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Lesson not learned: Industry blinded by fancy tech

There are some deep and serious changes happening to the way people watch TV.

THERE IS SOMETHING WRONG WITH YOUR SET: There are some deep and serious changes happening to the way people watch TV, changes that are beyond the control of the people who make and broadcast the shows.

The essence of the change is choice, as viewers demand more of it in their selection of shows to watch, and in the technology they use to help expand their choices beyond what’s offered by the networks, and when. The industry seems to sense that technology is playing a part, but if two recent stories are any indicator, they’re acting true to form and missing the plot entirely.

The Los Angeles Times reported that the Consumer Electronics Show running this week in Las Vegas will showcase 3-D TV technology from companies like Panasonic, Samsung and Texas Instruments, hoping to bring into the home the new 3-D technologies behind limited release versions of movies like Bolt, Beowulf, and Journey To The Center Of The Earth.

3-D’s first heyday in the Fifties produced more kitsch than art. It’s a legacy that comes bundled with every pair of 3-D glasses, as acknowledged by a Texas Instruments executive who told the Times that “unlike earlier attempts, it's not just gimmick to try to sell a bad horror movie.”

It’s those glasses, however – so easy to lose or break – that are probably 3-D’s biggest obstacle. Take it from me, nobody wears glasses because they want to, and they’re a constant reminder of the novelty aspect of 3-D, and the goofy and abject relationship a viewer is forced to adopt with the technology. Even though Philips has announced a glasses-free 3-D display, the question no one has been able to answer is why, particularly, viewers will respond more to 3-D imagery as opposed to better stories, or simple access to more shows.

Then there’s the news in Broadcasting & Cable magazine that this month will see the debut of HD Seinfeld episodes from CBS. Once again, no one has bothered to explain why being able to pick out the pattern on Kramer’s Hawaiian shirts will enhance the show’s comedy. It’s the same mistake the music industry made in the Nineties, assuming that consumers wanted higher fidelity -- pushing formats like SACD, while consumers opted for MP3s that could be downloaded in minutes or seconds. It looks like the industry will chase the wild goose again, pushing high tech formats while its audience is happily watching lo-fi avi files on their laptops.

 
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