“Jens, if you drove to Edinburgh today, would it make a difference how quickly you could open the door of your car?” I was asked this question by a colleague the other day. Given that Edinburgh is over 500 miles from London, my answer was: “No”. “So why are most established companies focusing on the equivalent of making car doors open faster?”
It took me a few days to really understand what my colleague tried to tell me.
Management and owners in established industries have a certain way to extrapolate the past into the future. The way in which products were improved in the past is the way in which products will improve in the future. But at some point, you reach a situation where improvements at the same point make no further difference to the users. And it is usually at that point that new developments will change the way in which the industry works.
Television is now at such a point in its development.
For years, TV was improved in two ways:
- The quality of picture and sounds was improved. First there was black and white picture and no sound. The there was B/W with sound. Then there was color TV. Then image and sound qualities improved. Now, you have Dolby Surround sound and high definition TV.
- More and more channels provided an increasing number of programs to watch. People can choose from amongst 100s channels these days, up from 1 when TV started.
So, ask yourself this question: would you really care if the quality of the picture and sounds doubled beyond HDTV or if the number of channels doubled? For me, the answer is a clear no. It is fine as it is. I don’t need better picture. I can’t deal with even more channels.
But what I really care about is something that TV just can give me: on demand. When I watch TV, I have to watch what other people decide I should watch at a time when they decide I should watch it. On demand means I can watch whatever I want exactly when I want to watch it. 6 billion video clips are watched on the Internet in the US every month. Of these, over 100 million are high quality TV programs, according to the Inquisitr.
There are many things that on demand will change. Essentially what it does is to make the existence of intermediaries (the TV channels) and almost everything they do obsolete. Costs to view a program will fall, as the intermediaries are cut out and producers can distribute content directly via the Internet. TV programs will get reviewed and rated the way in which computer games are rated today, because we will start to consume them like computer games. All of this is reasonably obvious to many people.
And yet, the TV industry is doing the equivalent of trying to make the opening of car doors faster. They are betting on high definition TV and probably even crisper sound. I am pretty convinced that won’t get any of us to Edinburgh faster.
And this is why Hulu and services like it will win.