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The Platform is Not the Message, Mark Cuban.

It seems every time I read what Mark Cuban writes, I disagree with him. Are we living in the same world? Obviously not. If he didn’t make headlines on Techmeme so much, I doubt I would ever read him these days. This time, in “The Platform is the Message“, billionaire HD movie developer Mark Cuban says people watch TV because they like to watch TV, and the appearance of content on the Internet instead of TV will not replace TV. That’s too broad a concept for me to disagree with, but he says specifics like this (his opening statement):

For years people have been saying that they will watch things in HD, that they would never ordinarily watch. In the 12 years I have been involved in Internet Video in one form or another, I have yet to have anyone ever tell me they will watch something just because its on the internet.

Um…. I work in technology, and especially the web, and I hear people all the time talking about watching Colbert and John Daly and yes, even the summer Olympics, only because they are on the web. Different worlds? Maybe…

Cuban then says:

There is a reason why 30pct of homes and quickly growing now have HDTVs…..they like to watch them. With a 73″ HDTV from Mitsubishi down to about $2200 bucks, its easy to see why and the pricing of all HDTVs continuing to fall, its a trend thats not going to end anytime soon.

Now again, I’m no billionaire, and I haven’t invested heavily in the Cult of HD like Cuban has, but I do have friends and neighbors and yes, they are increasingly buying large HDTV but not for the reasons Mark cites. They buy them for a number of other reasons. One is that there is a big marketing push that says if you don’t adopt the new HD stuff you won’t get TV anymore come spring (yes I know the truth, but my neighbors don’t).

Another was the huge and very deceptive (in my opinion) marketing effort last Christmas holiday season that pushed large screen, incompatible HD DVD systems out to the people through price incentives and misdirection (some companies have even paid out refunds).

Another reason is that there are new family-engaging video games like the Wii driving the purchase of large screen systems, and HD just seems like a wise bet when buying something you hope will last more than a year or two. Given the incredible complexity of the purchasing process for “TV” these days, many people simply “up” purchase, hoping that the premium model they bought will be the compatible one that last more than a few years. No one wants to get ripped off again with a nearly-outdated system.

Add another reason – the tax rebate did indeed prompt many large screen TV purchases. Who doesn’t welcome an excuse to indulge?

The HD industry has been horrible with their marketing messages. The HD DVD vs HD broadcast TV vs HD content marketing overlap is a miserable failure of massive proportions. Many people have bought so they can have big screen viewing of whatever they want to watch, not because they specifically want to watch the HD content Cuban and others provide. In this case I completely disagree with Cuban’s premise – the platform is not the message.

As one of those techy people that everyone else asks for advice before buying a new TV or screen, I base this only on my own experience living in this world I live in. Where does Cuban live?

Mark Cuban says:

People with big, beautiful TVs that they spent a lot of money on, want a reason to watch them. This could go down as the year the Olympics reinvigorated TV.

No, that’s not correct. People don’t need a reason to watch their big expensive TVs/ They want to enjoy watching them. Their reasons are clear – entertainment. They want to enjoy their TVs during the time they dedicate to “watching”, whether it is sports or movies or comedy or even news, but also video games, home videos, slide shows, interactive books, interactive teaching programs like my kids use for violin, and even video chat and Internet. We don’t want to have content restricted to specific devices, Mark. We want choices.

We don’t want hassles, Mark. We don’t want to have to watch this on that but play this on that other screen/device/whatever. If you don’t understand this, go witness the disappointment consumers experience when they discover they can’t play whatever on their new massive high-end TV. They don’t just acknowledge that the TV is for TV programs, and of course you can’t feed your whatever into the TV. They curse the HD industry, and comment about how since they spent thousands of dollars on the premium model, they expect it to work.

But maybe I live in a different world than Cuban. I threw programmed TV out of my house over 3 years ago, as did many of my friends and neighbors with younger kids. I don’t pay cable $150/month for hundreds of channels of crap that just might include some featured HD content. Perhaps I am not so easily programmed by the media or Mark Cuban.

Mark also says this:

if programmers understand that people will watch different programs on different platforms, we can stop playing the game of trying to replace TV.

Ummm… it’s not TV. When we say “TV” we don’t really mean “TV” like that. We mean the big screen thing in the living room we use to watch stuff. The box on the wall in the bedroom that we can turn on when we want to “be entertained”. TV. We sometimes even want to watch the Internet on TV, meaning we want to have a community experience with that common large screen viewing box, only not with some programmed talking head aligned with a network but with our choice of content. Yeah, we still call that “TV”. Sorry to confuse you. Please don’t tell media producers to stop improving the viewing experience. Instead, tell them to make it all work on my TV. Thanks.

