Are you Still Paying for TV? Why?

Cable TV SubscribersI just read an absolutely fascinating article from the financial world about how the television business is having a dismal year and the future looks bad.

The reason I found the article fascinating is that it completely agrees with everything I’ve been saying about those who make content and those who deliver it to the consumers. Here’s a hint for anyone that wants to be my friend, just tell me I’m amazingly smart and always right!

Massive ego aside, I did want to take a quick look at what the metrics from this article mean about our future consumption of content. What I think is happening is that there is a growing separation between those who create content and the companies that distribute it to us. In the past these two industries were often combined. The networks, studios, publishers, and labels created the content and delivered it to us.

With wireless internet becoming more universally available and with devices that can take advantage of that medium becoming almost ubiquitous we are seeing a trend where people consume content when they want and where the want. That content is no longer tied to a provider.

I’ve been hammering away for years that the major content creators should simply give up on delivering content. They should give their content away for free to the providers and get revenue each time someone consumes content.

Naturally there has been reluctance to accept this business model. The content creators had huge revenue streams through their delivery arms.

What is happening now is that people don’t want to pay for access and subscribers are falling. They want to pay for individual items they purchase. We don’t pay to have access to the grocery store, we pay for the items we buy. As times goes on fewer and fewer people will have dedicated television or internet devices. All media will be delivered electronically to whatever device we are viewing at that moment. We will pay for this by watching advertisements and possibly some monthly fee. Advertisers will pay the content providers a certain amount per view. The content providers will then pass along a share to the content creators.

As it stands, when I see my favorite shows being pulled from Hulu, my favorite sporting events being pulled from ESPN3 I get angry. However, I see a bright future for me and others who enjoy content. No longer will we be tied to a service. I will watch what I want, when I want. Those that provide popular content to the largest audience will get the lion’s share of the revenue.

The content creators will open their vast libraries to Hulu, Netflix, ESPN3, and other providers that will arise in the future.

New content creators will arise, regular people who write their own amazing Sword and Sorcery fantasy novels for example! People will consume what we want at a reasonable price.

There will be more success stories like Felicia Day. Regular people will be able to showcase their talents directly. More content, more creativity, more variety, more goodness!

Children will dance in the streets. Dogs and cats will live in harmony. The Cardinals will win the World Series every year (darn you and your beards; evil Red Sox).

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Spear of the Hunt
Next Release: The Broken Throne

Kill all the Chinese and Fire Jimmy Kimmel

Jimmy Kimmel as HitlerI’m not exactly certain how I missed this earth shattering story but apparently a segment of the Chinese-American community is incensed about what a kid said during a Jimmy Kimmel show.

Kimmel has a Kids’ Table segment where he asks young children questions about serious issues the nation and world face. In this case he asked what the country should do about the $1.3 trillion we owe to China.

One young fellow decided that killing all the Chinese was a reasonable solution. Kimmel tried to suggest that perhaps this wasn’t the best idea but quickly moved on to other suggestions. One young girl argued rather persuasively that if we tried to kill all the Chinese they would try to kill us back and that might not be good. The boy countered with the idea that the Chinese would all be dead by that time so we had nothing to fear. In other words, children lobbing childish ideas. It was all rather humorous, if a bit dark.

In the ensuing outrage Kimmel offered an apology for offending anyone of Asian or Chinese heritage. He expressed the idea that the show merely meant to entertain. That they don’t control or condone what the children say.

This apology apparently did not go over well with as many as 1,500 people protesting outside the ABC studio where his show is produced. Jimmy is accused of teaching kids hatred, promoting genocide, and being a general Hitler like figure in the world. A petition to fire Kimmel was posted on the White House website and has generated a significant number of signatures.

I suppose the idea is that Kimmel should have stopped the segment and gotten into a serious discussion about how genocide against the largest population on earth was not a good idea. He laughed, he told them it was a bad idea, they’re kids. End of story.

A large part of me wants to think the entire protest is actually just an attempt at humor but apparently it is not.

I don’t even know how to respond. Should I try logical arguments about how kids say silly things they don’t mean all the time? That kids often say illogical and ridiculous things. Should I point out that Kimmel laughed it off and tried to explain why the idea was bad? Should I tell people being overly sensitive does their various causes no good? Should I try to write a dissertation about humor?

I’m stumped.

