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Where is the new TV Guide? (Redux)

I recently asked “If apps are the new channels, where is the new TV guide?” and today there is a bit of buzz about zeebox.

So, is zeebox the new TV guide?

In short:  Not yet – but its the sort of thing that could be.

Zeebox is currently aimed at social networking while watching broadcast TV, with a bit of discovery thrown in.  Its also a wireless remote for a limited number of Freeview TV sets.

They say that in the future there will be support for Android, PVRs and things like iPlayer.  So I don’t see why they shouldn’t add support for apps, if apps do become the new channels.  What they will need to do is provide a way for apps to pass info back to zeebox – which will be harder to get people to take up than it would for Amazon, because zeebox don’t control the platform.

Quite how you support the chat functionality – which seems to be at the core of zeebox – on things like PVRs and iplayer, I don’t know… but if they could have a way of commentary messages turning up at the point in the program where they were written, that might be quite cool.  It would also allow enterprsing people to do their own directors commentaries – or indeed their own MST3K style spoofing.

And if they can add support for PVRs, why not for DVDs?

Then add a shop where you can buy the DVDs it recommends you watch, and we have a bit more of a monetization strategy.  They could have their own marketplace for apps-as-channels too.

Unless they can build streaming (or some other form of content delivery) into their app, I don’t see a long term future for zeebox as a standalone thing.  However, if their endgame is to get bought out by Facebook, TV manufacturers, Apple, Sky or Amazon, zeebox might be onto a winner!

(As an afterthought :  adding comments to a programme / DVD / YouTube clip based on fingerprinting the audio or images might be an interesting challenge – it would mean your comments would work on any edited form of the show, and could be inserted at exactly the time you wanted to see them, no matter how you chose to start / stop / pause the programme.  There are lots of ways one could go about doing this, depending what exactly you wanted to integrate with)

If apps are the new channels, where is the new TV Guide?

John Gruber says “Apps are the new channels” and he is right.  Spot on.  Its one of those clear statements that, when you hear it, seems to sum up how the media is moving.  The app is the new channel – not just a TV channel, but a media channel.  There no longer needs to be a difference between National Geographic the magazine and National Geographic the TV channel.

What are the implications of this?

Channels will become smaller – there is no point in a BBC app – but there might be lots of value in a BBC News app.  I don’t care less about most of the entertainment on ITV, but give me an X Factor App (I know, I know, its social anthropology, honest, I’m not just easily please) and I’ll watch it that way.  Most of the time it will be “One app per show”, occasionally you might get something bigger like a “Discovery Science” app or a “Film 4″ app.

We are going to need apps to move between devices.  If I install National Geographic on my tablet to read on the train, I also want it installed on my TV set.

We need apps to communicate between devices – so when I’m reading an article in a magazine and want to see a film on my TV, I can just click and let it play

We need syndication of app messages in really clever an innovative ways.  I’m not sure what form this might take yet, but if there is a new edition of my favourite magazine, or a new episode of my favourite show, I want to know about it – and I don’t want to have to go to that show’s app to find out.  Something clever needs to tell me what I’m able to watch

We also need discovery.  Which will be a combination of reddit, stumble-upon, facebook and digital spy if it is really going to work.  Something will have to tell us when new interesting things we don’t currently have apps for turns up.

Commercials might be dead.  Its possible we can get advert supported versions of apps – but I feel more and more that this isn’t the only way.  We are going to have to pay to watch episodes of shows.  But sometimes it might be in the network’s interest to get us watching for free before jacking up the price.

Indie TV will become more plausible without having to fit into a channel’s framework

Apps will become more interactive and less linear – if you want them to be.  While I expect to be able to watch the X Factor in exactly the way I do now with my X Factor App, I also expect to be able to choose which video’s to watch again, skip the boring bits, choose to buy downloads of the tracks I likes, see extra interviews with people I like, vote for the winner, discuss the X Factor with other social anthropologists like myself and bet on the outcome (aha – maybe you finally see my hidden interest.  I think I’m already well into profit this year)

There will cease to be boundaries between software, TV, movies, games and magazines

Someone out there is going to make a lot of money by being the new media hub.  It might be Apple – they’ve clearly made a lot of inroads. Google don’t seem to quite know what the game is and the old guard with their Hulus are way off base.  If I had to put my money on anyone, right now Facebook is where the future of TV is – or, maybe – just maybe – the BBC and iPlayer might manage some sort of coup (but thats more likely to be blocked by the powers who be and financial shortages).

Or there is always Amazon.  Who own Lovefilm in the UK.  And have all the pieces they need except a TV interface.  Kindle TV?  It would be a logical next step to their domination of my life.  And I might welcome it.

The Future Of The Cinema

Every so often we hear that the cinema is dieing, that video / DVD / 3D TVs / Pay Per View /NetFlix is going to kill it.  Well, so far this hasn’t happened, but the death of the cinema seems inevitable to me.  Before every film in the cinema these days we get an advert telling us how great an experience watching a film in the cinema is, and how bad pirated DVDs are – yet for every downside of pirtated DVDs they describe (fuzzy pictures, people talking, poor viewing angle, people getting up in front of you) I’ve seen the problem in the cinema.

Sure, Cinema could be good – and sometimes its exactly the way you want to watch a film – but often you are at the mercy of poorly skilled technicians who don’t care that much about how good your movie going experience is.  One day, the cinema will die.

Unless, that is, film distributors follow my plan:

1) Say “screw you” to the multiplexes.

2) Set up their own cinemas (or buy up the multiplexes)

3) Don’t charge people to see films (or charge very low prices)

Great plan, right?  Except its lacking a bit in monetization.

Well, from what I can tell, when you have a break out movie smash hit, you don’t make your money from box office receipts, you make your money from selling the pay per view rights, or the DVDs, or the tie in merchandise, or the product placement.  And when you’re a cinema, you make your money off the concession stand and the adverts.

What the cinema release does is build up hype around the film, and acts as a way to advertise the product – and to sell popcorn and Ben and Jerry’s.

So if the distributor took over the cinema, they could change the way movie going worked.  Specifically, the cinema wouldn’t have to pay to show the film, and the distributor could ensure everyone who saw the film left straight through a gift shop.

Through a gift shop?  Well, it seems to work for museums.  You get people leaving a movie, hyped up on adrenaline and sugary snacks (we would keep the concession stands – we could even jack the prices up a bit more given that no one is paying for a ticket).  You could put the toilets on the side of the gift shop furthest from the exit (meaning that people waiting for friends have to hang around in the shop looking at all the wonderful things to buy) and you could sell… you could sell – in the case of a Disney film, you could sell all the toys, clothes, jewelry, and nick nacks you might find in a Disney store.  With a chick flick, you could sell other chick flick DVDS – and maybe some action movies for boyfriends who feel they need to man up again.  You could sell the products that are placed in the films.  And you could sell the film itself – either as a one off pay per view code – or a DVD or an iTunes voucher or whatever – because we can now release the DVD at the same time as the movie is released.

And, of course, you don’t have to come to the cinema to buy the DVD – you can get it in shops too – but you may as well come and see it on the big screens (to make it more of an event, why not have special previews, and event nights)

What I’m talking about is making the cinema an Apple Store for a distributor or production company.

Meanwhile there is still a place for independent cinemas – they would show small, art house, films and have people who care about cinema running them.  But they could sell DVDs on exit too – after all, for those cinemas, their patrons care about seeing the film on the big screen.

© Ben.Cha.lmers.co.uk
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