The dog days of August lend themselves to kicking back and letting the world slide by. Since the advent of the Web 2.0 ecosystem, they’ve also been the province of a tech company version of the summer shows the networks play off – failed pilots, reality programming being tried out for the Big Show or another writer’s strike, and ratings stinkers that can be buried outside of Sweeps months.
But the DVR has changed everything, in the process eliminating the notion of special sweeps periods and the upfronts where the new season is hawked. Instead, every day is Premiere Month, with the quality of the audience becoming a function of its trackability. The more that you can see the gestures of the audience in real time, the less you need to attract their attention and the more you can market it to the advertisers. In that context, a show played back is no longer a second class citizen; istead the metadata about when you played it back and what was going on at that time form a more powerful indicator of intent, and the common signature of like-minded users a highly valued target.
In fact, television and music content have become more like software than they are different, and the release of the iPhone App Store a significant new platform for the intersection of what formerly were seen as two different products. Some of the apps look familiar, social media extensions of Facebook or MySpace, publications such as the New York Times, even Apple’s Remote Control which virtualizes control of your music and shows from the target computers and devices that render the material. These apps are in service of the media properties.
Then there are the “pure” plays such as Jott, which records your notes and turns them into text via the network. Or Annotator, which lets you mark up PDFs and then save the results back to the server for distribution via the Mac’s Preview or Adobe Reader. Download these apps, use them as software, loop back to the parent platform when you get back in range of the desktop. Service as software, if you will.
But what’s more disruptive emerges in the blurring of these two classes of app, the new media that results from the blending of gestural reporting and traditional content. Apps like Pandora and AOL Radio have no reason for being other than to extend the range of the software into the mobile space, but the usage data these apps throw off can be used to finance the quality and even the existence of the media created for the new channel.
What kinds of programming will emerge as a second wave behind the repurposing of existing content? Perhaps a kind of reality show with mobile devices, where contestants roam the real world and use their phones as transaction wands to indicate their interest (or lack of it) in products, events, personalities, and so on. Team behavior is aggregated and mined by matching demographic profiles with reactions to produce “answers” to questions about news of the day, topic swarms on Twitter or other social networks, the race for the White House.
In effect, a new hyper reality show becomes possible, where the App Store is the gateway for an Adsense-like version of Big Brother that leaves the house and breaks out into the virtual community. The device and bandwidth is subsidized by the show, so that Apple can turn on the video aspects of the phone to produce footage, and the community could even be encouraged to provide production support for cataloging and editing the show together via the app and the phone.
Call it Big Brother Interactive and market the completed product back to the users via streaming and you’ve got a virtuous loop that leverages the broadcast network’s reach. What started as an App Store download becomes a dongle for a network show, and in turn a marketplace for the personalities that are surfaced on the show. The U.S. Court of Appeals decision to allow server-based DVRs may be overturned at a higher level, but the App Store makes it virtually impossible to put the genie back in the bottle. TV-I is here to stay.