to a specific time and location.

    I want to be able to watch my favorite shows when I remember I want to watch them, not a time set by someone else. I also don't always want to watch them from home.

    Take away Tivo, Slingbox, etc and these things are not possible.

  • advertising (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Quirkz (1206400) on Monday December 05, 2011 @03:33PM (#38269936) Homepage
    The only thing broken about TV is the massive proportion of it dedicated to advertising instead of actual content.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 05, 2011 @03:33PM (#38269946)

    The part which is broken is the networks and cable companies, who add nothing but get between the consumer and the content creators. Those who decide which content gets produced with our money, and who enforce regional distribution restrictions, exclusive digital streaming rights.

  • by SomePgmr (2021234) on Monday December 05, 2011 @03:33PM (#38269960) Homepage
    I'll take a crack at this.

    It's expensive as hell.
    The cost exaggerates how much crap there is to sift through to find anything worth watching.
    Often the "worth watching" query comes back empty.
    The STB's are universally awful.
    Even if you DVR and FFwd, the commercials are an annoyance.

    I'm sure there's more... but that's what I can think of off the top of my head.
    • by tomhudson (43916)

      How is it "expensive as hell?" It's $20 for an indoor antenna, and the cost of electricity to run it.

      If you only want to watch a few hours a week (as opposed to 5-8 or more hours a day, which is insane if you're not an invalid), there's more than enough on.

    • by SomePgmr (2021234) on Monday December 05, 2011 @03:37PM (#38270080) Homepage
      Oh, and the part that really gets me... to go from 1 show worth watching to 2 shows worth watching, you'll need to up your package with another 30 awful channels for an additional $20 in MRC.

      And want to watch on another TV? That'll be another $5-10 a month.

      Oh and don't pick a movie from the on demand, you'll have to mortgage the house and you'll only have access for the next 24-48 hours.
  • Commercials. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mosb1000 (710161) <mosb1000@mac.com> on Monday December 05, 2011 @03:33PM (#38269962)

    Commercials, among other things. Because everything has to be dumbed down to gain mass market appeal and advertising dollars, there is a real lack of quality programming. But hopefully we may see the internet change all that, once all the DMCA type shenanigans come to an end, and people figure out that you can still charge for content even if people steal it.

  • Simple... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jawnn (445279) on Monday December 05, 2011 @03:33PM (#38269968)
    Too many fake reality shows. Way too many. Less Jersey Shore, Lady Hoggers, and the like, and it will be just fine.
  • More control (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 05, 2011 @03:34PM (#38269978)

    Because it is passive, they cannot measure the degree of effectiveness of their mass control initiatives, resulting in more time and money spent to repeat the message enough to guarantee assimilation. They want ways of getting feedback.

  • by forgottenusername (1495209) on Monday December 05, 2011 @03:34PM (#38269990)

    Why should I pay for a bunch of channels and service I don't want?

    If they offered modular, on demand service I wouldn't have to monkey around with xbmc, encoding etc.

    Services like on-demand streaming of movies/tv where you pay exactly what you want are the future. The cable company can't let go of their monolithic 'screw you cuz we can & always have' thinking. Eventually they will go the way of the labels as far as monopoly via audio CD's - technology will evolve past them (already is/has) and they'll just be left waving their wizened fists angrily, struggling for relevance and trying to screw people over with control of cable internet.

    • by gfxguy (98788)

      Do you not see that YOU and people like YOU are improving TV?

      The author of the article is moronic... he could have said the same thing 20 years ago and ignore the advent of DVRs, online content, even HD (let alone 3D) televisions. Things are always getting better.

      If I had to (and I certainly don't) guess a motivation, it's that people are getting burned out on frequent expenses for their television viewing.... buy a DVR, the next year you upgrade to HD so you need an HD DVR and bluray player; then TVs and

  • Country (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Lord Lode (1290856) on Monday December 05, 2011 @03:34PM (#38269994)

    I want to see channels from any country, in any country.

    That's all.

  • Problem with TV is.. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by blahplusplus (757119) on Monday December 05, 2011 @03:34PM (#38269998)

    ... fixed schedules and they show only the content that will get them the most (average) viewers. So programs cater to the lowest common denominator. You can't simply just watch what you want to when you want to relatively (obnoxious) ad free.

    The great thing about the internet is you can find old shows like cartoons and whatnot from earlier in your life that no network will broadcast anymore. As bad as content industries make 'piracy' out to be, they can no longer forcibly send old shows offline permanently (which is a good thing). If anything piracy will be a great boon to future historians of entertainment, the arts and humanity generally speaking.

