Shiny New Object


I was asked to speak at a meeting of media, entertainment and technology professionals on Saturday. I gave a presentation that I call Cloud TV that envisions a world of TV on demand delivered over ultra high speed fiber optic IP networks. I noted that there is no technological barrier to this vision and that we work with a public utility in Chattanooga that has deployed a one gigabit symetrical network. I expressed the sentiment that the reason we have so much crappy reality TV is that programmers need to fill up the endless hours on the 500 channels of cable TV. I realized there were probably a good number of cable TV execs in the audience, but what the hell, it was Saturday morning.

Near the end of the presentation I posed one problem that I thought we had to tackle–I call it the discovery problem. In our experience observing the Disney Movies Anywhere App, most of the customers download the latest hit, Frozen and very few take the time to look at the old classics like Dumbo. I noted that in the music business, 80% of the downloads are for 1% of the content. So it turns out The Long Tail is a total myth. I expressed concern that we were experiencing a kind of cultural amnesia by neglecting the incredible wealth of wonderful movies, TV and music created in the last 80 years.

When I finished, the moderator of the event came up on stage to take the Q & A and he asked the first question, “Why should we care about Dumbo, it’s an old movie?” I’ve given this presentation a lot of times before, but I had never been asked that knucklehead question. So I replied, why should we care about Leonardo DaVinci, Picasso or Louis Armstrong’s work? They are all dead. Why should we have museums? I saw a little light go on in his eyes as he said, “good point”. Later a friend who was in the audience wrote me saying that the moderator’s pov demonstrated the “shiny new object” phenomenon in all its superficiality. He’s right. Look, I’m going to pay attention to the I Watch launch on Tuesday, just like you are. But it won’t define my day, my week or my life. Not everything has to be new to be relevant and yet it is getting harder and harder to get folks to watch or listen to the past masters. I don’t have any idea how to deal with this problem, but I do think it is a problem.

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One Response to Shiny New Object

  1. Fentex says:

    The question “Why should we care about Dumbo, it’s an old movie?” reminds me of part of Bill Hicks act when he recounts doing a tour of small venues and taking lunch at a small diner in a bit of a backwater and reading a book when the waitress serving him asked “Watcha reading for?”

    His routine proceeding from the position of what an astounding question that was – how not “What are you reading?” but “Why are you reading?” flummox’s someone who appreciates the value of knowledge.

    I notice my local theatre now routinely has late night seasons of classic movies which is a benefit of digital projectors – you don’t need to source bulky hard to transport reels of film to do something new with old material.

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