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Another Portland Blog

Monday, February 16, 2004

 

I have seen the future of television...

...and no, it isn't The Daily Show. It's Video-On-Demand, a service that is still a good two or three years away from ruling you like a god.

Because I live in Portland and get free cable as a company perk, I'm light years ahead of the rest you troglodytes (kidding!). Since VOD arrived at my place last month, I've put on 30 pounds and now spend all of my free times wallowing in a pool of Hungry Man dinner trays and, yes my own filth. Once more programming is added, I will give up on things like daylight and society at large, preferring to live out the rest of my days in a vegetative state in front of a digital cable box.

VOD works much like Tivo. It offers commercial free programming that you can watch anytime the mood strikes and has an interface much like a DVD player. But unlike Tivo, there's no need to record anything. VOD offers a library of stuff that can be ordered at any time. Imagine having every episode of South Park at your fingertips and you can picture how many marriages VOD will one day ruin.

Because VOD is still in its infancy, the offerings are limited as cable providers and stations test the waters. Comedy Central was among the first to sign on but its library consists mostly of old episodes of Let's Bowl and Strangers with Candy. HBO, on the other hand, has been more than generous. The most recent seasons of their flagship series (Sex in the City, The Sopranos) are available, along with dozens of movies.

As a recent article in Wired pointed out, if the service proves popular, it will present many stations with a conundrum. With the exception of premiums like HBO and Showtime, your average TV channel makes most of its revenue from ad sales. VOD could cripple the likes of already fledgling networks like NBC. The obvious solution would be to incorporate commercials into the format but users would still be able to fast-forward through them. Without a captive audience, television advertising would become less attractive to buyers. VOD, coupled with the increasing usage of Tivo and other digital video recorders, could lead to lawsuits and frustrations that would make the RIAA's battles with PTPs look like a schoolyard slap battle.

But enough about the logistics. VOD could change the way we watch television and go on to become the greatest innovation the medium has seen since the advent of the VCR. Hmm...what's that pain in my chest? Oh boy! It's my first coronary, brought on by a lack on exercise and a steady diet of Popeye's chicken. Thanks, Video-On-Demand!

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