Things keep changing -- 01/06/10

If you have just wandered in from Holidailies and wonder who's who, there's a brief introduction to various characters at the end of this entry...

Yesterday I was commenting on a local video rental store closing because of competition from Netflix and Red Box and movie downloading.

By coincidence, Rubarb's entry for the day described how many kids today are so accustomed to digital clocks that they have difficulty deciphering an analog clock. (On the other hand, I must confess that -- although I am wearing a digital watch -- if someone asks me what time it is, I mentally convert the time to the old-fashioned hour-hand/minute-hand paradigm. If it is, say, between 8:25 and 8:35, I will respond "around eight-thirty" and if it is between, say, 8:40 and 8:50, I am likely to say that it is "about quarter to nine" -- This is not a conscious decision to convert -- I just do it.)

She closed her entry by wondering if broadcast television would survive. I left a comment saying that I thought broadcast television was on its way out. I don't mean that there will be no television signals carrying television programs, but I think the current structure is on its way out.

I think it is quite likely (at least here in the U.S.) that within the next two or three years, at least one or two of the half a dozen television networks that we currently have will convert from broadcast to cable. The networks currently each own a handful of broadcast stations and supply programming to a "network" of affiliated local stations around the country. Those local stations were paid to carry the network programs. The networks made vast sums of money selling nationwide commercial time on their programs. Now there is much more competition from hundreds of cable channels (plus the Internet, etc.) and less money available for the networks. Cable companies are demanding more money to carry broadcasting. Networks are paying local stations less -- and, in some situations, asking the local stations to pay them. At least some of the networks are thinking that they might be further ahead if they were to transform themselves into cable channels. At same time, television stations are considering splitting themselves into multiple stations, slicing up their bandwidth to carry two or three simultaneous programs. Once one of the networks dissolves, its affiliate stations will be scrambling for new sources of programming content.

Radio has not gone away. I grew up with "network" radio -- that is, millions of people would tune in their radios at the same time to their local NBC or CBS or Mutual network affiliate to listen to a network drama or comedy or variety show. (When television came along, it followed the radio model -- indeed, many of the early television programs were copies of popular radio programs.) Now those mass audiences are gone and yet there are far more radio stations today than there were back then.

Some local television stations might survive by broadcasting to limited local audiences, but that broadcast bandwidth is very valuable and the demand for bandwidth for cell phones and wifi and "3G" and "4G" cellular networks with broadband Internet access keeps growing -- plus whatever they think of next...

Nancy enjoys the show Castle -- but instead of watching it in its regular Monday night at 10 p.m. time slot, she watches it via our digital cable "on demand" function whenever she feels like watching it. (And it takes several minutes short of a full hour to watch; although the show still has what are apparently the network's commercials, the commercial time that would have been sold by local stations is missing.)

You don't need digital on demand cable service (nor a TIVO-type digital video recorder) in order to watch television programs when you want to watch them -- you can just go to the Internet. You can watch shows on CastTV.com or on Hulu.com or Streamick.com or TIOTI.com. Also, many radio and television stations and networks provide access to many of their programs via Internet streaming.

This is my last entry for Holidailies2009. There were 31 possible days (December 7th thru January 6th) to post an entry and I only missed seven of them this time around.

A brief introduction for those of you wandering in here from Holidailies for the first time: I'm just a middle-aged guy (but somehow I hit 66 on my last birthday) who lives in Rhode Island with my wife Nancy (a middle-school math teacher), daughter Gillian ("Jill" -- 27 yr old college student and baker), son Jeremy (24 yr old restaurant cook and part-time college student), and Tiger (senior citizen cat). Eldest child Adam lives in New York City with his wife Leah and our grandsons Sam and Milo. I'm a former programmer/systems analyst who got involved with software training and instructional design. For the past several years I have been working from home (you can't beat the short commute!) doing quality assurance and editing on course material for both classroom courses and Web-based training courses for a very big computer company. I've been writing this online journal since 1996.

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My 24th (and final) entry for this season's Holidailies.


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