How Television Will Be Next Year

There are several reasons why the traditional television model has been dying in the past decade. Some of these reasons are increased competition for viewer interest from video games, social sites like Facebook and online video platforms like YouTube and Netflix.

But the most important reason is that TV channels that were originally focused on niche audiences ( examples: MTV, Sci-Fi and TLC ) have been forced to program their stations with cheaply produced reality shows designed to appeal to mainstream audiences in order to get mainstream advertising dollars. This isn’t done just because the station owners are greedy; it’s because the advertising budgets once spent on niche TV programming now goes to internet advertising platforms like AdWords and Facebook. However the mainstream content flooding these niche channels have alienated the audiences these stations have depended on, which only encourages them to trade their cable TV subscriptions for Netflix, YouTube or pirate Bittorrent sites in order to get their fix of niche programming.

That said, with internet television broadcasting systems like Martell TV coming out next year, I expect the niche TV programming model will return. I fully expect to see things like “The Goth Channel” or “The Comic Con Channel” to become possible, commanding large viewerships and advertiser interest.

After all, the reason advertisers are hiring YouTube creators with niche audiences to sponsor products is because video based advertising hasn’t stopped working; the problem is the shot-gun blast approach that traditional TV stations utilize when selling time slots has a poor ROI compared to the direct response benefits of AdWords, Facebook and YouTube (Really, who wants to call a phone number to get placed on hold for 10 minutes? Consumers today just want to click a link and buy it ).

Additionally, the switch to iTV systems will improve the quality of information people have access to. For example, rather than broadcasting Fox News or CNN in every hospital waiting room TV set, self-operated stations can be easily ran by hospital employees to provide information more catered to their patients needs.  To help cover the costs of hiring programming directors for the hospital’s TV station, the hospital can sell ad spots to local service providers.

This can also be done by schools, stores or even music festivals. Traditionally, if they were to do this they would need to use closed-circuit TV systems which are costly to install and limit the broadcasts to viewers physically in front of a connected TV. By contrast, web-based apps like Martell TV can make these broadcasts available to anyone inside or outside the building with nothing more than a video hosting server (like a YouTube account) and a laptop.

So, for example, the Department of Veteran’s Affairs could operate a Veteran’s Station that organizes all their YouTube videos into a 24/7 feed that helps Veterans and their families become educated about programs and services available to vets. This station could be watched both inside the clinics on the wall-mounted TVs, and at home on the veteran’s personal tablet or smart TV.

I’ll also make these predictions:

  • You will have access to every movie or TV show ever produced for watching on any device, anywhere you are in the world in HD quality with alternate language tracks without needing to download the videos to your hard-drive (no more DVR nonsense, and the limitations with that). So if you’re British you will never need to miss any of your favorite BBC shows while vacationing in Hawaii.
  • Many aspects of the television industry aren’t broken and actually work quite well. Things like hourly programming and upfronts will continue to exist.
  • Television stations aimed at niche audiences (History Channel, MTV, Sci-Fi, etc) will be able to return to their original mission statements rather than scheduling non-niche programming unrelated to that mission (example: see MTV’s 16 and Pregnant series). Because internet TV systems dramatically reduce the overhead costs of broadcasting, the ad revenue generated from niche programming can be profitable again. The advertisers are even able to have an excellent direct response feature; viewers can order products advertised in a show by clicking a button on their smartphone’s TV remote app.
  • Because GPS data can be incorporated into a channel guide app, it will become simple for you to find the feeds of TV stations operating in your area; compared to sites like YouTube where it is impossible to see what channels are based in your local area because navigation is based around search terms and genres. This means local programming will return in a big way. Currently, local TV programming is dying out as network affiliate stations become nothing more than repeater towers for major TV network feeds. But this will change as small “mom and pop” stations spring up that have content specifically designed for people in certain cities like Austin, New York or Portland.
  • You will be able to flip through channels to see what is currently streaming (a feature sorely missing from sites like YouTube and Hulu). You can even re-arrange the order of the stations in your listing for easier channel flipping. There will be no more need to think up search phrases and dig through hundreds of poor-quality amateur home videos to find quality content to enjoy. (Any parent who has ever tried to make playlists of YouTube videos for their kids to watch or been horrified by what videos their kid ends up watching when left alone for 10 minutes on YouTube should understand the value of being able to tune into a children’s TV station).
  • Your taste in movies and TV shows will be learned by your channel guide app to help you discover videos you’d otherwise never find.
  • You will be able to watch the premiere episodes of new shows with your friends via web cam conferencing without needing to have a bunch of different apps running on multiple devices connected together in a maze of cords. All you’ll need is your Smart TV with its built-in web cam and a smartphone as a TV remote.
  • Short messaging services (SMS) like Twitter and Facebook will become highly integrated with the “second screen” TV remote app for your channel guide app, allowing you to chat with both friends, nearby residents or world-wide fans while watching shows at the same time. These virtual “water coolers” will allow for new kinds of conversations between network owners, show creators and the audiences using specialized feature sets (i.e. a director’s Q&A Tweet Hangout) meant to facilitate these communications.
  • Video piracy will become a thing of the past, because there will be no reason to go to unlicensed sources when the official Station feeds have a better quality watch experience and are equally free. This means the spread of downloaded viruses and trojans will slow down, making it harder for criminals to steal personal information.

Even if i gave up today and decided to not finish developing Martell TV, I think this new world would come about, after the big-shot corporations finally give up on their insane quest to recreate the cable box with things like Boxee, Roku, Apple TV and whatnot (hey guys, the cable box was improved upon decades ago; it’s called a laptop). But i don’t think these changes will come soon enough to save local TV stations from dying out (resulting in the loss of tens of thousands of jobs), and even when they get the model close to being right, their services would be fragmented between a dozen different companies each trying to make their systems competitors to one another.

Even though high concept startups are nearly impossible to fund, I think we have the right idea with Martell TV. This is my way of ensuring a world with a better TV experience comes about fast enough. Importantly, our platform is intended to be open enough that niche or local programming can thrive in the market once again. And I don’t think if Comcast or Intel created this system that they would care about these markets, because the culture of these corporations is to go after extremely large customers. But the culture of my company is to keep the television industry alive, and I recognize that ultimately the television industry has a social obligation to facilitate communication within local communities. This duty is at risk of becoming forgotten as media conglomerates chip away at their affiliate stations right to produce and broadcast local programming, and sites like YouTube treat a user’s television experience as no different than searching websites.