I will make one suggestion and I’ve made it before. I’m of Jewish heritage and history is my favorite subject. I know a thing or two about Hitler and the Nazi party. How in the early 1930’s young German women were paraded around town tied to polls and physically assaulted because they refused to call off engagements to young German Jews. How citizens were beaten and even killed for not giving the Hitler salute during parades. How they rounded up disabled children telling parents the children were being taken to schools where they would be treated with the latest medicine, and then killed them.

My advice, don’t compare Jimmy Kimmel to a Nazi, to Hitler. You don’t win me over.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Spear of the Hunt
Next Release: The Broken Throne

Bad TV wins – why?

Don't trust the B in Apt 23I don’t watch a tremendous amount of television but there are a few shows on Hulu that I watch with regularity and something recently happened that, once again, caused me to question the rationality of television executives. Over the years we’ve all seen great shows get cancelled while shows not as good continue on. Sometimes it’s purely a ratings decision but I’m going to examine the situation a little more closely today.

Why is a good show cancelled and what is it that we call good?

The incident that brought about this examination was the cancellation of the show Don’t Trust the B* in Apt 23 while a somewhat similar sitcom called New Girl continues on. Apt 23 was regularly hilarious, generally funny, and occasionally stupid as cutting edge comedies often are. New Girl is almost always stupid punctuated by moments of funny. Apt 23 is well written and well acted. New Girl is poorly written with nonsensical situations highlighted by overacting and tired jokes. Yet, Apt 23 is gone and New Girl is highly touted by the network. Why?

The network spokespeople will suggest it is all about ratings but I’m not so sure that’s the case. See Firefly or American Gothic and even now Community for examples of a network mishandling a show with time slot changes, episodes shown out-of-order, lack of promotional activity, and other seemingly destructive policies.

As I try to be a rational thinker I want to examine some possibilities on the cancellation that don’t have to do with ratings. Perhaps a rational television executive crunched the numbers, the show production cost, distribution, long-term salaries, and weighed that against revenue, media sales of episodes already finished, and other factors. Is it possible that Apt 23 will make more money in DVD sales than it would have made if it continued in production for four more seasons? I don’t know the answer but it’s possible I suppose. Did the executive try to pick up Krysten Ritter in a bar and was shot down in humiliating fashion? It’s possible. Does the executive’s son hate James Van der beek? I don’t know, maybe?

Next we have to examine the idea of good. Is good a completely relative term? Just because I think Apt 23 hilarious and New Girl painfully bad; is this objectively true? Certainly there are those who think New Girl is hilarious and those who probably didn’t like Apt 23. I like to think there is an objective good. One joke is funny and another is not. Any comedian will tell you that certain jokes get laughs and others don’t.

What are the factors that make a television show good or entertaining? Funny jokes, a plot that is logically accurate to itself even if far-fetched and fantastic, see Big Trouble in Little China. Actors who effectively convince you that they are the character they are portraying. Sometimes called good acting. Good camera work. A thematic structure to each episode and the show in general. Dialog that is crisp. Characters that are consistent. I think all these things objectively define good even if people don’t always come to that conclusion. I think we can define Apt 23 as good and New Girl as bad.

That being my opinion I’m deeply saddened by the cancellation of Apt 23. I think about all the episodes of Firefly that were never made. I’m the loser because of this, I’m less entertained. I would argue that our society is the loser when bad wins out over good. Maybe it’s not a big a deal when it comes to entertainment but maybe it is. Maybe every time bad wins out over good we are all diminished.

Of course, there’s the possibility that New Girl is a great show and I’m just deluding myself.

Wouldn’t it be great if better always won out over worse? What would your world be like if everything that was better succeeded? That’s the ultimate goal of the Randian objectivist. I’m sure it’s not possible but I won’t stop striving. I hope you don’t either. And I hope a young network employee reads this and goes on to become an important executive.

What do you think?

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
Current Release: The Sword of Water
Next Release: The Spear of the Hunt

Home Team Blackouts

BlackoutIt was a happy day for me when my Uverse was finally installed after much bickering with AT&T. I gave up my television years ago and streaming sports on ESPN3 was choppy and Hulu television troublesome on my old DSL connection.

My beloved World Series Champion St. Louis Cardinals are in Spring Training as I write this and I haven’t been able to watch most of their games for the last couple of years. I certainly got my high-speed connection for a number of reasons and watching the Birds on the Bat was one of those.

