Apple’s iTV: Using Evil Powers to Help The Little Guy?

My A-Team friends and I used to use our special ops training to build cabbage-tossing machines to protect the little guy. And after every car crash, you knew nobody got hurt.

What do Apple’s iTV, the A-Team, Leverage and Burn Notice have in common? Read on…

It’s been rumored that a $99 iTV may soon launched, and Bloomberg is reporting Apple “has a few content deals in the works that will allow iTunes users to rent TV shows for 99 cents” (via Technolog). Most Applephilaholics are fussing about the potential of a new iTouch that offers a camera and other features from the iPhone 4 (it’d be like an iPhone5 without the inconvenience of calls to drop). We at WillVideoForFood are not amused by incremental advancements on these products.

The prospects of iTV is wayyyyy more exciting. AppleTV, despite its strengths, is the red-headed step child of Apple. It’s still a bit expensive ($150 refurbished and $229 for 160GB), and is a conceptual leap for those in love with

  • high cable bills
  • road trips to Blockbusters
  • complicated DVRs
  • and the caveman-like posture from watching video on a laptop
My "Burn Notice" friends and I use our espionage and spy skills to help the little guy

Will a $99 price point change that? Yes if it’s fast and loaded with options. Hulu is cool, but I’ll pay $1.99 for 40-minutes of a cool TV-show to avoid slow streams, buffer problems, cheesy ads, and redirects to the network player. Of course most studios won’t want to piss off their primary revenue stream via cable providers — on the prospects of picking up some uncertain income from the 10’s of thousands of people that pick these up. However if adoption of the iTV doesn’t require a device and becomes pervasive as iTunes then we’ll see a radical improvement of the video space that will remind us of what Steve Jobs did to the music industry.

I’m not saying Jobs isn’t a black-shirt douche bag, and Apple does use its clout to pull a lot of dick moves (Flash-retardant). But iTV could help out the little guy, at the expense of Big Bad Cable.

Here’s what we like:

  1. This could make it increasingly mainstream to enjoy network ‘TV” shows on any device (television, laptop, smart phone/iPhone/iTouch) without the hassle of a damned app for every network.
  2. It will legitimize a pay-per-show model instead of ad-supported networks that are bundled with crap you don’t need. For example, I’ve become a USANetwork junkie (hanging out weekly with my friends on Burn Notice, where we use our skills of espionage to help the little people). I’m also watching a lot of TNT (hanging out weekly with my friends from Leverage, where we use our skills of con, grifting, cyberhacking to help the little people). And sometimes I want to catch up on classic episodes from vintage NBC (where I could revisit my old teenage friends from A-Team, where we use our special ops experience to help the little people). I buy an assload of television shows (despite having a minimalist cable bill), and my consumption would increase if I could rent for 99 cents instead of owning for $1.99 — I rarely watch the show again anyway… and if I miss it on the DVR/TiVO I buy it.

    My Leverage friends and I use our skills to help the little guy. The grifter, thief, hack, con artist... and me.
  3. You and I can pay for what we want. I’ve spent 100 times more on “TV” buying ala cart via AppleTV but I’m okay with that — because I don’t like monthly subscriptions that entitle me to crap I don’t need. My AppleTV is loaded with hundreds and hundreds of television shows… for instance, previous seasons of shows I now love. Force me to the “all you can eat buffet” cable bill and I’m just going to get sick while I eat sub-par food with 400-pound losers. It’s like receiving the stupid newspaper each day… it’s not the cost as much as the feeling of continual waste.
  4. By facilitating ala-cart options for viewers, studios will benefit from a new revenue stream independent of the abusively negotiated cable packages and suppressed ad income… and enjoy going direct to consumers, where they can upsell other shows and even develop sole sponsorships instead of cheap-ass GRP ads. I’ve never paid for HBO in my life, but there are shows I’d buy ala cart including Sopranos (a family who uses its mobster experience to torture the little guys).
  5. The biggest interim beneficiary will be “The New Establishment” (Next New Network, Revision3) who will gladly offer gratis its myriad of semi-pro content (Barely Political, Scam School, Film Riot) to gain vital new eyeballs and audiences. These players are aggressively marketing their content as “value adds” on Roku and TiVo. If we don’t see the Disneys and HBOs willing to adjust their cable-centric models, iTV would want to introduce this free and fresh content instead of old episodes of Alf (an alien who used his little-guy sarcasm for no apparent purpose).
Hi. It's Craig. Remember me? You used to pick on me in grade school. Now I work for a large cable company. So suck my Alf, baby. You'll use my shit-ass device, and buy what I tell you to buy.

