Posted by: nickgerlich | April 1, 2008

I Want My NTV

About 25 years ago, when satellite TV programming was just gaining traction, the rules were changed regarding how we watch TV. Satellite TV came about primarily as a way for rural homeowners to receive TV programming, since cable operators were reluctant to spread cable for miles and miles just to gain a handful of new customers.

These rural homeowners suddenly had a cornucopia of TV options, including capturing their network stations (ABC/CBS/NBC) from cities afar.

And local affiliates did not like it. As a result of some strong lobbying, the Supreme Court eventually weighed in on the issue, and made it illegal for satellite TV customers “within range” of a local affiliate’s signal to receive their network feeds from other markets. Which is a bummer, because we really liked being able to watch TV from both the east and west coasts. It was like having TiVo without actually having it, because everything was re-broadcast three hours later from California.

Today a new revolution is occurring, and it has nothing to do with satellite TV or protecting local market share. Thanks to a plethora of online providers (including the networks themselves), we can now watch TV on our computers. When we want it. As in “Now TV.”

JoostOn numerous occasions I have visited to watch episodes of Survivor or How I Met Your Mother I may have missed. And while the online version still embeds commercials, there are nowhere near as many as those suffering through the broadcast bersion must endure.

And did I say it is free?

Then there’s sites like Joost that have thousands and thousands of archived shows free for the viewing. All you need is a solid broadband connection, and the world of TV is yours.

TV-on-the-internet is yet another huge trend, as reported by Kim Komando at USA Today. Once again, the internet continues to democratize much that we do, including watching TV. Whereas TiVo is great for time-shifting our viewing habits, online TV is even better in that we can access massive libraries along with last night’s missed installment.

All this must be sending shivers up and down the spines of the local affiliates, who in spite of Supreme Court protectionism have seen their viewership whittled down steadily through the years. Cable and satellite TV were bad enough in that they served up dozens of competing stations; now the internet is making it possible to bypass everyone and just get it when we want it. For free, of course.

In 1985, Dire Straits sang about “money for nothing. Today the remix of that song would have to be “Everything For Nothing.”

Dr “Take That To The Bank” Gerlich


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