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2002) [Printed in "Reality Module No.28" as part of "Freeform Futurology
FREEFORM FUTUROLOGY (7)
(A casual series of articles exploring various aspects
of our evolving society)
I imagine a time not far off when broadband Internet access will be
the rule rather than the exception.
The technology would enable video-on-demand to a mass audience. What
changes would this bring about?
Do you remember the hype surrounding interactive television? How we'd
use our remote to vote on issues, answer quiz questions, or order product
The technology may yet take off - creating a creative amalgam of TV
and Internet - but the model forgets one thing: most of us are passive
TV viewers. We like to sit back & be entertained, to experience vicariously
the virtual dream world of the TV show.
I imagine another model being more successful - a video-on-demand option
where the word is 'choice.'
In 2002 most of us have a choice of watching what is on TV now, or watching
a program we videotaped some days ago (like I do).
Since 1976 we have had the technology in our homes to record TV programs
to watch later or to keep indefinitely. This was an earlier technological
shift - no longer do we have to be there at the time to watch our favourite
programs when they are broadcast. The advent of video libraries also
gave us a wider choice of programs to watch on any given night. The VCR
broke down the temporal restrictions of television - we can start and
stop the show, rewind it, and select from many videotaped shows.
In 2002 a small number of people download TV programs from the Internet
- and watch them later on PC screens. I feel that this is an intermediate
stage in technology, and it is in grave danger from the copyright police.1
1There is another technology called the Personal Video Recorder,
which records cable shows onto a harddisk and keeps them for a specified
length of time.
It takes many hours to download video files from the Internet.
I know someone who keeps their PC on overnight to download an episode
When broadband Internet becomes common these long download times will
vanish - you will be able to download a TV show in less time than it
takes to watch it! You can also send the image to your wallscreen to
watch it in comfort.2
2Most modern display devices are multisync. They can
sync to video and computer display resolutions.
What effect will this new technology have on the TV- watching habit?
It might work like this:
You'd come home and then decide what you'd like to watch in what order
from all the programs available.
You might decide on a "Buffy-Fest" or a selected episode each
of "Lost In Space," "My Favorite Martian", and "I
Dream of Jeannie."
You would select the TV programs you'd like to see from a series of
interactive menus - and each program you choose to see will be charged
to your credit card.
There will probably be many pricing options:
Old TV shows will be cheaper than new TV shows.
You might save money by agreeing to 5, 10 or 15 minutes of advertising
You might subscribe to a series or to blocks of shows. (Special
deal on "Caped Crusaders" if you subscribe to "Hip-Hop Today" as
You'd have the option of renting a show for one screening, or
for a day or a week. (For a higher charge you might purchase the rights
a copy of the show to keep forever.)
TV producers will send you the pilots of their new shows free-of-charge
- in the hope you'll like the show and subscribe.
The HDTV version of the brand new "Buffy 2: The Slayings" ("the
evil Queen Dawn and her vampire consort hold the world in chains. Only
Pussywillow and a trio of geeks can save the world from eternal damnation
by resurrecting a long dead Slayer!" ) will be much more expensive
to view than "Gilligan's Island" with 15 minutes of ads!
What effect will this new way of enjoying television have on the existing
free-to-air stations or indeed to the cable TV providers?
The TV networks will survive in their present forms only as long as
the new VOD technology remains expensive! If the new technology becomes
cheap enough, people will increasingly choose VOD because it is more
convenient and versatile.
The TV networks will be reborn as program packagers.
I'd subscribe to the "ABC News!"
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- In This Series -
(1) What Can & Cannot Be Done - The Limits of
Futurology (April 2000)
(2) The $20 Computer (April 2000)
(3) Smashing Windows(TM) - The Ascent of Non-linear Thinking
(4) Nu Plastic Yu! (February 2001)
(5) Nu Plastic Yu Tu! (April 2001)
(6) Artificial Minds? (AI Revisited) (August 2001)
(7) Video-On-Demand (June 2002)
(8) Changes (June 2002)
(9) The Implications of Immortality (June 2002)
(10) Cheating in Education (April 2003)
Feedback and Discussions
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Copyright © 2002 by Michael F. Green.
All rights reserved.
Last Updated: 21 June 2020