Like the writers strike, the recent conflict over cable subscription pricing that has led Viacom to threaten a removal of Jon Stewart, MTV & SpongeBob from Time Warner Cable Networks could be good for online video and, so too, for consumers.
Last January, Allan Leinwand, Venture Partner at Panorama and occasional contributor to GigaOm, asked whether the WGA strike represented an inflection point for online video… whether it would “drive mainstream America off their couches and onto their computers for new video content…[that] Mom and Dad would want to sit on the couch and watch.”
My answer then was no, but this event might actually mark an inflection point for online video.
When subscription constraints make must-see content available only online, the prospect of online viewing changes. Mom and Dad are never headed to the computer to watch the latest episode of Rocketboom, but you can bet that I’m going to find a way to watch Jon Stewart from the comfort of my living room. Time Warner has even offered to help.
Today, living-room viewing of internet video is much easier than it was a year ago. As I mentioned earlier this week, the list of devices and software that have begun to bridge the gap between the internet connection and the living room is ever-growing. (Boxee, still in alpha, is my new personal favorite for lean-back online video browsing.)
We can all agree that a La Cart cable would be the best for consumers, but a La Cart represents only one of the content-delivery principles that consumers will begin to demand as cable providers loose their muscle in a world connected by ‘white space’.
We’ve known that internet video isn’t just about dogs on skateboards, but its also not only about new talent and ideas in the form of web series. It’s about watching whatever you want, where and whenever you want.
This minor tiff — which, I’m guessing, will be cleared up relatively quickly — may only serve to hasten the inevitable emergence of truly networked television. As Viacom and Time Warner push more consumers online, they’re opening the playground to the rest us.