June 9, 2006
What IS Television, Anyway?!?

Those party poopers at TiVo are trying to cause more problems for tradition-lovers. First, they had to mess with the idea of live programming, and now they're getting desperate enough to try and further blur the lines between what is Internet programming and what is television.

TiVo announced on Wednesday that they are launching the new TiVoCast. For the 400,000 TiVo boxes that have high-speed Internet, the boxes will allow them to watch Internet video on their television set.

But...wait....if this program can be viewed on the television set...what is television, anyway? Most people have moved past the antenna phase, so it's not broadcast. And services like TiVo and DVRs (and even that dreaded VCR of yesteryear) have already done all they could to obliterate the liveness and the scheduling power of television networks.

TiVo's feeling enough pressure from all the DVR services provided by cable companies and DVRs with hard drives that many people value over the TiVo service.

We had a class at MIT this past semester in which a few of my colleagues and I debated at length what television really is, anyway. If it's not defined by its broadcasting or its liveness or screen size, what makes television different than any other video material? Or does it really matter anymore?

Seeing that the announcement came on Wednesday, I'm sure that, by the time I've posted this, there's already a group of lawyers ready to issue a statement from someone about the latest lawsuit to try and stop TiVo. But, again...it's like trying to hold a tsunami back with toilet paper.

What do you all think?


On June 9, 2006 at 6:24 PM, Neal Grigsby said:

Just as Tivo is pushing its way into the Internet domain, the PC is pushing its way into the living room. Since my VCR died last year, I've been pondering my options for a TV time-shifting device. I just can't bring myself to buy a Tivo. Considered as a souped-up consumer electronics product the Tivo, with its scheduling features, is pretty novel and cool, something one might be willing to pay $13 a month for. But considered as an underpowered PC it leaves a lot to be desired. Tivo itself capitalizes on perceptions that it's like a super VCR. But if it turns more and more into a PC, who is going to put up with extra service charges and the company's tendency to sell out to television industry demands, especially as Microsoft rolls out an OS with native media center support, and various open-source Tivo-like software comes of age. The industry is trying to hold back the convergence tsunami, but Tivo is too, in a way.

On June 10, 2006 at 3:02 PM, Sam Ford said:

You've got a good point. As the post I'm working on right now points out, Netflix is another company that both shows the promise of new media and new technology but also relies on outmoded ways of thinking simultaneously. I don't mean to celebrate the TiVo because I really think it's going to be one of those transitional products that will have to be greatly revamped if it's going to exist in the long run. Of course, this branching into Internet video shows that they themselves are aware of this and are trying to change it, but--as with oil companies and myriad other examples--it's always obvious that capitalism drives both innovation but also reactionary thinking, when the powers and place have too much vested in their current systems to abandon them completely. In other words, I think it's going to be hard for TiVo to quit seeing itself as a "souped up VCR" since that's what made them their profits so far.