  • Mode and Complexity (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anrego (830717) * on Monday December 05, 2011 @03:35PM (#38270000)

    Primarily the mode of delivery. It made sense that the internet would piggyback on existing infrastructure (cable and telephone) but the tables have now turned, and it would make more sense to piggyback TV on a line specifically meant for Internet (fiber).

    Complexity is an interesting one. Modern TVs are freaking complicated. My grandfathers set blew about 2 years ago so I helped get him a new one. Trying to find a larger screen TV that doesn’t require a geek to operate is pretty damn hard. There would seem to be a huge market for people that just want something you turn on, change volume, change channel, turn off. Even if you get a geek (like me) to set it up for you, you still end up with either multiple remotes (one for TV/one for digital box, one for DVD player) or a just as complicated “smart remote” that kinda works.

    Some very basic functionality that should exist (but I haven’t seen) would be that the TV should detect a signal on an input and auto switch to it via some kind of hierarchy. Turn on the DVD player.. input should go to that.. turn it off.. back to digital box.. turn that off, back to analog cable. This seems basic and maybe it has been done, but when I looked I couldn’t find a TV that supported this.

    • by Jeng (926980)

      Some very basic functionality that should exist (but I havenâ(TM)t seen) would be that the TV should detect a signal on an input and auto switch to it via some kind of hierarchy. Turn on the DVD player.. input should go to that.. turn it off.. back to digital box.. turn that off, back to analog cable. This seems basic and maybe it has been done, but when I looked I couldnâ(TM)t find a TV that supported this.

      The Harmony remote by Logitech does some of that. Hit the button for "Watch TV" it turns on the TV, selects the input, and turns on the cable box. Hit the button for "Watch Movie" it changes the input, turns off the cable box, and turns on the bluray player.

  • Set-top boxes (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dpilot (134227) on Monday December 05, 2011 @03:36PM (#38270048) Homepage Journal

    The thing most broken about TVs today is the blasted set-top box.

    Maybe in the living room it's ok to have an "entertainment center" with all sorts of electronic boxes wired together, and to have multiple remote controls, or spend $$ to buy something like a Logitech Harmony. But for every TV you've got?

    For the past few weeks Comcast has been putting the "You're not doing this right." messages on some channels on my TV. It looked like it might be merely "going digital", but last week I did a rescan on a digital TV, and didn't find the channels that warn. I'll rescan again Wednesday, after the switchover, but I'm not optimistic. So now the second TV (which actually is digital, unlike the "first TV") is about to need some sort of extra box, extra remote, and of course when the extra box is active we won't be able to get the broadcast HD channels without extra fiddling, etc. (Or we could spend more $$$ for an HD set-top box, etc.)

    THAT's what's broken about TV - and I don't see Apple TV or any of these other gizmos fixing that, unless they accept CableCard.

    Oh yeah, this upcoming change is going to break MythTV, or at least badly decrease its usefulness.

    • Re:Set-top boxes (Score:5, Insightful)

      by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Monday December 05, 2011 @04:40PM (#38271280) Homepage

      THAT's what's broken about TV - and I don't see Apple TV or any of these other gizmos fixing that, unless they accept CableCard.

      I think you're so close on this one, but what's broken about TVs will not be fixed when the AppleTV supports CableCard, but when the AppleTV has no reason to support CableCard. In my view, the problem is the cable companies themselves, or rather the whole setup of having a "cable company".

      With digital video and the Internet working the way it does, why on earth should I be locked into a specific provider by my geographic location? Why should I need to buy/rent specific hardware for that provider? Why should that provider be broadcasting video on channels, where I'm locked into watching shows on specific channels in a specific order at a specific time of day?

      Now I won't be shocked if some people disagree with me here, but in my view, this is one of those things where things were developed at some point based on the restrictions at the time, but if you were building things today, you wouldn't design it this way. Like someone comes in and says:

      I have a great idea for a Netflix competitor. It's just like Netflix, but without a good recommendation engine, you have to watch things on our schedule, we force you to watch ads, and we force you into renting hardware instead of watching it on your regular set-top box. Oh, and the set-top boxes we provide are absolute crap, which makes browsing frustrating. And it's great that browsing is terrible, because you have to browse through a million terrible 'channels' of time-locked content looking for something to watch. And best of all, we'll charge 10 times as much as Netflix!

      Now image that. Who listens to that and says, "Oh, that's a great idea!"

  • What's broken? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AdamJS (2466928) on Monday December 05, 2011 @03:36PM (#38270056)

    Nothing.

    THAT'S THE PROBLEM.
    How's a TV manufacturer supposed to get more money if people aren't buying new TVs/their current doesn't have planned obsolescence?
    Then there's that pesky "internet" that's killing the cable cash cow.

