The intriguing battle between Silicon Valley and Hollywood shows no signs of abating. This year Google offered the US TV Networks an olive branch with its 'Smart TV' only to be brutally rejected in recent days like just-another-starlet. However, at some point the proceedings reached a strange Alice-like point. While Google has built its own Web-On-The-TV without any TV content in the shape of Google TV, the US TV networks have built their own TV-On The-Web without any web content in the shape of Hulu. Confused? Don't worry - you aren't alone. In fact it only makes sense when you realise that many of the ongoing developments, as the world reorganises itself from broadcast to networked media, are best viewed through Alice's Looking-Glass - where the standard rules don't apply. Just think back a few years to when the music industry was offered an apparent refuge by Steve ‘Brighter, Whiter & Lighter’ Jobs, away from those horrible ‘pirates’ (aka customers who just will not stop enjoying your products) on his lovely new, shiny and oh so secure iTunes store. Only to discover that they had accidentally relinquished control of their industry to Apple. Oops. Now in the normal world handing over your business to a competitor who uses your generosity to unbundle your product, slash your profit margins, and in doing so transform themselves into a world-beating powerhouse, could seem like a strategically bad-hair day. However, in the topsy-turvy world of networked media, this was actually an improvement on what had gone before. Previously, the newspaper industry gave over its house keys to Google without even noticing. All that was required was to look the other way and pretend the digital revolution wasn’t *actually* happening, allowing Messrs Page & Brin to open a global news agent to which they, and only they, had the keys. So, while the music industry suffered badly at the hands of Silicon Valley, they did slightly better than their publishing bretheren. And, in turn, the TV execs have done slightly better than...
...the music industry by building the lovely Hulu, a service that works, people love and even makes money. Which means that when Google has tried to pull-off a Jobs-like, 'realignment' of TV's supply chain, by offering a welcoming hand away from those naughty, naughty 'pirates', the Hollywood Networkers have been able to resist Mountain View's advances. Web TV? No thanks, we've already got one of those.
Or maybe Google TV's problems have been down to a lack of charm. Google’s uber-geeks assume that brute algorithmic know-how will always win over flouncy creative types : that logic will always prevail. However, they evidently haven't noticied that when operating in Networked Media's Looking-Glass World, the normal rules don't apply. A greater force than mere physics is needed to make people willingly hand over the keys to their business. A Jobsian Reality-Distortion-Field for example. Or maybe the sang-froid of someone who realises no one cares about the TV Industry, in the same way that no one cared about the music industry. People just want entertainment on their own terms. Like those naughty 'pirates' for instance who know that when folk aren’t satisfied with what broadcasters are offering, they'll use P2P systems running on free BitTorrent networks to create TV services of their own design.
As Doc Searls says, 'In networked environments, the demand side supplies itself'. It’s a statement that sums up nicely what is happening in today’s topsy-turvy media industry, where as Alice would say, 'Nothing would be what it is because everything would be what it isn't.' Wise words indeed.