Will The NBN Kill Television?

An interesting story out of the Sydney Morning Herald caught my eye today. Mark Pesce, an honorary associate in digital cultures from Sydney University, said one of the biggest casualties of the National Broadband Network (NBN) would be television, which in its current form might cease to exist.

He does have a point. Currently, there are people who illegally download television programs from the Internet. ISPs have been wrapped over the knuckles for allowing it to happen, and there is a court case pending against iiNet for allegedly not doing enough to stop these downloads.

However, if Mr Pesce is correct, then this is going to open up a whole new can of worms, not least of which could be the death of television. This is because advertising pays for your content. Advertisers pay the networks huge amounts of money to run their ads. In turn, the networks pay for programmes such as NCIS, Grey’s Anatomy etc, and commission documentaries and some local product such as Underbelly. That will all go the way of the Dodo if free downloads occur – there will be no money to make quality television. Sure, you’ll get cheap content, but at what cost? I have heard arguments that many actors will be welcomed to the real world. No longer will they be paid US$800,000 an episode like the cast of friends were in their heyday, but it goes a little deeper than that. Even in the age of digital cameras, production costs can be expensive.

Pesce suggests that the television stations will have to revisit their business plans, and find a way to embed commercials into their downloads. However, this would be very hard to do, as people can fast-forward the ads and clients would not be happy about that. Another solution could be to embed company logos within the television programme (much like the networks do now with their own logos).

Will the NBN be the death of giggle box? Working in the television medium, and using it as a way to showcase the benefits of technology, it will be very interesting to see where we end up. But ‘Kill Television’, I doubt it. However, it will be the start of some very interesting times ahead.