Want your MTV? Let's open source television

DirectTV, Viacom squabble highlights need to bypass operators.

Late last night/early this morning over 20 million homes that subscribe to DirectTV (including mine) were no longer able to watch 17 different channels that are owned by Viacom. Most of the channels I frankly don't give a hoot about not having. But among the channels that went dark are MTV, Nickelodeon (that hits my kids hard) and Comedy Central (that one is a dagger in my heart).

The reason the screens are dark is the usual squabble over corporate greed relating to how much each party gets of the big fat pie they charge us every month to distribute and broadcast these shows into our homes. For me, this only highlights something I have written before, lets get rid of the corporate overloads who control access. LETS GO OPEN SOURCE TV!

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While the situation is really about money, this is also an issue about freedom. Unfortunately it is about the freedom of DirecTV as the broadcast provider versus the freedom of Viacom as the distributor. It is not about the freedom of you and I to pick and choose exactly what we do and do not want to watch and pay for.

From what I understand, Viacom sells the complete package of 17 channels to DirectTV as one bundle. While Nick, MTV and Comedy Central are cable staples (though some of the ratings are down lately), many of the other channels don't draw a big audience. DirecTV says it is unfair to make them and their 20 million households pay for these stations that hardly anyone is watching. They would like Viacom to unbundle and let DirecTV pay for only the stations they want. 

Doesn't that sound great? You would think that DirectTV would turn around and offer them same thing to their customers. You might think that but you would be wrong. No, DirectTV would then make up the bundles that make them the most profit and still foist unwanted channels on us. So it is just one corporation wanting control over what we pay for versus another corporation trying to gain control over what we pay for. But either way, we are still losers. Only when individuals can choose what we want to pay for and watch and what we don't, will we have real TV freedom.

Another issue in this dispute is that DirectTV is evidently miffed about so much of Viacom's programming being availble via the net. Imagine that you and I are able to access these shows when we want and only pay for what we want without DirectTV getting their hands in the till. Of course they are miffed by that. They are not part of that gravy train.

But here is a news flash: the train has left the station. More and more of us are turning to the net to get our TV entertainment. If DirectTV, the cable companies, and other providers try to shut down the alternative resources for accessing content on the web, we are all the loser. The net represents our last best hope of breaking free from paying these providers the high fees they charge us every month.

It is not just the providers like DirectTV, either. Imagine a world where producers of content don't need the Viacoms of the world. Instead of going through a channel provider, they release their content directly to us on the net, cutting out the channel. They make deals directly with advertisers, we choose what we want to watch, when we want to watch it and the heck with both the service providers and the channel distributors.

That is the real future of TV that I am waiting for. No bundles, no middlemen sucking out more fees, complete freedom over what we watch, and when. That is TV freedom! I say DirectTV and Viacom, stop dictating what we have to pay for and watch. Let the revolution begin!

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