TV Industry’s Fear of Digital Age Is Getting Old

Hollywood is filled with creative types who are intimidated by every uptick in Internet usage.

What’s become a familiar backstory to the Emmy telecast is the TV industry’s fear and loathing of a new "digital world." One destined to wipe out Hollywood.

I understand where this misplaced emotion is coming from. Hollywood is filled with creative types who are intimidated by every uptick in Internet usage. But Hollywood has not dug deep enough to see that a maturing web won’t spell the end for television as we know it.

First off, to be clear, no one in the industry wants to see television unhooked from today’s distribution system. To that end the distribution side of the business (cable, telco, DBS) has been working — since the 1990s, when cable system consolidations started — to convert the industry’s subscribers to digital.

What digital means for TV content is that new technologies can be introduced, such as "clickable television." That will enable viewers to click their TV remote during a commercial and perhaps get a coupon in the mail.

Clickable television is being rolled out across the country this year. Adoption rates, I think, will skyrocket because media companies have been spending tens of billions for the past two decades building the infrastructure.

Although there is no denying the industry is at a crossroads, I do not see a future filled with just Twitter and Hulu.

The direction TV technology and consumer behavior is taking us, I think, is that in a few short years we will be able to do the following through most of the top video distribution platforms:

TV to Internet downloads: You will click a TV promo spot with your TV remote and then follow up on your laptop to download the promotional song from iTunes.

TV to ringtone: One click of your TV remote moves a new ringtone (perhaps lifted from the background sound of a reality show) to your mobile phone.

TV linked to show website: While watching your favorite comedy a click of the TV remote sends an email to you of a fan website.

TV pay-per-click advertising: The networks and stations will still sell :30 second commercials but now all those commercials and swipes can be monetized through TV pay-per-click advertising. As I see it, clickable TV will eventually enable the viewer to "tag" a TV commercial (similar to how RSS functions), which then bookmarks the coupon of the advertiser to the viewer’s Internet home page.

I think the creative community will find out that in our digital future, great works will still get launched from today’s television distribution platform. I am hoping that during next year’s Emmy telecast the actors, and writers that take the Emmy stage focus their comedic skills on showcasing everything the digital transition has to offer.