Chris Anderson writes:
As your thumb crawls through your several hundred digital cable channels, TV may appear anything but shackled. Yet it is. What seems like everything imaginable is instead a very thin slice on the video world. The existing channel structure mostly rewards focused programming with enough depth to fill a 24/7 window every day of the year. So the DIY channel and History en Espanol now pass muster, but the Halo 2 Physics Hacks channel does not. An acceptable loss, you say? How about last year’s great season on Bravo, long ago overwritten by your DVR to save space?
Both the channel-centric reality of TV and its ephemeral nature are artifacts of the distribution bottleneck of cable broadcast. TV is still in the era of limited shelf space, while the lesson of the Long Tail is that more is always better. The growth of cable capacity over the past decade pales next to the growth in video creation over the same period and the size of the potential microaudiences for anything and everything. TiVo may have helped by at least taking the tyranny of time out of the equation, but we are nowhere near the iTunes model of being able to download everything ever made, anytime.
Three additional posts [2 3 4] discuss the idea of the Long Tail TV: “The best way to do that is to start with a good standard for packaging video to be distributed by such services that can incorporate rich metadata (from keywords to closed captions to full scripts) and, when wanted, DRM tied to some payment system…what I’d like is is a dedicated browser plug-in that would make this much easier for recommendations found online. When I see mention of a TV show that I want to record, I’d like to highlight it and right-click (Mac users insert your own favorite shortcut here). A new option on the pop-up menu that appears would be ‘Record to DVR’. If I select that, the app would do a quick search on the phrase, returning with enough information to let me choose the particulars of what I want. ”