Last night, the folks in the house wanted to watch the Oscars, but we are all in a house at the top of a small mountain, and there is no television to be found. But there were many laptops, and broadband wireless. So with Googled blogs and followed Twitter feeds we discovered several web streams from which to watch the Oscars. We all huddled around the laptop on the hard floor and watched a satellite feed from England rebroadcast to net viewers by some generous person, and when that failed, to one from France. We watched perhaps five different feeds, from decent to poor in quality. None were what you might call excellent.
I’m not very much a fan of the Oscars. I find the whole thing kind of boring, but I was more excited by the prospect of what last evening signifies for cable. Cablevision and ABC, in a tussle yesterday, parted ways, and many people were without (oh no!) their annual Oscars. But the Internet came to the rescue. ABC, in pulling their content from Cablevision, made the mistake of a generation by not offering an alternate live stream on their website for viewers to watch. Instead, millions scrambled to bars with satellite feeds or watched lossy rebroadcasts that traveled around the world three times to land skipping and pixelated on people’s screens. To add insult to injury, ABC supposedly then went around shutting down the rebroadcasts (presumably by threat of suit) and we were forced to router hop around the web.
I call this Oscar Fail. It is a Fail because it could have been the moment that the world realized that cable is dead. As Sigue Sigue Sputnik says before one of their songs, “Cable is dead. Low power TV, here and now.” Maybe not low power TV, but low power internet broadcasts. ABC could have provided a stream to its cut-off viewers of high quality. They could have funded it with commercials. They could have convinced millions of people that a 3-year, exorbitant contract for Cable television is absurd, especially when one can now travel to any station on the internet to get the content that they want.
Instead, Old Man Network TV cut off people from watching their show from a channel they had paid for, and then went around the internet and tried to stop people from receiving the content they had the diligence to find. ABC could have been a hero, but instead they look like the old, cantankerous man on the block who shouts at kids to stay off his well-manicured lawn.