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TV’S TOP TECH TURKEYS

Nov 17, 2003  •  Post A Comment

With Thanksgiving coming next week, I would like to honor the occasion by presenting the four biggest Turkeys of TV Technology. With most new TV technologies still struggling to find a mass audience, I could probably fill the entire publication with gobblers and goof-ups. But these four turkeys seem to be going out of their way to make their lives-and ours-more difficult. So without further ado, the Turkeys go to:
Cable TV’s On-Screen Guide
The interactive programming guide is supposed to let you easily find information about upcoming shows. However, on most cable TV systems, the IPG is more difficult to read than an EKG.
For instance, Comcast, which uses Gemstar’s TV Guide IPG interface, jams so many advertising messages on the screen that the program listings are nearly squeezed off the page. The ads wouldn’t be so bad if they were relevant to television. However, one ad recently featured a debt elimination service. Ah, debt. Just what you want to think about when you watch TV.
The Federal Communications Commission
By approving such arcane measures as the Broadcast Flag, plug-and-play and the digital TV tuner requirement, the FCC has succeeded in confusing the entire nation. Will today’s digital TV be obsolete tomorrow? Should you wait to see how the FCC rules are implemented before buying a digital TV?
Listening to the jargon coming out of Washington, the average consumer has no idea. But right or wrong, the FCC has created a perception that some digital devices could be headed for the scrap heap. Consequently, in the name of boosting digital TV, the FCC may have actually hurt sales.
The Interactive TV Business
ITV companies promised to let us order pizza with the touch of a remote, but they have been eating crow instead. Cable and satellite TV operators have put ITV on the back burner, along with other half-baked ideas like video phones and reality TV networks.
What’s the problem? After a decade of hype, the ITV industry still hasn’t determined what will make viewers interact with their TVs.
News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch, an ITV enthusiast, could turn things around next year when he takes over DirecTV, assuming the FCC approves the deal. However, the ITV industry has said “Wait until next year” more often than the Boston Red Sox.
Research Companies
Did you know that 34 million people will have a digital video recorder by year-end? No? Well, don’t get excited. Actually, that’s just an industry projection made in 2000 by Massachusetts-based Forrester Research. There are now approximately 3 million DVRs in the United States and the odds of hitting 34 million in the next six weeks are probably, well, 34 million to one.
Forrester and other research companies often issue industry forecasts that wind up falling far short of reality. However, many publications report the predictions as if they were set in stone.
A few years later, when the real numbers fail to measure up, the media often criticize the industry for failing to meet expectations. The projections do a terrible disservice to the industry.
The predictions are often wrong because it’s impossible to say precisely what will happen to an entire sector over several years. Too many unknown factors, such as economic change, come into play.
But don’t expect the research companies to stop making long-range forecasts. The projections generate publicity for high-priced reports, which, yes, are then sold to the industry.
Phillip Swann is president and publisher of TVPredictions.com. He can be reached at Swann@TVPredictions.com.