  • It's just on. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Animats (122034) on Monday December 05, 2011 @03:37PM (#38270068) Homepage

    About half of TV is not "watched". It's just "on". (Radio is almost entirely in the "just on" mode today.) A sizable, although shrinking, fraction of the population likes the rigid schedule of TV shows.

    3D TV was an awful idea. Everything, including the viewer, has to be positioned properly for it to work. If you lie down on the couch watching a 3D TV, you will have an eyestrain-inducing experience as your eyes try to converge on misaligned images.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 05, 2011 @03:41PM (#38270178)

    The model itself.

    Originally it was said it'd be subsidized by ads. Try running a stopwatch during primetime...at least ten years ago you could get nearly 45% or more advertising in movies, and 30% plus in 30 minute specials.

    In theory--cable would cover this cost. Except instead you just get more channels with the same unsolicited bulk broadcast.

    To go away from that, you need...oh... pay per view. Costs as much as renting the fucking thing, plus delivery.

    Or you can get HBO or cinemax which at a minimum of about 15 a month is near worthless assuming you want to watch a movie once a week, but are only a 1 in 4 chance of enjoying any given movie.

    So you get to pay about $100 a month or more in order to have irrelevant ads slung at you. And then you have that nice awkward experience of sitting down to watch something with your parents when a 'little blue pill' commercial comes on. Or a public service announcement. Or somebody asking for my money to feed children so they can take their 80% administrative fee.

    Let's try to sum up the problems with TV:
        - too much advertisement
        - not enough relevant content
        - cable top boxes making it hard to space shift in my home
        - artificial difficulty in time and space shifting
        - viagra
        - inability to watch when I want
        - insufficient box office content
        - serials pushed all over the fucking place by sports
        - networks moving things to different times, days, or even other networks
        - reruns.
        - It's damned near impossible to get a tv guide in paper.
        - The digital tv guides don't work reliably unless you have a cable box (and those are hard to scan quickly since the boxes are slow)
        - Oh yeah, the boxes are slow
        - A thousand other things

    Please, can we just brutally fucking murder the entertainment industry for holding something that was a simple, easy, functional service utilizing public spectrum utterly hostage?

    • by Sebastopol (189276) on Monday December 05, 2011 @04:45PM (#38271348) Homepage

      "Please, can we just brutally fucking murder the entertainment industry for holding something that was a simple, easy, functional service utilizing public spectrum utterly hostage?"

      The solution is infinitely easier:

      Turn off your TV. Cancel your cable.

      Problem solved.

    • by dunezone (899268) on Monday December 05, 2011 @05:46PM (#38272340) Journal

      Or you can get HBO or cinemax which at a minimum of about 15 a month is near worthless assuming you want to watch a movie once a week.

      You are way off. HBO has always provided quality programming outside of their movies. Have you ever watched one of their original series? Sopranos? Boardwalk Empire? Entourage? They not only provide a full hour of entertainment for each of their series ad free but you get quality actors, directors, and producers and excellent budgets. The first episode of Boardwalk Empire cost an estimated $20 million dollars and the first season cost somewhere up to $50 million and the first episode was directed by Martin Scorsese.

      Have you ever seen Band of Brothers or The Pacific because those were HBO productions and are both amazing.

      Do you like boxing? Because HBO hosts their own major boxing matches and after every major sports championships they do a review of the team with highlights and stories. Their Red Sox back in 2004 was amazing to watch and I am not even a Red Sox fan.

      HBO also does specials. They did a entire documentary with Spike Lee on Hurricane Katrina and it was amazing.

      Oh and all of their series can be watched on their website at anytime with your subscription.

      Now I will say this. Its almost impossible if not impossible to get an HBO subscription without a standard cable package. But HBO is a prime example of great programming for a fair price. They evolved over time to move from a movie channel to a channel that can provide a wide range of value. They took the right steps to show its worth paying $15 a month. Now Cinemax and Showtime are pushing their own original series.

  • by 0100010001010011 (652467) on Monday December 05, 2011 @03:42PM (#38270204)

    The way TV currently works I'm asked to conform to a schedule set by an Exec that thinks will bring in the most eyeballs. When I was growing up (before we had a VCR) we would schedule our lives around what TV shows we wanted to watch. I remember that Monday was usually take out or quick meal night because that's when my mom wanted to watch her shows. New TV shows were introduced after the old ones we already liked. How many sitcoms were stuck in the spot after "Friends" in the hope that it would draw people too lazy to change the channel?

