So far I've been pretty fully in armchair economist mode here (is there any better reason for a blog?), but it's time to go beyond the charts and trend stats and actually ask: What kind of TV are we talking about, anyway? Are there, for instance, any examples?
There are. But first, let's crisp up what I mean by Long Tail TV. The definition of the Long Tail in this context is: "content that is not available through traditional distribution channels but could nevertheless find an audience." For the most part, that's niche content. It may not have been niche when it was made or niche everywhere but it counts as niche now where you live. This could include:
1) TV shows that are made but not broadcast in your area:
- Channels your cable provider doesn't carry
- Foreign TV
- Local sports and events from places you aren't
2) Old TV shows:
- TV from the archives, from ancient to relatively recent
- Current shows that you missed and forgot to record
3) Video of any sort that is made but not broadcast (the video found on the Internet Archive's moving image collections, which ranges from the Prelinger Archives to SIGGRAPH animations, is a great example.)
- Independent films
- Commercials (which are broadcast but not scheduled and findable)
- Amateur video, including news
- Commercial/corporate video intended for targeted audiences
4) Video that could and would be made if only there were a good way to find an audience for it. (Steve Rosenbaum is blogging on this, too). The best sense of what that might be can be found by looking at the online video that's been made since the broadband web became a reality.
- Political video mashups from MoveOn. Skateboarders taping and distributing their stunts and spills. Any number of witness videos. Amateur porn. Videogame machinima. Etc...
- The sort of thing this article about JibJab Media (home of South Park-like fare such as "This Land") celebrates. Such web video, the article says, is "spawning a cottage industry of digital movie Fellinis hoping to make their mark in the nascent world of online short films."
- Endless numbers of reality shows.
How will we find it? Well, Yahoo's very impressive video search, including Media RSS, is a start. (I used it to find that Halo 2 Physics Hacks video that I was looking for.) Combined with a good recommendation engine such as ChoiceStream, things could get interesting.
Finally, I'll end by once again quoting Thomas Hawk:
If today I watch CSI Miami, but on my weekends go out hang gliding and am a huge hangliding fan, when the California hang gliding championships end up being broadcast through a microcontent platform I will end up watching that instead of CSI.
If today I watch some network television but even more than my network television I love reading author Hunter S. Thompson, and my microcontent platform brings me a talk by Hunter S. Thompson from the University of Wyoming I will end up watching that instead of CSI.
If I am 16 and my favorite band is not what hits the charts but rather the latest skate punk music thing, then the custom skate punk music shows that can easily be created and delivered to my microcontent platform will be much more interesting to me than American Idol.
Sounds good to me.