Sunday, November 25, 2012

Paying for TV isn’t going away. Same story, different URL.

Something happened on election night that flew under the radar of most TV networks. CNN garnered nearly 9 million viewers. But according to TheTVNews.TV, 10 million people chose to get their election coverage via streaming Web video provided by ABC-Yahoo in a joint feed.

This could be the tipping point for what we consider traditional television. You know, you turn it on, select a channel and sit back and watch in your family room courtesy of your antenna, satellite or cable. But now, you can dial up a lot of TV on your tablet, even if you don’t have cable access.

If you watched the University of Notre Dame football game Saturday night, you saw all the promos for ESPN Apps. They allow you to watch the game on the wall and another contest with the app in your lap. This is picture-in-picture on steroids.

The Big Ten Network promotes Big Ten to Go. HBO Go offers similar benefits. If you have HBO with your cable or satellite subscription, you can get the network’s entire archive on your device, whether that's a desktop computer or a smartphone.

And the Apps are free. So, where’s the rub?

Here’s my prediction, within a couple years, ESPN, HBO, Showtime and even broadcast networks will offer to sell you subscriptions directly. They’ll sidestep cable and satellite companies and offer more and more content via the Web, whether you access it through cellular service or a hardline.

Over-the-air broadcasting will make a brief comeback for live sports and events like the Oscars. You’ll put an antenna on your roof while you dish the dish and make Xfinity your x. The Web will connect you with most of your regular shows and you’ll buy the rest on demand and on impulse. That’s why Comcast bought NBC Universal.

One other scoop from my media crystal ball. Since you won’t need a broadcast license or a network to start a show, look for a mini explosion of viral, local programs about news you can use close to home.

It’s not a matter of if, just when. Stay tuned.

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