Frank Radice

Expert in Residence

October 243 min read

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I Want My Free TV (and any other video content I consume)!

I don’t want too many commercials, and I don’t want to pay for a ton of subscriptions.

So, what’s left? Steal it? I don’t think so.

Let’s look at the numbers, shall we?

Television is still one of the major mass media of the United States. The Consumer Electronics Association said, as of 2011, household ownership of television sets in the country was 96.7%, with approximately 114.2 million American households owning at least one television set as of August 2013. Most households had more than one set.

According to Statista, the number of TV households in the United States in the TV season 2017-2018 was estimated at 119.6 million.

Video will make up 82% of all internet traffic by 2021, according to forecasts by Cisco, which sells networking equipment. So, more screens to consume even more stuff.

Video accounted for 73% of internet traffic in 2016; not only are people watching more online video, but they're also watching better quality video.

In 2020 the number of digital video viewers in the United States is projected to surpass 236 million.

The pool is HUGE!

In the US the choices are monetized on air, on cable, online and mobile, either by subscriptions, advertising, or a combination of the two.

In the UK they have an alternative. For a decent package of channels on TV and connected device screens, it’s called a TV license and it’s controlled and distributed by the government. You can’t watch anything on a screen anywhere in the UK without one, and they contend that without the license fee, television would become much more expensive — without being any better. And by the way, not having a license and using a screen to view content is against the law.

For an annual fee of around £145 (less for students and nothing if you’re over 75), you get lots of channels for entertainment, sports, news, shopping and such to watch on your TV, phone, computer or video digital assistant.

So, in the US there can be other ways to get your TV (or OTT or Streams or VOD or Mobile) without paying through the nose or being force-fed commercials.

Some people (like me) don’t mind commercials (often they are highly creative and entertaining), and I don’t mind at all when they are targeted to me based on my viewing and purchasing habits (see? no privacy). But many people see that system as intrusive.

So here is my alternative: create a system like BMI and ASCAP have for music.

Everybody that distributes content pays an annual amount into a pot that will be controlled by a trusted third party. Then, anytime that content is consumed, the creative folks and the distributors get paid directly from the fund. The distributors get to keep what’s left after the payments are made. It’s like an entertainment levy. Every piece of content is electronically watermarked. Not only will this system allow you to get what you want when you want it for free...but piracy could be eliminated.

It’s clean, it’s simple, and it’s regulated. (But that may be too much for some people to swallow.)

Obviously, there are a lot of things that need to be addressed to make it work, not the least of which is allowing your data to be used (I’ve always said, there is no privacy anymore, so make it work for you). And what the heck does it mean (if anything) to bingers?

How much should the individual fee be? (it must be fair for everyone’s consumption level). Who will collect, and distribute the data and who will oversee the funds? How will it be enforced?

These are all great questions, but the biggest issue will no doubt be getting all the creators and distributors on the same page.

Will Netflix see it the same as NBCU? How about Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Hulu, Google, and the Walmart upstart? Probably not.

How would an idea like this impact all the different business models?

The music business may have done what no other business like it could…they’ve got everyone playing in the same licensing sand-box. Why can’t other content companies do the same thing?

It’s a transparent system that the consumer doesn’t even see, but without it, nobody would get their music, and no one (creators, writers, and publishers) would get paid (unless all they did was tour).

When 5G and ATSC 3.0 arrive, there will be another tectonic shift in the video content distribution world. The available data will explode, and we’ve only begun to see how AI and audio assistants with video will impact the ecosystem.

In the end, it’s about choice. The choice of the consumer, the viewer, the audience...you.

Here’s a challenge: What would this system be called? It will be easy to make negative comments but instead, please come up with some other alternatives.

Mine certainly won’t be the winner, but it’s a decent first thought.

Television Digital Video Commercials Entertainment