    My setup right now is SickBeard to Sabnzbd+ to XBMC. I paid $50 for a block of 1TB that I've been using since the middle of last year. I don't know and I don't care when most of the TV shows I watch are on. My TV time is usually midnight to 4 am. I'm in grad school, work and do a ton of other stuff on campus (Swing Club, international cooking classes, hang out with friends).

    Every TV show I currently watch has come from a suggestion from a friend, Slashdot, Reddit, or Fark. To avoid the disappointment that follows numerous shows I usually wait until the 3rd or 4th season to get into them. I just started Dexter this year. I watched all previous seasons in the span of 3-4 months. I literally just started Farscape. Breaking Bad, Community, Game of Thrones, It's Always Sunny, Chuck, etc. All came from suggestions.

    Then you have "Well if it's not in the #1 spot, it's failing" mentality of broadcast TV. Community is one of my favorite shows. Season 1 had me in stitches with some of the episodes. I lost it at the first Halloween episode when Abed was Batman. But NBC decided to bench it so "Whitney" and some other female comedian can get a boilerplated TV show. Cable TV is much better. HBO & Showtime seemingly don't care their global rankings but more about if they can get a core group of die hard fans. But those are "premium" channels and I'm sure as hell not going to pay $100+ a month to get them (because you need to add all the other channels I don't want). Chuck was brought back by a fan campaign and I'm glad taht it's going to get a proper final season but NBC seems intent to kill it anyway I heard they shifted it to something like Fridays. Because 18-30 year olds aren't doing anything else on Fridays? Seriously.

    Give me a legal torrent seconds after the TV show ends leave in the commercials and I'll watch it. But until then I can't imagine going back to "Oh, this airs Thursdays at 4"

  • by Zontar_Thing_From_Ve (949321) on Monday December 05, 2011 @03:43PM (#38270222)
    This comment only applies to the USA. It may or may not apply to other countries.

    Here in the USA we basically have to pay some provider a monthly subscription fee. Yes, you can try to watch over the air (OTA) TV for free if you are lucky enough to get a good signal where you live, but the channels are very limited. So we get suckered into buying more channels than we want just to get the channels we do want. For example, you may want one particular sports channel but you have to buy 15 different ones in a package to get it and you'll never watch the other channels. TV providers fear letting customers buy channels a la carte as they know that their income would plummet. Off the top of my head I would think that most people would probably be happy with paying a lot less money for only 20-30 channels if they could pick those individual channels themselves. I have to admit that I have just about reached my limit with TV charges and another rate increase might just make me drop the whole thing and resort to cheaper alternatives to watch the shows I want to see at a later date and time. Some people argue that "Oh if you switched from cable to satellite" or vice-versa that you would "save a lot of money" but the reality is that once the introductory offers expire, the prices are pretty much the same whoever you get your TV from. What we really need in the USA is a way to drive down the costs to the consumers to subscribe in a way that doesn't take away our favorite channels. As long as the providers are able to get away with avoiding a la carte pricing, they've got us trapped.

    However, I have to say that I am not at all an Apple fanboy, but I am really impressed at how Apple took mobile telephones and pads and turned them into something actually useful that were generations ahead of earlier attempts to do so. It's been rumored for some time that "Apple TV" is going to debut next year and I am curious to see if Steve Jobs figured out something on TVs that Apple can make better in a way they did for portable music players, mobile phones and pads.
  • by JSBiff (87824) on Monday December 05, 2011 @03:44PM (#38270238) Journal
    • Not easy to interface third party DVRs, computers, etc to cable boxes/cable systems. Cable card seems a broken and dead standard. Wouldn't be a problem except encryption means you can't just hook any potential HD TV equipment you might have to the cable and expect it to be able to receive all channels.
    • Still based around a temporal "broadcast" paradigm of "you watch it when we air it or you have to record it yourself for later viewing". Why not make all TV on-demand (except for, perhaps, special news coverage in an emergency, live speeches, etc (and even those could be made available on-demand afterwords). There has been some progress towards on-demand TV by cable operators, but still doesn't cover all programming.
    • I have to pay for channels I never watch and don't want. Please un-bundle tv channels. I'd like to take it a step further and have reasonable prices for individual shows/series. I mean, maybe I want to watch one series from HBO or Showtime or AMC or whoever, but don't care about the rest of their programming. Why can't I pay for access to just that series, and to be able to watch past seasons, etc?
    • High-Def-Copy-Protection (HDCP). Seriously, I hate DRM. I'm not trying to rip off the TV companies. I just want to be able to watch HD movies and TV shows which I've legally payed for and acquired access to, on my circa 2006 computer monitor, from my computer, without having to buy a *different* monitor, just because my "old" monitor doesn't support HDCP.
  • by kelemvor4 (1980226) on Monday December 05, 2011 @03:45PM (#38270272)
    A thing does not have to be "broken" in order for change/progress to be made. Telephones weren't "broken" when cellular phones were invented, and the horse drawn carriage wasn't "broken" when the automobile was invented. It isn't broken, companies are just trying to make money by making progress in a technology that people are interested in.
    • by Attila Dimedici (1036002) on Monday December 05, 2011 @04:03PM (#38270618)
      From the way the summary frames the discussion (which I am assuming it gets from the article), both telephones and horse drawn carriages were "broken" at the times you specified. With horse drawn carriages there were two problems that automobiles solved. First, you had to fuel/feed your horse, even if you weren't going anywhere, an automobile you only have to fuel if you want to use it. Second, horse drawn carriages had a maximum sustainable speed that made travel of any significant distance (more than a few miles) a serious undertaking. As for telephones, people had to know specifically where you were and the number of the nearest telephone in order to get a hold of you. If you were someone who spent a good deal of time going from one place to another that made reaching you problematic.
  • by kakris (126307) on Monday December 05, 2011 @03:46PM (#38270278)

