As we know it today, television is driven by and paid for by the commercials that so frequently interrupt it. When a show is on television, the number of viewers that watch the show is compared to the total number of people who watch the channel the show is on. This number is the percentage of viewers, and obviously, the larger the percentage of viewers, the more people who watch the show, the more money the show is worth to the network.

This is bad, very bad. This boils down to shows doing well if they capture a large audience, and to ensure that they capture a large audience, shows must appeal to everyone. Sitcoms like Friends, and reality series have wide appeal, and draw many viewers, while smaller shows that only appeal to a certain group of people usually fail. Under our current system of advertisement driven programming, networks will continue to produce reality series that appeal to “everyone,” and the same old crusty sitcoms that repeat the same jokes over and over again.

While the obvious solution to this, would be to have consumers pay for the shows that they want, this is very difficult under the current system. Sure there are pay to watch television channels (HBO, Showtime) and the like, but these work for channels, and not shows themselves. The answer to this would be to create a series of pseudo-networks, the networks wouldn’t need to operate a channel, simply deliver a show at the same time of the week to be sold through existing pay per view methods, while this would work, a new answer has presented itself recently with PVR’s, Personal Video Recorders.

With the proliferation of broadband Internet, and computer-television integration, why don’t we simply change the way that we deliver television? While there is no replacement for live television, I believe that if would be much more profitable to move away from it for many of the channels on television. If I were in charge, I would limit television to something like 30 channels. 10 live channels, and twenty previews. Each preview channel would be a place for networks to show of their new shows in 5-10 minute previews. Television shows that the viewer likes can be purchased online, where they would be downloaded into a set top box. This in my opinion is the best of both systems.

The user, that’s you, pays a low monthly fee, say five dollars, plus the cost of hardware. Then, the user picks out what shows they want to watch, and the set top box automatically downloads the shows that you want to see, while charging your account for each show. The cable provider and the network can split the price made from each show, and each show can pay for itself without needing to advertise. This lets each person download the shows that they want to watch, and re watch them as many times as they want. The preview channels would be places for networks to demonstrate shows and try to increase interest in them to get more subscribers.

As I write this, Star Trek: Enterprise has been canceled, and the show’s fans not only took out a full page ad in the LA Times, begging networks to pick up the show, they are currently negotiating with Paramount to allow the fans to fundraise the money to get the show back on the air.

Unfortunately, this kind of radical change would be on the same order of magnitude as the United States switching to metric. I do, however, foresee a future where pay per view television is available in high quality format and eventually networks form that have no channels, or advertisements, and sell their shows through a web portal.

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