A flat-screen television with sunglasses onI’ve written in the past how much I enjoy Broadcatching, but since that article it’s become harder and harder to use BitTorrent to successfully download content. On the other hand, it could also be that broadcatching has the same hurdles it always had, but I’m just now finding it tedious. Whatver the case, downloading TV isn’t what it use to be back in the day – like 9 months ago. Of course, I’ve also been a big proponet of the broadcasters selling their content online via download. In fact, for the record, I wrote about the viability of this content distribution channel back in May 2005. So you can imagine my elation and sense of validation when Apple announced that they were now distributing television via iTunes.

In case you missed the announcement, Apple released its next generation iPods and one of the new features was the ability to play videos. In addition, they announced that they were now making available for sale music videos and select television content from ABC and Disney. This was HUGE news, because it was the first step in what will probably become an avalanche of content. For now though, there’s only 3 shows from ABC (Lost, Desperate Housewives, and Night Stalker) and 2 from Disney (That’s So Raven, and The Suite Life of Zack and Cody), but with those two large networks signed up, it’s only a matter of time before other broadcasters belly up to the bar.

Now I could lose myself in the possibilities and the excitement of what’s to come, but given that the menu that is currently available for TV is fairly small, I think I’ll refrain. Why? Because it’s clear that the powers that be want to make sure that this model is viable. By releasing only three shows a piece, the broadcasters clearly want some proof before they go whole hog and provide more content. I was expecting to have to wait six months before the results came out, but Apple announced on October 10th that they had sold over 1 Million videos in 20 days. Whaaa?!? :O

Now, keep in mind that this number included music videos as well as television shows. I would think it a safe bet that most of the content was music videos over TV for the simple fact that if you’re going to buy a single and the artist has released a video for it, why not just buy the video? Sure it’s $1 more, but you can listen to the song just the same, or view the video if you prefer. That being said, since television content is included in those numbers, it does prove the point that consumers are willing to purchase television that they can just as easily see for free.

This means that the networks may finally see the light and decide to release more content via iTunes and other networks may jump on board. Well, some are already making steps to just do that. CBS announced that they were considering iTunes. They’re still working out the deal, but the CEO definitely sees it as a strong possibility. In addition, the BBC announced that they too are looking at releasing all of their programs via download 7 days after they air. Not only that, but they’re thinking of doing it for free. Cue mashby’s happy dance 😛

So it looks like the events that I thought were years away are actually happening today. Who would have thunk it? I’ve given the iTunes video a spin and I have to say that it works very well. I much prefer having the ability to download the content when I want it and having it on my desktop in under 30 minutes. I’m already using iTunes to manage my music, so having it manage my video content works great for me too. If more of my content becomes available, I’d gladly buy it versus using BitTorrent if for nothing else than for the ease of use.

Money aside, there is also a thriving brand of video content called IP TV that is helping to make downloadable TV more commonplace. IP TV is much like a video version of a podcast and it’s allowing just about anyone to create their own television show. You can subscribe to the content just like you would a podcast the only difference being that you’re watching video instead of listening to audio. The best part is that it’s free. So even if you’re not one to plunk down $2 per episode, you too can enjoy downloadable video. Personally, I’m subscribed to Digital Life TV, Tiki Bar TV and Systm. The quality of the productions is pretty good and I could easily see this content being produced for network television.

So there’s a lot of free content out there, which is great, but for those must-see shows, I’ll gladly fork up $2 a show. Does everyone want to pay for content? Definitely not, but I believe a larger percentage will choose paying for content over using alternative methods becasue it’s easier and it’s legal. It’s the same logic behind paying for music and it’s definitely paid off in spades for Apple and the music industry. Give the public a legal alternative and they’ll take it. Will there still be plenty of people using illegal methods, sure but in those demographics, there isn’t a lot of money to be made there.

Most of the illegal downloads are being done by teenagers for the simple fact that they don’t have the money in which to buy content. In high school and college, most of my music came from swapping albums and recording cassette tapes of them, or by taping the radio. That’s the very nature of being young, you trade your time for money (or lack thereof). Teenagers don’t have money, but they do have time, so they spend it trolling for the content that they crave. As you get older, you find that you have less-and-less time, so you begin to trade money for time and spending $2 is a bargin to buy the television show that you missed because of other commitments.

That’s exactly what I’ve done in buying episodes of “Lost”. I don’t have to worry about missing an episode, or remembering to set the VCR because I know that iTunes will have it the next day. “Lost” airs on Wednesday night and on Thursday morning it’s on iTunes ready for me to buy. Once purchased, I can watch it on my computer as easily as I can my TV. With so much of my time being spent in front of the computer, this isn’t a big deal for me. If I were to purchase one of the latest iPods, that content would sync with the iPod and allow me to watch it on the go. OK, I know what you’re thinking and yes the screen is small so I don’t see many people watching their favorite shows on the iPod iteslf. However, what I do see is taking that same iPod and hooking it up to the TV to watch my show. Now THAT’S easy to do.

In time I think Apple will release other products to make watching downloaded content on your television easier. With the interface that Apple created (FrontRow) with it’s new G5 iMac, there’s very little stopping them from coming out with a Mac Mini for the TV. Or they could even choose to release an updated version of the AirPort Express that would handle video in addition to audio.

Until then, living on the cutting edge of this technology is quite comfortable. No band-aids needed here.