Friday, February 15, 2013

This Machine Kills Television

As asteroid DA 14 narrowly avoids earth this afternoon, it strikes me that the bulk of the serious coverage is not happening on network TV, but instead on NASA TV's online feed, JPL's Ustream feed, and various other online-accessible locations with niche content streaming feeds from radar stations across the world.  

Of course, all-day coverage of an asteroid would surely not be the most profitable content for the major networks today, so they're ceding this niche to various online players.  It wouldn't make sense for them not to.  The only trouble is, by the time the next almost killer asteroid swings by to say hello to Earth, almost everything will be niche content, and the traditional broadcast and cable networks will see continually decreasing interest in their model of curated linear content.  The combination of high speed internet access anywhere you go on mobile and connected devices with the liberation of content through an exploding number of online services means users will seek content based on their interests and social connections wherever the fewest barriers and interruptions exist.


Those of us in the media technology world are, to put it simply, building machines that kill television.  This got me thinking about the artistic value of literally applying that label to the machines we use to revolutionize television.

Woody Guthrie famously performed with a very unique guitar.  After observing the phrase "This Machine Kills Fascists" written on fighter airplanes during the Spanish Civil War, Guthrie took a "Pen is Mightier than the Sword" view and put the same phrase on his guitar.  This became a legend in music, and several artists have riffed on this concept.  Steve Earle (of HBO's Treme) comments on New Orleans and Katrina with "This Machine Floats", and Don't Forget to Be Awesome went with "This Machine Pwns N00bs":

Ok - my turn.  If I'm creating software that kills television, what's the most appropriate "guitar" with which to proclaim that message?

The mobile device that's driving forward "TV Anywhere"?

The MacBook Pro I use to create that software?

Or the connected TV device that's emboldened a new wave of cord-cutters?


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