    There is absolutely no reason in with today's technology that we can't have real video on demand. There is no reason I shouldn't be able to watch any show I want, whenever I want. If the providers want to include commercials, then so be it, but they're delaying the inevitable and forcing people into piracy with limited availability of programming online and by only allowing viewing within a limited window. The major television providers now offer "on demand" services, but these have serious limitations. All they're doing is giving people a taste for what could be. A cable company that offered true video on demand could absolutely clean up in the market, but the content providers are far to unwilling to shift their business models to match the desires of consumers. 50 years from now, children will express disbelief when told that you had to wait for a specific time to watch your favorite program, much like I had a hard time I had as a child grasping that television used to be only black and white.

  • by apdyck (1010443) <aaron.p.dyck@ g m a il.com> on Monday December 05, 2011 @03:46PM (#38270282) Homepage Journal
    The very fundamental principle of using television as a revenue generator is broken. I would gladly pay for a service that allowed me to watch whatever shows I wanted, when I wanted, with no commercial interruption. I am not willing to pay for a service that forces me to watch three minutes out of ten of commercials, and I certainly don't like to adjust my viewing schedule to accomodate the shows I want to watch! It is much easier for me to download shows and watch them later than it is for me to be in front of my television while they are being broadcast. If I want to watch a live event, such as a sports game, I can always head to the local pub and watch it there. I currently have basic cable and I pay ten dollars a month for it. The only reason I have that is that I purchase my internet through the cable company and, even paying $120 for the whole year, I was able to save a bunch of money on my Internet services ($300 off over three months, plus a 5% discount on my total bill, that amounts to a savings of $240 over the course of a year). I rarely turn it on. Not even for sporting events. Fix the delivery system and make it more accessible. Charge based on what you watch, rather than what channels you watch. If I was charged $0.25-0.50 per show I watched I would be inclined to watch more. But paying a monthly fee for a bunch of stuff I will never watch? Not worth the money.
  • TV Must Not Die (Score:4, Informative)

    by lucm (889690) on Monday December 05, 2011 @03:46PM (#38270292)

    It is very important that TV continues to exist as it is, as well as PVRs. Otherwise, people won't be able to upload the good tv series on usenet so I can download commercial-free episodes and watch them on my PS3.

    House, the Big Bang Theory, Family Guy, the Mentalist, Supernatural, Storage Wars, Dexter: good entertainment for about 400MB/hour (I don't care much for HD).

    A good usenet provider with a decent retention is not free (maybe 10$/month) but the insanely fast download combined with the excellent filtering provided by hand-crafted search engines (such as Nzbmatrix or Newzbin) is worth it. And for the poor people, I think there is some stuff available on P2P (if you don't mind getting some weird midget porn when you look for Disney content), but I find it slow and dirty.

  • by bazorg (911295) on Monday December 05, 2011 @03:47PM (#38270304) Homepage

    "So, what do you think is broken about TV right now? "

    I'm a spectator so maybe that question could be answered by a different type of stakeholder. The stakeholder who might be interested in using the Kinect to ensure that adverts stop while the spectators go to the toilet; or that stakeholder who wants internet streaming to be protected from skipping the commercials. That stakeholder will find plenty things broken in the current state of the TV technology.

  • by Tufriast (824996) * on Monday December 05, 2011 @03:51PM (#38270382)
    Honestly, I don't want, will not pay for, or even deign to give a red cent to telco companies and their garbage they call TV for a number of reasons.