Mark also says this:

Programmers will create content differently for every platform, from cellphone, even to movies. In the movie world, its pretty simple to see that big movies, with big special effects look great and sound great in theaters. Same with 3D. Thats an experience even a 73″ HDTV cant recreate fully

Now clearly with this statement I know we live in different worlds. No one I know has a 73 inch TV, because Costco doesn’t sell them yet. Also almost everyone I know has been woefully disappointed with todays “going to the movies” experience. It’s horrid. Lengthy pre-commercials, lousy sound (hint to technologists: louder is not better), ridiculous options for “refreshments”, and a generally undesirable norm of public behavior exhibited by those filling the seats.

Is it really “simple to see that big movies with big special effects look great and sound great in theaters“? Not in my world. It’s simple to see that the theater experience sucks. But maybe if I were a billionaire with my own HD movie production company I would have a 73 inch HD home theater, too. I’m not sure I would think that extended out into the real world as Cuban does, but hey, I’m not Mark Cuban.

Here’s an idea for Mark Cuban. He knows about the Internet, so he must know about the .TV top level domain. Consider people’s expectations for dot TV. They expect it to include programming they will want to watch on their big(ger) screens, whether that means the 24″ widescreen LCD on the desk or the bigger TV screen on the wall. Things like the lady who shows how to make a flaky pie crust (via video, on that dot-TV cooking station). I never knew you stopped kneading the dough when it was still that crumbly, but now I do! Or that win dot.TV show guy. I put that up on the big screen TV during dinner parties… he’s a hoot with the way he lowers the bar for wine tasting.

Maybe the emerging dot-TV thing will help Mark Cuban understand that the platform is NOT the message. The message is the message. We want to receive the message, enjoy the message, and sometimes (but not always) interact with the message, as we choose, when we want, and to share it with our friends and family.

One Comment

  1. Cave Diving wrote:


    I can give you another reason people buy those ridicules boxes. Peer pressure! I know I am not supposed to be affected by it but I was. All my friends were buying big flat TVs and I felt the pressure to have one. I had the money so I got a 37″ model and stuck it in my bedroom.

    The irony is that when I lived in the states I watched exactly 4 hours of TV a week, if that. I was addicted to The Daily Show and Colbert. It was the ONLY reason to watch any TV. My wife on the other hand, enjoys watching TV.

    I regretted buying the f*** thing from day one. I had to get a new box from the cable company. The cables weren’t right. I couldn’t find the programming I wanted on the HD channels and the regular channels looked like sh*t if I used all the real estate on the screen. What a f***ng fiasco.

    That single purchase, more then any other purchase or thing I experienced, confirmed for me the worst about American culture and my place in it. I was a victim of my own indulgence and I suffered for it. The CRT TV I had worked perfect for John Stewart and wasn’t so big and bright that it kept my wife awake at night. I miss that TV.

    Today, I live in Mexico and rent an apartment. It came with a TV with a broken tuner. We get about 50% of the channels we pay for. The tuner only goes to channel 60 and the auto tuner won’t learn the channels we have. We get three English channels and I watch far less TV here then I did in the states. I have recently discovered The Daily Show online, which is a God send.

    I battle on a near daily basis with going out and buying two new TVs for the apartment and spiting the cable in the other bedroom. KEEP IN MIND, I DON’T WATCH ANY F***NG TV! Well, maybe I am lying, I just purchased all 7 seasons of West Wing and plan to watch that.

    My friends tell me to buy two panels. They tell me to buy them in the states and fly them back. The best part is that panel TV’s are the biggest item stolen out of apartments here. If you don’t have one, no one breaks in. If you have one, kiss it good bye.

    I am hopelessly addicted to the idea of owning TVs for those couple of minutes a month I sleep in front of it. I still feel the pressure.

    I absolutely will watch things on the internet that I will not watch on TV. I would never surf YouTube on my TV, I can’t give any real feedback through the TV.

    The TV is a special device and creates a special kind of experience, one that puts me to sleep or completely turns my brain off. It is electronic Valium. It is completely one sided and lacks any feedback, so I tune in and turn off.

    The internet is a complete different kind of experience for me. I am completely engaged and able to vector off things I see, here and read. I search things and comment. I participate in the selection of content. I choose when I watch programming, I don’t let the programming chose my schedule. I feel like I am heard.

    Man, what a topic. I can’t think of anything more damaging to me or our country then the media and television. TV and the media are insidious, slowly eating away our soul. Almost like a deal with the devil. Before we know it, we are completely lonely, self loathing and empty. I have experienced some pesonally destructive things in my life, but nothing compares to TV. We are powerless ad we don’t even know it.

    **edited to achieve family-friendly ratings**


    @Hans: wow, looks like I touched home with this post. Sorry for the edit but I didn’t think you’d mind my removingthe pr0n reference. Forshadowing is a scary thing… Max Headroom, Brazil, The Matrix… no excuses for allowing the programming. That zombie state you describe is perfect for them to start imprinting messages… no?

    Monday, August 18, 2008 at 9:16 am | Permalink