Thursday, November 08, 2007

Sympathy

As an unbridled capitalist, I never thought I would be siding with a union of any kind. I've never been a member of a union and have never desired to be. Don't get me wrong, I think there was a time for unions. But we don't have children working in coal mines anymore. And from my point of view the unions have succumbed to the very greed they claim to rail against.

But as I learn more and more about the Writers Guild of America strike I become more sympathetic to their arguments, but not for the reasons they would like.

The crux of the complaint is probably best explained by this video the writers of "The Office" posted about the strike.

Some people watch that and see people complaining about their boss screwing them out of pay for extra work. What I see is ANOTHER indication that the Hollywood STILL doesn't "get" the Internet and the change it is going to make in the way media is consumed. They still view it as nothing more than a marketing media, when in reality it is a delivery medium.

I see the television changing so much in the next five or so years that the concept of a "television channel" will be completely obsolete. It all started with Tivo. I remember the day I got mine (generation one) and it's not an exaggeration to say that it completely changed the way I watched television. I never had to worry about being home in front of the TV when my favorite show started. I'm not what I would call a "TV Junkie" by any means, but there are a handful of shows I really hate to miss. I now longer had to make a choice, or be worried about missing my favorite show. I just knew that at a certain point in time the show would just be on my Tivo for me to watch whenever I wanted. It seems so simple now, DVRs are pretty much everywhere, but it was a big change at the time.

The next step was the Internet. Well, more specifically it was the widespread available of cheap high-speed access to the Internet. To be honest, I think the only people I know who still use dial-up are my parents! I'm hoping this changes before I arrive for Thanksgiving next week, but I'm not holding my breath.

Anyway, this wide availability of high-speed Internet made high quality video over the Internet a practical reality. It took iTunes to demonstrate that not only was there a market for this type of media consumption, but that people were even willing to pay for it! Now all the major networks offer (or are preparing to offer) their content (meaning whole shows, albeit with commercials) for download. Products like Microsoft Windows Media Center and Slingbox, not the mention the new generation of Tivo, will continue to offer new possibilities for using the Internet as a delivery method of content.

So, it's really discouraging to hear what is behind this strike. Clearly the networks think of "web content" as a sort of second class form of entertainment. Instead of trying to keep their customers rooted in the past they should be embracing these changes and finding new models to do business in. Instead of fighting this new market they need to find a way to embrace it. Consumers want these things. It's in Hollywood's best interest to provide them.

And don't get me started on movies!

6 comments:

blindman said...

"Don't get me wrong, I think there was a time for unions. But we don't have children working in coal mines anymore."
The Catch 22 is, you need Unions when you don't have Unions. In a certain respect, their very existence serves their primary purpose. If they went away, I have no doubt that we would soon return to the days of children in coal mines.
Labor Unions represent a balance to corporate power. You may not be particularly fond of what is on either side of the scale, but removing one causes the entire thing to topple over.

James Bender said...

I disagree.

There are child labor laws in place that weren't there before. The expansion of the media has also created a lot of transparency into what companies do and how they conduct themsevles. Honestly I don't think it would be possible for companies to return to the kind of abuses that used to occur.

But lets look at the other side of the coin too. The unions are for the most part corrupt. They seem to care more about collecting dues and attempting to consolidate political power than they do about their members. Then there is the issue of the unions trying to place so many constraints on companies that they can't adjust to changes in the world that would allow them to compete (like the auto industry).

I think unions are doing more damage now than help. They want to be equals in business world, but when the market turns and the time comes to tighten the belts they they expect the company to shoulder 100% of the load. They never want to compromise if it means having to give something back then are angry when companies have to close.

blindman said...

"There are child labor laws in place that weren't there before."
...because of Unions. But if you don't think laws can be changed (or even ignored by the current administration) then you haven't been paying attention.

"The expansion of the media has also created a lot of transparency into what companies do and how they conduct themsevles. Honestly I don't think it would be possible for companies to return to the kind of abuses that used to occur."
...um, James, the media is corporate controlled.

"But lets look at the other side of the coin too. The unions are for the most part corrupt. They seem to care more about collecting dues and attempting to consolidate political power than they do about their members."
...That is a gross generalization. In the wake of all the recent corporate scandals that have damaged our country and our citizens, it would be just as fair to state that businesses are for the most part corrupt, and care more about collecint income and influencing politics than they do about their employees.

"Then there is the issue of the unions trying to place so many constraints on companies that they can't adjust to changes in the world that would allow them to compete (like the auto industry)."
...The Unions ensure balanced negotiations between industry and workers. In times of affluence when demand for workers is greater than supply, Unions are able to exert power to get their members better agreements. In times of recession and unemployment when jobs are scarce, Unions have little bargaining power. It is all about balance.
And please don't use the American auto industry as an example. It was stupid decisions and lack of vision at the corporate level that landed these companies in trouble, and workers ended up suffering for these decisions. Truth is, Unions made concessions to help bail these companies out of trouble, because it was in their best interest to do. It is not in the best interest of union members to destroy a company.

"I think unions are doing more damage now than help. They want to be equals in business world, but when the market turns and the time comes to tighten the belts they they expect the company to shoulder 100% of the load. They never want to compromise if it means having to give something back then are angry when companies have to close."
...Where do you get these ideas? I think you spend too much time watching Fox news.

Brian said...

James's most impressive foray into the bleeding edge was this

James Bender said...

Hey, Sega Channel was cool!

When you think about it, it really was a precursor for streaming games and other applications over the internet!

But, since the games changed every month, it wasn't good for RPG's. By the time you were really getting into it and making progress, the games rotated.

Anonymous said...

You registered a URL dude. No post in a month? Get your head in the game!