    1) TV doesn't do its job anymore. News in particular. Entertain and inform were the tasks at hand. Instead I see middle American slobs neither entertaining nor informing me of anything useful. Reality shows and garbage slant news coverage is not something I will pay for. 2) The TV that is good is covered up, hidden, made inaccessible, or mired in advertisements - if it survives some political TV executives wide-swung axe. (Examples: Eureka, Firefly, Community, and many others.) 3) The price is exorbitant. When people say they are paying for 1,000-3,000 channels they are forgetting they DO NOT NEED 1,000-3,000 channels. Nor will they watch that much garbage content. They are forcing a justification to price gouge you. 4) TV in its current iteration is a problem that telcos have forced us to have. Its complex, there are huge software issues, huge time slot issues, and even bigger hardware complexity issues that make it so unwieldy most leave the damn thing off. We're paying middle men of middle men for the right to look at content that is shit. I don't need more middle men. 5) It does not meet demand. It demands of you. 'YOU BE HERE AT THIS TIME AND THIS PLACE AND I'LL SHOW YOU SOME MILDLY ENTERTAINING TRASH.' I don't think anyone should pay for that - not today not ever. I run my life, not some damn box. I don't care if its a sporting event, debate, or "hit show" b/c it will be forgotten inside of a year.

    We need a simplistic a la carte system where we can pick what we want, when want, and how we want it, and how much we're willing to pay for it. Nothing more, nothing less. Because of monopolistic practices inside of the communications industry and due to network greed we don't have that. Instead we have the opposite of that and then some.
  • The UI, stupid (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Firehed (942385) on Monday December 05, 2011 @03:55PM (#38270462) Homepage

    Channel-flipping worked fifteen years ago when we had maybe 50 channels. The hundreds we have today, often duplicated in different formats? Not so much. The entire experience is just awful and broken:

    * Content discovery is awful
    * The menus, channel guides, and other navigation stuff are some of the worst experiences I've seen (I generally avoid TV, so when I see them in use at friends' houses I cringe)
    * We still have the idea of content being delivered by channels in timeslots. Talk about being stuck in the past. Everything is delivered digitally now, yet we still push content in a way that was built around the restrictions of analog broadcasting. I realize it's not exactly the same, but given that we re-use the lines for cable internet connections, it's clearly possible to have two-way communication. We use DVRs as a lousy hack to get around this, but the future is clearly a more iTunes-like experience in the sense of "get the three most recent episodes of the show"
    * Pricing is a mess. They try to hit you everywhere for all sorts of different things. Six levels of TV service, PPV options, premium channels, rental fees, etc. There are so many things they could do to make this simpler, and yet they continue to make it more confusing, presumably to trick people into being upsold. That can't be sustained indefinitely.
    * Content overload - and nothing worth watching (obviously that's a matter of opinion)
    * Extremely complicated set-up. All of these digital systems have such poor integration with each other, despite decent attempts to make systems smarter. HDMI was designed in part to alleviate this, but I'm still trying to get everything working in harmony. Even just some UI tweaks and speedups to flip between input sources would be a huge improvement. Why must I slowly (very, very slowly!) scroll through a list of uselessly-named inputs? Just put up a grid of things that are receiving content and let me arrow between them. And for the love of god, make it more responsive.

    I may be a poor case study not being a big fan of "I'm bored; placate me with mindless content", and I find TV to be a very ineffective way to get news; however, I can still look at the overall experience pretty objectively. Hulu and iTunes among others are making steps in the right direction, but that experience is still largely limited to the computer, and what's done on TVs is kludgy at best. The AppleTV is decent and the Hulu app for internet-enabled TVs is, last I used it, extremely buggy and also requires a premium subscription.

    I've wasted enough time thinking about it for now, but the headline of "TV isn't broken" is just absurd. I can hardly think of an experience that would be a better poster-child of "barely-functional, bordering on unusable".

  • by ackthpt (218170) on Monday December 05, 2011 @03:58PM (#38270512) Homepage Journal

    And I don't mean the band.

    Television is so chock full of advertising it's almost unwatchable. It's corrupted game-play in sports (TV timeouts) and it's becoming less free than ever before. Most College Bowl games, as an example, are now on cable/satellite channels - channels you have to have a subscription to watch. Several years ago they were on ABC/CBS/NBC, but not many anymore.

    HDTV, which was the dream for decades has arrived, but now there's so little worth watching in HD (hey, I can see the pancake makeup on the host's face, yuck!) Writing seems to be at an all-time low in quality, same for acting (good looking or former comedian seems to be the main qualifier)

    Can't seem to get that A La Carte bill passed, either. Geez. What's it going to take? Oh, perhaps when the broadcasters and cable/satellite companies aren't twisting arms in capitols... Nice to see the people of the UK have finally won a big one in court, you can watch the continental broadcasts for less than the UK providers for football. That's sweet. Too bad America keeps protecting markets, rather than allowing someone on the West Coast to rather watch a NYC station, because they prefer it over the delivery of the local station.