Jessica McClure Made CNN. Falcon Heene Made Twitter.

Before I start my rant, let me point to a copy of the YouTube video featuring Falcon “Balloon Boy” Heene and family (as seen on Wifeswap). I suspect you may be seeking that.

In my opinion, today Twitter became CNN (in the same way CNN’s coverage of Jessica McClure put it on the map). In fairness, I became a bit obsessed with the “kid in weather balloon” story when I saw it live via CNN on a lobby television at the hotel where I was speaking… ironically speaking on the topic of real-time search, wisdom of crowds, and changes with search. Alas, the definitive case study for these three topics would surface just an hour after I spoke. I started tweeting with hash-tag #saveballoonboy, and it became one of the “hottest” Twitter trends.

Falcon Heene was thought to be flying inside his dad’s UFO-like weather balloon. CNN showed live helicopter footage of the balloon swirling 25-50 mph, which made this a remarkable news story — especially to those who learned about it before Falcon was recovered.

But CNN was slow with the seemingly obvious fact… As I should have known (from my helium experiments setting a FlipCam to the sky) the weather balloon could not have easily carried a 6-year-old child away… although the parents and authorities must have thought it a possibility. And when the child was MIA, rumors started that he’d fallen off to his death… that witnesses had seen something drop. His brother saw him sail away (in fact he had simply heard Falcon planning to climb into the basket/compartment.

CNN got Jessica McLure right, but left most of us frustrated and demanding more today. Others made it a top-trending keyword today, as we shared what news we had… like a post apocalypse scenario with CD-Radios.

This evening at 5:00 EST, I called my sister (who is a prodcuer at a major network) and asked her what she had… little more than already had been reported (although she had a lot of background already on the family). I begged her to call a neighbor of Heene, and see if she could circumvent the poor communication between rescuers (who clearly knew the balloon was empty) and the news media.

Want to know who broke the story for me? A stranger named Kelley Vinson (KelleySaidThis) using an iPhone police radio app (assuming she wasn’t kidding she wins $50 for the scoop… I promised). Moments later, I called my sister (who works at a major network) and she finally told me her network had announces the child was safe. A YouTube friend sent me a message via Twitter that confirmed CNN was confirming he was safe.

Frankly, the few hours felt exponentially longer than the 58 hours Jessica was in a well. And the coverage was slow, speculative and not fast enough for a just-in-time search-fueled audience.

Today’s lesson? Google, radio, television and other media are not serving us in a crisis or breaking news story. It’s just not fast enough. Clearly we want a credible medium, and I was hungry for sources (since there was plenty of hoax and rumors, or endless reverberations of the previous news).

Folks the field is wide open here. Citizen journalists now have Twitter, and we need ways to credential sources (maybe an earned badge based on previous reliability like eBay). We need real-time news. We need to find a way to help advance the story, like a way that local witnesses can provide input.

Like during the Michael Jackson trial, TMZ scooped the story, but Twitter propogated it.

As I type (and after I shot this video), CNN has excellent coverage… with an interview with the family that’s playing in the background. Wolf Blitzer gets “thumbs down” for asking children yes/no questions, but surprisingly was the first to tell Falcoln’s father that the balloon was recovered with the door shut… nobody had given him that amazingly encouraging piece of information. Still- when we were begging for new facts, the anchors were left with little more than the obvious… and Twitter had more.

Here’s an 8-minute reflective with my kids (5 and 7). About 7 minutes too long. Fly, Falcon, Fly.