VOD: that stands for Video On Demand, and is part of the brave new world of “television.” Already part of many digital cable services, this service allows you to choose what you want to watch, and when you want to watch it. It’s sort of like Tivo and other video recorders, in that you can start when you want and pause if you like. The difference is that the show or movie isn’t stored on your equipment. It resides on disk drives at the provider — such as the cable company — and is streamed just for you when you want it.
VOD has the potential to totally reshape our video entertainment world. Standard broadcast systems require that the content be packaged to fit a schedule, so that program guides can be published to list what is going to be shown and at what times. And the content is formatted to fit these slots so that there are the requisite commercial breaks. But what happens when you can start whenever you want, and fast-forward or pause or rewind to your heart’s content?
Separate commercials become liabilities that get skipped, so sponsor revenues are at risk. We’re already seeing the impact of product placement in movies and broadcast television shows, but this will become even more important — and I hope, more subtle — as traditional commercials become meaningless. And the time barriers may also fade away. Why not have a programming source that shows nothing longer than five minutes, start to finish? It’s the multimedia equivalent of a the short story, and independent film makers have been producing them as long as there has been film. So have cartoon makers. You could just call up what piques your interest, and watch one more and one more until you’ve had enough or run out of time. Or maybe there will be 10 hour sagas that you watch in bits and pieces at your own pace. Once the sets and costumes have been paid for, how much more does it cost to create a really long program?
I don’t know what brave new world VOD will create, but I’m fairly sure that my grandchildren won’t understand why I had to take my bath early and get ready for bed Sunday evenings if I wanted to get to watch the Wonderful World of Disney.