    Yeah, lots wrong with TV. Not likely to get better, either.

  • by jtara (133429) on Monday December 05, 2011 @04:00PM (#38270568)

    Just discovering what programs are available is a huge problem outside of the conventional broadcast TV paradigm.

    Set-top box program schedules stink. Nobody buys the TV Guide any more. Yea, there are third-party (and cable-company supplied) program schedule apps, but most of them stink too. (Anybody else try the useless Cox schedule guide on iPad?) If you're really into it, there are web sites that discuss shows ad-infinitum I'd imagine, but most people won't bother, and don't want to sift through the crap.

    Finding on-demand programming is a hassle. You have to navigate with a horrible on-screen interface, and most people don't know what network a show they've heard about is on. So, they have to do a search, which is horribly painful. Click, click, click, click, there's ONE LETTER.

    Program discovery is so bad that most people revert to "what's on?" and flip through the channels. Even if a show is marketed heavily, and you see a banner drug by an airplane and wonder what's up with the guy that thinks he sees a dog, how many people are going to bother to painfully type-in "W _ I _ L _ F _ R _ E _ D when they get home, and then go through the rigmarole to set the VCR?

    The big problem is, there are so many choices that it takes major time to sift through them. You have to know what you are looking for, but how do you know what you are looking for in the first place? Sure, I can go to NetFlix and decide I want to see a Fellini film easily enough. (Though I'd be best served by going to the website and putting it in my Instant Queue than by navigating the horrible on-screen interface.) And, oh, BTW, they're going to have to mail me that Fellini film 90% of the time, so we're Not There Yet.

    Now, if the marketing says or even implies it's a prime-time show on a major network - you might remember the time-slot and go surfing for it if it's around that time. Otherwise, it's pretty hit-and-miss.

    Clearly, though, ultimately, scheduled programming (other than live events and breaking news) are inevitably going to go away. I think I think that's necessary to prepare the public is to change terminology. No more show times. They're release times.

    Every show should be available on-demand in some form. Some people will still eagerly anticipate "release times", and gather in front of the set to be the first to watch a show, just as some go out to a theater to see a movie when it's first released.

  • by Marc_Hawke (130338) on Monday December 05, 2011 @04:15PM (#38270820)

    Speed:
                Channel switching speed: It keeps getting worse. Analog TV's were instant channel switchers. Even analog TV's with digital readouts were instant switchers. "Digital" TV can't do that. Cable boxes and their insane 'menuing' system. It's supposed to help you see what's on, but it makes 'flipping through the channels' more like 'trudging' through the channels. Even with OTA HDTV, there's a pause while it gets enough signal to show you a picture. They need to be working on eliminating that pause.
                BOOT up speed: I'm lucky. I have an HD CRT. There aren't many of those. You push power, the screen makes a funny noise. The CRT warms up in a second or two. You're in business. The experiences I've had with LCD screens aren't good. When you turn it on, you get a POST screen, a manufacturer logo, some other 'boot-up' processes. It takes a LONG TIME. If I had one of those I'd be tempted to never turn it off because I wouldn't want to wait through the boot-up. That definitely needs to be fixed. If there was ever a place for 'instant on' technology, it's in the TV.

    Cost:
                    It's hard for me to complain here because I don't pay for it, but I think the fact that I refuse to pay for it should say something. I've never caved to the 'Pay TV' bandwagon. No cable, no satellite. Over the Air all the way. I actually do pay for TV now. It's called Netflix. It's $8 instead of $50, and I get to pick what's on. (And no commercials.) Pay TV is way too expensive and doesn't make any sense. That needs to be fixed.
                    Now to be hypocritical. My wife won't watch commercials. She rather skip the program than watch a commercial. Not only is she always annoyed by them, she's often offended by them. I'm pretty sure commercials are the most heavily studied aspect of Television, so I don't really have any suggestions that the 'experts' haven't already beaten to death.

    As for Content. I don't think that's part of the discussion. (We'll at least the FA. which I didn't read.) The shows are not the technology. I don't think you can 'fix' the shows. That's like dictating what music will be popular with teenagers. Good luck with that.

