I have a couple of comments that resulted in some interesting discussion the last couple of days that I thought I'd like to share with you. On Joe Mallozzi's blog, I took the opportunity to shoot down the myth that streaming video (from websites as opposed to cable and satellite on-demand) is going to replace television (cable, satellite, over-the-air broadcast) in the near future, or even the far off future. I gave an lengthy though not in-depth explanation on how the Internet's infrastructure wasn't designed for on-demand IPTV and can't handle it even with a monumental upgrade in capacity.
Over on Alex Epstein's blog, he and I are debating how you should treat an agent that's interested in your script, has some notes her or she would like to you apply in a rewrite, but is totally non-committal to you contractually. Although it's mostly me debating and other people telling me I'm wrong but apparently aren't capable or interested in explaining why, it's still worth a look if that sort of thing interests you. On the future of TV Put simply, the Internet doesn't have the physical capacity to stream American Idol to 35 million people, along with the however many people watching the hundreds of other channels available on cable, and still provide the web experience we enjoy today -- not by a factor of thousands.
Direct broadcast systems only need X amount of bandwidth to send you a single channel. While X differs based on compression settings and video codec (and whether or not a given system even uses those things, currently digital cable and satellite do, analog cable and over-the-air broadcast do not), for a given system, it's a static number that multiplies by the number of channels. If we say that a single channel on DirecTV requires about 4 mbit/second worth of bandwidth, then you could say that you'd need 400 mbit/s for 100 channels (4x100).
It's a linear increase, in other words.
The available capacity of a single coax cable is limited, but still very large. You may think that your cable Internet connection is slow, but you must understand that your cable company is only using a fraction of the total available bandwidth for Internet while the overwhelming majority is used for regular television -- precisely because regular television requires a massive amount of bandwidth. The same rules apply for satellite because what we're really talking about is utilization of radio frequency spectrum, and there's only so much of it to go around.
Because everyone on a physical cable network, and because everyone with satellite is getting the same signal physically, you only need to send a channel once and everybody gets it. As you know, if you want something off the Internet, you've got to ask for it, and it gets sent only to you. If two people are watching streaming TV, even if they are watching exactly the same program, they are using double the bandwidth that any direct broadcast system would require. That too is a linear increase.
Since video on the Internet is highly compressed and not comparable to television (on any system or website) in terms of quality, we're not talking about 4 mbit/s but closer to 1.5. If you've got ten people watching exactly the same video, that's 1.5 x 10, or just about 15 mbit/s of required bandwidth, compared to the 4 or so needed for satellite or cable (and may be as high as 7-9.)
Because those broadcasts are shared and direct, 35 million people can watch a single 4-9mbit channel and still only be using 4-9 mbit/s worth of bandwidth. If everyone who likes American Idol watched it on the Internet, that'd be over 52,500,000 mbit/s, which is something like 1,346 times more bandwidth than is available on the fastest part of AT&T's backbone today.
And that's assuming the backbone was already empty.
You can read more at the link above and you'll find right away that one users says "..fortunately for us, what you have explained is not how it works, and things will be fine." Since this is all this person ever says, I can only assume they, like the people I've been trying to explain this to, don't have the slightest clue what they are talking about. This is precisely how things work and the Internet will never, ever replace television as a distribution medium.
I am not an expert on this, but I know a heck of a lot more than most people do.
And to really push my point across, this is just standard definition television. HDTV is anywhere from four to six times as large.
On agents Alex Epstein answers questions from rookie writers like myself on his blog, including some of my own which I appreciate, but I think in this instance he's handing out stereotypical "conventional wisdom" advice that I think kind of stinks. There was some question over what a person should do if they find an agent that likes their script but has some notes, and would like to see the script rewritten. The sticking point for me is that the agent promises nothing in return for the work they'd like to see done, which goes against everything unions stand for. The WGA has rules specifically forbidding "free rewrites" for producers so I asked why is it acceptable to do free rewrites for an agent you haven't signed yet? [Note: Yes, I said "agent you haven't signed" -- you pay their commission, that makes you their boss.]
After explaining my position, the best response anyone could come up with was sarcasm and mockery, and while I love some good mockery as much as the next person, it doesn't belong in a serious, previously respectful discussion. It's also not very helpful towards understanding points of disagreement.
I believe that if an agent expresses interest in your script, then they ought to be prepared to give you something in return if they are asking you to do something like turn their notes into a new script. I don't know why it's so unreasonable just to ask.
"Hey, if you like this, then why don't you agree to rep this script and I'll make the changes you want."
For that, I was accused of thinking all agents are evil and out to take advantage of writers. Read it for yourself, and tell me what you guys think.