TV is dead, long live iTunes

My Small Ball co-blogger and good friend Erik has declared that cable is dead. Why? Because iTunes offers The Daily Show, which makes a cable subscription completely unnecessary.

Yes, yes, yes. The death of network TV and its slightly more palatable cable sister is long overdue. We all remember when the advent of the world wide web presaged the demise of broadcast television. And we all remember when that didn’t happen. Not even a teeny weeny bit.

Does iTunes change all that? Probably not, but they are a change in the tides, one of the rare commercial enterprises worth actually rejoicing.

Without the intervention of a television, I have enjoyed Battlestar Galactica, The Daily Show, Commander in Chief, and even the terribly unfunny The Office. I watch the programs I want to watch when I want to watch them. In other words, I drive (or is that iDrive).

People accuse Libertarians of being wacky anarchists, which is a shame, since Libertarianism depends on far less drama to support its notions of robust free markets (not to be mistaken for the corporate-welfare culture). The model iTunes verily commands is one rooted in a most excellent intersection: that of entertainment consumption and supply. Television, despite its extraordinary penetration, is dependent on a fixed technology; namely, a big heavy box usually not far from a couch or comfy chair. iTunes, on the other hand, understands the portability of its audience. People on the bus, on a lunch break miles from their living room, with no radio around, on a commute train, in a plane, while waiting at a movie theater, or between innings at a long and agonizingly slow baseball game.

iTunes is pay-per-view perfected. More than pay-per-view, it’s pay-to-view.

What’s next? iTime, which allows users to navigate through time using year and month controls, to pinpoint and consume the music, movies, talk radio, and TV of any period in the past…in its original context. Imagine if you could watch an evening of TV — from the second week of March, 1976. Wonder Woman, The Muppet Show, Laverne & Shirley, The Bionic Woman, The Six Million Dollar Man, Happy Days, Kojak, Baretta, The Sonny and Cher Show, and let’s not forget Welcome Back, Kotter.

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