Video Revolution Just Keeps Rollin’ Along

Published January 1, 2006

Is there a week that goes by these days that we don’t hear about another stunning innovation on the media front?

In his recent essay on “Migrating Video Content,” Daniel English, adjunct scholar for The Progress & Freedom Foundation’s Center for Digital Media Freedom, points out, “Media is shifting to a digital architecture where media is a continuous, ubiquitous experience and content is decoupled from any one particular distribution channel or device.” He cites numerous examples from just the past few weeks.

Continuing that theme, TiVo recently announced it plans to allow users to download onto an Apple iPod any television show they’ve recorded at home. What we have here is the marriage of two of the most disruptive media technologies the world has ever seen.

What makes a “disruptive technology” truly disruptive, in my opinion, is the way it completely changes consumer expectations, such that the old ways of doing business suddenly become increasingly difficult and then quickly impossible. That’s what TiVo and Apple are doing to the world of entertainment media delivery and use. The old mass media playbooks are being torn up and thrown out windows.

TiVo revolutionized the video experience by changing consumer expectations regarding when and how we viewed video programming. We no longer have to be sitting in front of the TV at a specific time just to catch a certain show we like; that show will now wait until we’re ready to watch it.

Similarly, Apple’s iPod has revolutionized our listening experience by doing the same for audible media. We now expect our entire music collection (and all new music we buy) to be (a) digitized & intangible, (b) perfectly portable, and (c) playable on multiple devices. iPod’s entry into the video delivery business will change expectations in a similar way.

TiVo and iPod have shattered the old “you’ll get it when we send it, however we want to send it to you” model and replaced it with an “anytime you want it, any way you want it” mentality. Media operators who buck this trend are probably doomed in the long run.

Oh, by the way, TiVo has said it’s going to offer all these new video space-shifting services for PlayStation Portables (PSPs) too.

In my new book on the futility of trying to regulate content in a world of media abundance and convergence, I kick off the introduction by asking the reader to imagine a future where every possible piece of content–videos, music, news, games, Web sites, photos, etc.–is available for instantaneous use on mobile media devices. And then I tell the reader to open his or her eyes and take a look at what the kids are doing at this very moment. Chances are, they are already using their iPods and PSPs to do all that and more. The future is now, and I am enjoying the ride.

Adam Thierer ([email protected]) is senior fellow and director of the Center for Digital Media Freedom at The Progress & Freedom Foundation. This article is adapted from an entry in the PFF blog.