  • by Arrogant-Bastard (141720) on Monday December 05, 2011 @04:26PM (#38271044)
    1. Dump all "reality" shows.
    2. Get rid of the incredibly annoying pop-ups during programs. Seriously, I stopped watching "Rubicon", which had at least some promise, because these are horribly disruptive and offensive.
    3. Convince the History Channel, the Learning Channel, the Discovery Channel, to focus on actual history and actual science...and not myth, superstition, and nonsense.
    4. Please note that #3 does not cover Mythbusters, which, while occasionally a bit self-indulgent, at least features actual experiments.
    5. Try showing movies without censoring, interrupting or editing them.
    6. Stop remaking things. Hawaii 5-0 (among many, MANY others) did not need to be remade, and you're embarrassing yourselves, as well as putting crap on the air.
    7. Lose the talking heads on news. Lose the theme music, lose the captions, lose the scroll, lose the catchy titles for every major news event. Try something different: sober, reasoned, analysis. Don't tell me that "you only 20 seconds left to discuss this"; you're a fricking network, all you HAVE is time. And stop pretending that there are two sides to every story: when one side is obviously insane, lying, or stupid, there aren't. Instead: call them on it.
    8. There are occasional treasures in the archives. Not only should you air them, you should back them up to the world by posting them for free, unlimited download.
    9. Run all commercials by a panel of 15-year-olds. If even they mock it, then what reaction do you think intelligent adults will have?
    10. Teach everyone on your staff that "/" is a slash, not a backslash. Make it a policy that you will instantly fire anyone who calls it a backslash. If they do so on-air, then armed security should tackle them, handcuff them, and drag them off the set while the cameras are running. (Okay, so this one is selfish. But I would it find it immensely satisfying to watch.)
  • Too much in the way. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anaerin (905998) on Monday December 05, 2011 @04:32PM (#38271146)
    Here's how it should work.

    I pay a content provider a subscription for a show. For instance, $0.75 for a season of House without ads, or $0.05 for a season of House with ads. $1.50 for a season of "The Daily Show" without ads. $10.00 for a restart of Firefly without ads (Yes, I went there), and so on. The greater the demand, the less the cost (and, obviously, the greater the show run, or the more cost to create, the higher the subscription cost). This will put much more money in the hands of the content providers directly, rather than having the cable middlemen taking a large chunk, and will still keep all but the most obsessive tv-watcher's cable bill at about the same price as it already is.

    Content providers can poll me on my interests for new shows. They can also use those interests to customize the ads I get, if I am agreeing to get ads.

    The content provider releases episodes on their regular schedule via a private BitTorrent tracker (or similar methods) in a DRM-unencumbered format, so I can watch it on any device I choose. This releasing is done using a customized-to-the-user RSS feed (only the shows I subscribe to from that provider appear in that feed), which is secured using HTTPS and a unique "user key". Trailers and pilot episodes for new shows can also be published on the RSS feed (especially if they may match my recorded interests). Keys cannot be shared, and abuse of such will result in the key being revoked (or at least, changed, so the user has to update his client with the new key if he wishes to continue, which will make it difficult enough to make sharing of feeds like this unfeasable).

    News channels and current events can be subscribed to for live streaming using Multicast (preferably) or Unicast systems, in much the same way.

    Cable companies can then become "content aggregators" or local CDNs, So rather than having to go to hundreds of different content providers, you can just subscribe through your cable company, and they aggregate all the available feeds for you and serve your content to you from local servers. Of course, going directly to the source is still an option, if you wish to track more directly, or if your particular cable company doesn't carry that provider's content. Cable companies can then either add a small surcharge to the price of each subscription, or charge a "content distribution" fee for running the local cache.

    Emergency broadcasts can be implemented with special RSS feed items, or signed and timestamped playlist files that point to a live stream, to be picked up and (dis)played immediately by boxes or computer systems. This is about the only part that isn't possible right now, and I shouldn't think it'd take that much work to implement.

    This way, when you go to the TV, there's always something you're interested in watching available. You never miss an episode of your favourite shows, and you directly support the people who make it.You don't have to get, and don't have to watch, anything you don't want to, and you can do whatever you like with what you've paid for. It also means that niche shows don't get canned, and providers have a completely accurate dollar-based view of just how popular shows really are (rather than having to rely on a very limited number of Nielsen households), and it also means that shows aren't competing for ratings by being forced into a timeslot, giving a false impression of popularity (or lack thereof). It would also make it easier for indie TV producers to get up and running. You'd probably also have a fast addition to Google in the form of "Which provider makes this TV show".

    Unfortunately, the way Hollywood, and the MPAA/RIAA/Media fatcats see the TV industry, and television consumers as a whole, this will never come to pass. They are so much more fond of their walled gardens and "Prime time slot"s that the idea of abandoning them and allowing people to live their lives not beholden to their scheduling whims is abhorrent. It would be so very nice, but I hold out little hope in it happening. And

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