I think it’s time for broadcasters to consider VOD through VidCasting (aka podcasting). I know that recently Cringely described his vision for how his employer PBS would be able to offer an on demand selection of 10,0000 titles. I agree though don’t know it needs to be built entirely through affiliate stations though that might help defray some distribution / bandwidth costs.
While PBS certainly has a nice selection of content, much of it would not be watched yet… as much as I believe in the Long Tail. Yes that’s a key point of the Long Tail notion, but I think initially we’ll need to see some popular downloads and availability in addition to simply providing deep catalog access.
There are a few key audiences for this… Business Travelers, Technology Early Adopters, and Parents with young kids. I think the last group (of which I am a part) is actually the most important for mass adoption. You’ll always have the first two groups buy in at some level for new technologies, either “because they can” or because it makes travel easier and more fun. Parents though have different needs and making content available and portable would be a fantastic opportunity.
In many way ways children programming is ideal for on-demand options as well as portable players. If you’ve watched any program recently, you’ve probably noticed that there are few if any commercials (perhaps a sponsor spot at the beginning and end and then just pure 20+ minutes of programming. Noggin does a great job packaging their shows in this way and even includes a few “extras” to fill the half-hour slot with a song or activity (not a commercial) making it pretty likely that even in the age of the DVR you don’t really fast forward that much as their is not much to skip.
We’ve noticed already how Hannah (our just about 17 month old daughter) understands that things can be queued on demand from the DVR or from our DVD archive. She totally gets that we can rewind or fast forward to a favorite song with Barney and Blue or skip over a part on Sesame Street. Hannah actually asks that we skip or rewind… Growing up, we did not have a VCR when I was Hannah’s age, let alone cable TV. All that came later… kids today have very different expectations for how their edutainment is delivered…
In my perfect world, the content would be available to either come directly to a DVR or a computer in my choice of format so that it could be taken on the road for family car trips (always an adventure). I see DRM-Free MPEG-2 coming through my cable box (much more than is currently available through the on-demand selection of Time Warner) and an option of formats (MPEG-2 or MPEG-4) for my computer so that shows could easily be taken on the road by portable DVD player or portable media player.
I think this could go through a podcasting (RSS with Enclosures) system, utilizing Bit Torrent to properly credit speed back to those households sharing back to make it easy and accessible for more people. You’d simply subscribe to a show and let RSS deliver the goods to your torrent system.
This does not have to be laden with DRM as there is currently not much of an illegal supply of kids programming online… There’s a reason for this. Parents don’t want to rip off the providers of good stuff for their kids. Make it available, make it easy. There’s no need for us to edit the commercials (as there are none), just deliver it in the current form.