Thursday, June 26, 2008

Three times the commercials! That's progress for you ...

There seems to be a buzz developing over phone providers' "three-screen strategy." The idea is that you'll be able to get video -- TV shows, "user generated" videos, whatever -- delivered anywhere you like, whether your TV, your PC or your cell phone. Underpinning this is a new kind of distribution deal. Previously, carriers and providers had negotiated separate deals for the three kinds of device, but the latest deals cover all three.

This is a perfect example of convergence from the vendors' point of view, and a small but necessary step from the consumer's point of view. Again, there's a tension between competing interests. On the one hand, the carriers would like to be able to provide a broad selection of programming, since that will attract customers. But if everyone is providing the same broad selection then the service becomes a commodity, consumers can easily switch providers and the providers' margins shrink.

Right now, we seem to be at the "baby steps" stage, with deals covering content like five-minute excerpts from popular shows. Perhaps it's a bit early to make too many predictions.

Myself, I don't feel a great need to watch TV on my tiny cell phone screen, particularly since advertising seems to be a major part of the current plans, but advertising isn't necessarily bad, and I'm sure a lot of people won't mind greatly. As always, it will be interesting to see how things shake out.

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