Monday, January 09, 2006

Is The Entertainment Industry Suicidal?

Paul Allen recently posted about his visit to CES and the wonders he is seeing/saw there. His major take-away had to do with Intel's new PC thingy, ViiV, which will connect up to your TV and then dish-out content by the bucket-load. Combine that with Yahoo Go and, in theory, you get ubiquitous entertainment. It sounds great. But, as Paul notes, it also sounds a little troubling.

Paul says, "The availability of all the world’s entertainment content 24/7 on any device in our homes or in our hands leads me to believe that future generations all over the world will spend more and more of their time seeking entertainment. As if that is what life is all about."

He goes on to wonder what other effects this may have on our lives, our children's lives and the collective values of our world. Why work hard when you can work a little and be entertained a lot? Entertainment is happiness, right? Right?

Paul's comments got me thinking about another interesting side effect of this entertainment deluge. There's a problem that may end up destroying the entertainment industry as we know it. In my opinion, entertainment has become a commodity (and I've heard the same from others). As ever increasing amounts of it becomes available in every form, in every place and time we may desire it, it will only continue to lose it's value.

To illustrate my point: iTunes took music to the next level by selling it online and sending it to ipods. They charge $1.99 per song (a new low price!). Then Napster remakes itself and starts selling a subscription service. $14.99 a month for all the music you can handle. Then Yahoo steps in, $5 a month for the same...

Is it any wonder why kids swap and download songs and shows online? It's like drinking water out of the faucet. Except now there's a faucet in every room, on the bus, on the plane, in the office, in the car, at the park, at school. That doesn't seem like a very scarce resource to me, and we all know the economic implications there.

Even worse (for the entertainment industry), everyone can now make and share their own entertainment. Of course, some may say that people prefer professional productions, but I'm not so sure. Remember America's Funniest Home Videos? That was a great show. The only things that stopped it from being truely awesome were Bob Saget and the comercials. But now I can hop on Google video (or any number of other sites) and watch The World's Funniest Videos any time, day or night, 24/7, with no commercials and no Saget. Why would I stick with TV? The value just isn't there any more.

Here's to the future. Let's hope it's better than it could be.


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