now this is exciting…

Have you ever sat in front of your TV and flipped through the cable channels, channel after channel after channel and found nothing to watch?

It happens all the time.

The addition of the ‘guide’ button on my remote only makes it easier and more depressing.

On my Time/Warner system in New York I get more than 2,000 channels (as far as I can tell), and more often than not, I cannot find a single thing I want to watch.

How many reruns of Law and Order can I see?

What is wrong with the media?

Why is there so much garbage on cable all the time?

The answer to that, ironically, is right in the palm of your hand.

The remote.

Hit the ‘change channel’ button. Now hit it again. And again. And again.

Thousands of channels.

And with the ‘videoization’ of the web, there soon will be millions of channels to surf and choose from.  That’s the power of the digital revolution.  Faster and cheaper. But not better.  Attached to this ‘miracle’ of technology is a curse – and an opportunity.

But first, the curse.

The more channels you get, the more options you have. The more options you have, the fewer viewers there are on any given channel. The fewer the viewers, the lower the advertising rates for the commercials. The lower the advertising rates, the less money the network generates and thus, the less money there is to pay for the programming.

Get the concept?

In the ‘early’ days of TV there were only three networks – ABC, CBS and NBC. Anybody here old enough to remember that?  (Hands down).  In those days, with so few options, each network could promise advertisers, more or less, 30 million homes watching their shows and also the ads.  People will pay a lot to get their message in front of 30 million households!  Today, an average cable show might have 30,000 viewers.  Advertisers don’t pay so much to get their message in front of 30,000 viewers.  So there’s less cash around to pay for programming.  So what do you do?

Well, Reality TV was one response.  No paid writers. No paid actors. Cheap to make.  Pretty soon you have an endless sea of Cupcake Wars or Tattoo Parlors.  That’s TV in the 21st Century for you.

In the halcyon Golden Age of TV, the average cost of making an hour of television was $1 million, (and that was when a million meant something!).  Today, cable channels generally pay anywhere from $350,000 to $120,000 per hour shows that they buy.

OK. I said there was a curse and an opportunity.  The idea that you might have to watch Cupcake Wars – that’s the curse. But the opportunity?

The same technology that drove the ability to digitize and transmit 2,000 channels over a fibre optic line and see it on your TV or soon on your phone also drove another revolution – content creation.

If you’ve got a home video camera (or an iPhone even), the odds are that you own a video camera that is technically better than the ones used to make TV shows during the ‘Golden Age of TV’.  1080 lines. HD. (and color!). If you’ve got a laptop or an iPad you have iMovie (or similar editing software) for free that any 9-year old can run – and it’s vastly (VASTLY) more powerful than the old ‘professional’ CMX edit suites (that cost $1 million +)

So what does this mean?

It means that you (yes you!) could produce your own reality show and sell it to cable.

There’s nothing stopping you but you!

And would you be unhappy to sell it for, oh, $30,000 per show?

(I mean you’re making it at home on your laptop!)

And would the networks be upset that you could suddenly deliver shows at about 1/5th of what they are used to paying ‘professional’ production companies?

I don’t think so either.