Salon has a good piece about ReplayTV by Farhad Manjoo: Replay it again, Sam. In it, the author points out that every episode of Seinfeld (there are 180 in all) would fit on a $100 disk. The market for syndicated television programming is kept scarce by carefully managed distribution rights, thereby making cash cows out of popular shows in syndication. And so it was that this summer Turner Broadcasting was willing to pay $180 million for the syndication rights to Seinfeld, an unprecedented sum of money. That they did so just as the Napsterization of TV was getting well underway explains the widely ridiculed statement by Jamie Kellner, the CEO of Turner Broadcasting, “Your contract with the network when you get the show is you’re going to watch the spots,” he said. “Otherwise you couldn’t get the show on an ad-supported basis. Any time you skip a commercial … you’re actually stealing the programming.” He sees $180 million going straight down the toilet, because chances are, in another year or so you’ll be getting all the Seinfeld you can eat from somebody other than Jamie Kellner. Poor Jamie Kellner. He’s making sense and he’s not making sense at the same time. Somebody’s going to get hurt.
Hollywood, like the music business before it, is lashing out like a blind beast that knows only that it is in pain and in grave and mortal danger. In Hollywood, they understand lawyers much better than they understand engineers, but ultimately neither will save them.
Once again, Microsoft has the trump card here (though Apple is on a similar course), as you can read in this CNET article: Microsoft reveals media XP details. By making the TV just part of your regular old computer setup, you get a lovely software VCR/TV for free, effectively. If the software isn’t quite as nifty as TiVo or ReplayTV, it will be soon enough. You don’t need to pay TiVo. You don’t need to pay Jamie Kellner. You’ve already sold your soul to Bill Gates, so you don’t even have to suffer that indignity. I feel bad for Jamie Kellner, I really do. The same way I feel bad for Atlantic Records. I don’t know who’s going to pay for all that programming, but it’s time to buy some more Microsoft stock.