Back to TV 3.0

Back to TV 3.0

Just a short one this…or at least that’s the plan. Just read an article on YouTube in the latest issue of Wired magazine.

In drawing his conclusion, the author of this piece references all the lost titans of the dotcom boom (goes the dynamite) and wonders whether YouTube’s sale price ($1.6bn) was vastly — and wrongly — inflated. Is it just another transient fad that will be huge one day and gone tomorrow?

Now what I don’t know is whether the author was joking, but his answer was no. On the grounds that YouTube has 100 million streams a day.

Exsqueeze me?

A user base does not a business model make — just ask anyone who invested in dotcoms on the grounds of a company’s “market share”. What this typically meant is that they had thousands of users in a market that had zero revenue.

Certainly a user base does not make a business model when that user base is concentrated amongst the most fad-driven audience: teens. People are teenagers for a very short period of time, and the new people entering the demographic are constantly searching for the ‘new’. That’s what makes pop music/fashion/teen culture in general so interesting. And it is what makes me question the values attached to any business that is currently hugely popular amongst teens. That popularity will end, sure as it does for any TV show or band targeting that age group.

I lay no claim to being as clever as Larry or Sergey, so I don’t doubt that there was a good reason for paying $1.6bn for YouTube. But I really doubt it was the 100m streams a day that sold it.

The argument for this conclusion is that people want to share the infamous ‘watercooler moment’ — discussing last night’s big happening in the office/school/bus queue the next day. No arguments from me on this one.

But what does YouTube have to do with this moment? Do people really want a destination website on which to find the new ‘thing’? Call me old fashioned but surely they want it on their TV? For all the five-minute funnies in the world won’t get the true mass market away from their comfy armchairs and in to the office to watch TV — especially when they have to access it with a keyboard and a mouse.

What is important is the mechanism for finding good new content, and sharing this content with friends and family. Then you can create a critical mass around a single program that delivers your watercooler moment. Think how much bigger Numa would have been if it had broken out of the confines of the web and been shared from TV to TV.

YouTube currently has the most popular mechanism for recommending/sharing this type of content, but there’s nothing to day something like Digg couldn’t displace it (although obviously it is unlikely that the actual Digg will).

My recipe for TV 3.0 (sorry — again) remains unchanged and I don’t think the interface to it will be a website — at least not in the current mould. Give me a set top box (or a good media PC with a proper 10ft interface), access to charts/recommendations and broadband for streams/downloads, and I think 100m streams a day starts to look puny.

There’s no denying that 100m streams a day gives the Googlers a head start in creating this type of entity, if that is their aim. But honestly, I believe fashion is too fickle for that to translate in to a $1.6bn advantage.

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This article is by Tom Cheesewright. This post forms part of the Future of Business series. For more posts on this subject, visit the Future of Business page.

Tom Cheesewright

Futurist speaker Tom Cheesewright is one of the UK's leading commentators on technology and tomorrow. Tom has worked with a huge range of organisations across a variety of markets, to help them to see a clear vision of tomorrow, share that vision and respond with agility. Tom draws on his experience to create original, compelling talks that are keyed to the experience of the audience but which surprise and shock with unexpected facts and examples.

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