Major League Baseball offers an internet package where, for $124.99, you can watch every game of every team streaming on your computer, tablet, phone or other device. Imagine my joy. I get to watch my World Series Champion Cardinals play every game! Then I clicked on the little blackout link and read this:

All live games on MLB.TV and available through MLB.com At Bat are subject to local blackouts. Such live games will be blacked out in each applicable Club’s home television territory, regardless of whether that Club is playing at home or away.

It goes on to mention the blackout applies even if the game isn’t televised. Home or away? Televised or not? Sold-out or not? I can’t watch the Cardinals!?

I’ve got $124.99 burning a hole in pocket to watch the 11 time World Series Champion Cardinals. Take my money, please?

Ok, wait, catching breath, bulging eyes recessing, fist pounding abating, let’s look at this rational, from a critical perspective. Perhaps MLB is justified in this policy. Think, Tom, don’t scream and rant like a radio talk-show host who would sell his mother into slavery to get a ratings point.

First stop, MLB Blackout policy page of Wikipedia. Have I mentioned my love of Wikipedia? Calmly reading. Keep blood pressure under wraps. Learn rational reasons behind policy. Keep calm … calm … soft music … calming waves … soothing … EXCLUSIVE TERRITORIAL RIGHTS! What? What? What?

Do we live in Communist Russia? Wait, stop , be rational, Russia isn’t communist any more … Do we live in Communist China? Socialism? Media control? Freedom Revoked?

Ok, breath slowly, long breaths, I mean, technically, television broadcast in St. Louis city could somehow be seen to be owned by the local team … the ENTIRE STATE OF IOWA blacked out for Cardinals, Cubs, Twins, Royals, White Sox and Brewers. HEAD EXPLODING!

Freedom being taken away, grab rifle, oh wait unarmed, maybe good thing, calm, calm, soothing sounds, ocean, babbling brook.

I know, let’s look at the easy to understand map of blackouts … ARGHHH … BUNNIES MUST DIE … DIE … DIE!!

Wipe frothing away from mouth, think happy thoughts, don’t kick cat, it’s going to be all right. There has to be a rational explanation, doesn’t there?

What is the idea? Ok, here we go, a broadcaster pays for the right to exclusively show the games on their channel. That’s capitalism, NBC shows, CBS shows, FOX shows. But, wait, don’t they stream on Hulu? I mean, the idea is get as much revenue as possible, isn’t it? Isn’t my $124.99 lost revenue? There are plenty of World Series Champion Cardinals fans all over from the great states of Iowa, Arkansas, Tennesse, Kentucky, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Southern Illinois, isn’t that a lot of $124.99s? Wouldn’t it be easy for MLB to distribute a percentage of that money to the broadcasters? I mean, that’s a lot of lost revenue.

If you think I’m a diehard Cardinals fan you haven’t been to Germantown, Illinois! You haven’t been to Busch Stadium after a Cardinals win to see a family of four, kids decked out in Cardinal gear, taking pictures for their once a year trip to St. Louis from Lawton, Oklahoma to see the Birds on the Bat.

This policy is denying all those fans the opportunity to watch the Cardinals. It is denying the children of die-hard Cardinals fans from all over the midwest the chance to learn, like their parents, to love the best team in baseball (Shut yer yaps, yuse Yankee bums). It is killing marketing, it is throwing money away! Do you not want more fans?

Why are the Cardinals so beloved all over the midwest and beyond? Because KMOX radio was a clear channel signal that broadcast the games to all those areas, that’s why. Now, we live in the television era and you want to LIMIT BROADCASTING of games only to areas nowhere near the actual team? Where does that make any sense? MLB, broadcasters, work out a deal, there is money on the table. There are millions of fans waiting to be made. This is capitalism! This is marketing. This is America! Isn’t it?

Why does Fox Sports Midwest care where anyone watches the game? My tv, my computer, my phone, my tablet? It doesn’t make any sense! You want more audience, do you hear me, MORE AUDIENCE! Not less. More. Do you see? Hands shaking … must calm down.

Shower, must have cold shower, brain exploding, stupid, morons, idiots, more audience, spasm-spasm, more audience, more revenue, spasm-spasm, can’t understand, does not compute, spasm-twitch-spasm-twitch-twitch-spasm … more audience … more revenue … twitch-spasm-spasm.

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Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist