Ways we watch TV - Rebuilding the current Television System
With the advent of the Internet, we have seen some major reforms of conventional media outlets. Magazines now exist both in print and on your iPad. While some games still come on discs, there is a lot of money to be made by Steam and various app stores. And very few people still buy music on CDs. The one major place the Internet has yet to be fully realized is within the realm of TV. There's Netflix and Hulu Plus, but there's no one stop shop for finding any show or station you like and being able to stream it. Content is scattered across sites and services, and several start ups are flailing to find a way to get everything possible organized in a consistent manner. And all this really shouldn't be that hard, should it?
The difficulty is not in the organization of content or replacing a tired user interface. It is more that the industry is entirely resistant to change. The current cable system is probably the most lucrative way to sell media in any way. Any one person will only want to ever watch ten channels regularly. Yet the same person probably pays for 200. Contrast this to the re-standardization of the music industry in the early 2000s: There was almost no risk in losing sales, as individual songs can be distributed at a very low cost to the company, and a 99 cent song was much more appealing to a consumer than a 10 dollar album with only one or two songs they like anyway. Streaming services - FM Radio - didn't care much because they existed mostly in the car where people didn't want to deal with MP3 players at all, and as long as they got ad revenues, they were content. Television is the only real place people's main way of watching TV is through a streaming service.
The way of approaching this best would be to go to each content company and make a pitch individually. Give Viacom several options to sell their content: maybe one or two dollars per episode, 5-7 dollars a month for a select channel, and twenty for the Viacom "Super Bundle," including all of their content. Maybe a single show subscription for three bucks a month, with a two hour delay for each episode. Maybe then I can watch just South Park and the Daily Show, without ultimately funding Jersey Shore. Ads would likely still be there, with an opt out option for an extra 25% fee. Note that I really have no idea how hard this probably is, but cable companies would likely have little to no power in these decisions; they need the content, meaning Viacom and the gang still have a lot of power.
With all this content acquired, it would be really important to note that there are really two ways to watch TV: to want to tell the TV what to show them, and to want the TV to tell them what to watch. With only the shows and channels they explicitly want to watch, the latter becomes much harder. What could solve this channel-flipping conundrum would be a Pandora like way to watch TV (Thanks to whomever pointed this out in the comments of the recent Apple TV story that this is partially a response to); with a simple "thumbs-down," that terrible show you're watching could transform in to something that might harvest your interest just enough for you to watch it. This still has problems with filler content though, but that can easily be solved with pre-existing methods. Place a popular Youtube video in the stream for transition, or throw in a Netflix show if they have a subscription to that. Maybe even direct them to live TV, if they still have that.
Contrary to the aforementioned article I'm responding to, Apple wouldn't be the one doing this. I'd say, if they can pull their shit together, it will be Google. They're the only ones with the data to build the streaming system I talked about. Apple would probably want about 30% of content sales; I'd imagine Google would want about 5%. They're also the only ones that have a massive pre-existing Ad empire to lure content makers with.