Every now and then, a hype word comes along that actually means something -- until it doesn't. "Convergence" used to mean something for telecoms, who could now bundle cable, phone and internet -- and for you, to pay one bill. Except that TV also comes from satellites and many people's primary phone service is now cellular. Plus, you still need a dedicated internet connection for heavy lifting -- and it probably isn't coming from either your cell provider or your satellite company. Convergence simply doesn't mean as much as it used to. The word "convergence" still gets used plenty, but almost always in exactly the wrong way. Video and internet on your phone may converge on that single device, but what we experience on the whole is divergence: television on DVRs, iPads, computers, game consoles, phones, and more, any time we want.
I watch an almost superhuman amount of TV, and the number of times I "converge" in front of a TV set at a specific time in an average week? Never.
Yet I'm watching more TV than ever, because I can. My TV watching is no longer bound by either time or space. Like I said, superhuman. This seems like a good time to point out the close relationship of the words "divergence" and "diversity." Thanks to divergence, our TV-watching options are more diverse. Prime time is all the time, everywhere.
Divergence can cause fits for traditional ratings measurements. Fortunately, the folks in charge of such things are smart enough to figure it out. Right, folks? Our divergent viewing habits are the solution to "declining audiences," not the problem. You can reach us more ways than ever -- and you have to. "Divergence" is not just an opportunity. It's an imperative. Be where we are.
If you're a programming provider, ABC has a head start on you. Even before I knew that longtime Creative COW leader Robert Longwell had anything to do with it, I was watching TV shows with the ABC Player app on my iPad. Just as I bet you did, I assumed that ABC's app was ready on iPad's launch day because ABC had an "in" with Apple, through the Disney family tree.
Wrong. No advance warning whatsoever. No advance units to work with, either. They heard about the iPad the same day you did. Some of you on the East Coast even had your iPads before any of the ABC app developers on the West Coast did! Robert shares the remarkable details of how it all came together in this issue. He says it more delicately, but from my seat, ABC did what they did through sheer force of will. They grabbed the spec by the neck, and refused to come in second place. Being where people can see you, it matters.
Divergence is fun for us as media consumers. It's a nightmare for us as media makers, though. Sure, format creep started accelerating when HD came along, but now, the number of codecs, frame sizes, and frame rates is exploding. Just to make things fun, there are even multiple ways of encoding to stereoscopic 3D.
At CreativeCOW.net, we have begun to build unique site designs for iPhone, iPad, Google's Android and still more on the way. In cases like our iPad and iPhone interfaces, we have literally re-encoded our entire libraries of both tutorials and demo reels -- among the largest on the web -- to purge, ahem, the "F" word from our list of web-based codecs. Ain't none of this stuff converging.
How are all of us supposed to navigate this? The trick is to embrace the delight consumers find in all this divergence, and to let it soothe the stabbing pain between our eyes as producers. No problem, right? Right. We offer some suggestions for that in Issue 21 of Creative COW Magazine, and some shiny pictures to distract you in the meantime.