Engadget Interview: Mike Ramsay, CEO of TiVo

The Engadget Interview: Mike Ramsay, CEO of TiVo – Engadget – www.engadget.com

Great work JD, and Peter great work on publishing these interviews by JD.

Mike is right on so many different levels. Broadband content delivery will become extremely important… not just for television and hit movies but by turning 500 channels into 500,000 channels.

The opportunity in the fragmented content world that includes everything beneath the current 500 cable/satellite channels (the tail, as it has become the recent catch phrase) is a huge collective market. Both Microsoft and TiVo would be wise to address this market and be the first to offer this content via their living room devices.

A print ad you might see in the future would look something like this, “Sure you can get 500 channels on your cable television box… but after you’ve finished watching the Yale interview with author Kurt Vonnegut, can you get the 2004 rock climbing championship from Joshua Tree California?” TiVo… your tv. Who you want, What you want, When you want, How you want it (did we mention without the commercials?)… Why would you want anything else?

There will be a huge market in organizing, monitoring and broadcasting this new media. Tools will be needed to filter content and create a truly unique experience. Guides will need to be written and monitored along with these search tools.

This new content will become a stepping stone for the most creative to be picked up by the traditional mainstream content distribution channels — to be discovered so to speak.

As the hand held video content becomes avaialable to every creative college kid, new shows like MTV’s jackass will be developed without the constraint of media censorship. This new content will be promoted both by word of mouth but as well as by tracking services like today’s Technorati ranks blogs and their popularity.

It is going to be a very exciting time for television over the next 10 years.

Although as fantastic as the TiVo service is, it’s numbers are still tiny comparred to the potential. Two million subscribers is just tiny. Microsoft even smaller. But Bill Gates is putting $20 billion into this living room initiative and that may change some things.

The biggest barrier to adoption of a living room PC, either Microsoft’s MCE or TiVo’s Linux based system (really it’s a computer and not a set top box), is the initial cost and that consumers NEED A REASON to upgrade and adopt the technology. The problem is the chicken vs. the egg and herein lies the rub. Those that truly understand how great TiVo is already have TiVo. You hear over and over again… “I wish I had just bought it earlier… it’s so fantastic.”

HDTV is one reason to buy it and upgrade, especially as the sale of HDTVs are exploding. Unfortunately Microsoft or TiVo still haven’t gotten this one right yet. TiVo is ahead of Microsoft with a satellite HDTV unit but Microsoft’s MCE 2005 and it’s limited OTA capability is not enough to drive the consumer to buy the machine for HDTV.

Offering viewers alternative television programming at the smallest level is a reason to upgrade. We all are fanatics of something, hobbyists, enthusiasts — fractured in our pursuits, but even more enthusiastic about them than television. This is the power that is eBay. They tapped the commercial market of the fractured hobbyist.

Initially research should be done to find the most profitable niches below mainstream television for maximum penetration. However it will not stop there.

As crazy as it sounds, you may be able to TiVo your kids’ little league game and watch it later as someone on the team picked up the responsibility of videotaping it… or perhaps the Little League organization itself subsidises these tapings to promote their organization and bills the teams through the standard fees and dues.

Television is kind of important to a lot of people, but if your son plays Little League then this is much much more important than television could ever be to you. To be able to watch a Little League game afterwards with your son when you were out of town on business and missed the actual game or to let grandpa back in Maine get a season pass to the games, now THIS will drive box sales and TiVo subscriptions. High school football, missed class reunions, church services, obscure sports, anything and everything will be recorded and offered through guides, rankings, searches, etc. from the comfort of your living room. Whether Microsoft or TiVo taps it first remains to be seen.

This idea is not original. The movie Dodgeball did a wonderful job of prediciting it with Dodgeball championship coverage from Las Vegas via ESPN8… which will, in the future, I’m sure be broadcast over broadband.

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