In 1995, when I started my first job at the International Housewares Association, one of the big things the higher up were excited about was a Housewares BBS. A dial-in bulletin board system for members of the Housewares industry.
I’m not sure what they were supposed to be do once they were there, but being a fresh grad who didn’t know anything about business & housewares, my ignorance was neither surprising nor a red flag.
Still, I couldn’t help but wonder. I knew a bit about BBSes, my brothers having run a fairly large one in my hometown.
But the main reason for a BBS’s popularity was warez. Sure some users liked to message other members & post to the forums, but only a few & for those things there was a better way now. I was familiar with the Internet from college. Wasn’t it obviously better for communication?
After all, one of my early projects was to shutdown our proprietary, internal-only email-esque system and switch us over to sendmail — to the email that everyone uses today. I hadn’t heard of Metcalfe’s Law, but obviously being able to email anyone was better than being able to email just people in our 30 person office.
You can guess were this is going: Despite ordering tons of schwag for the service, tons of coffee mugs, tons of t-shirts and so on, the service bombed. I don’t remember how many people signed up, but we had 100s of coffee mugs for a user base in the low 10s.
Now flash-forward. It’s 2009. It’s Sunday. A stranger in a strange land, I’m a Chicagoan in Los Angeles. It being football season, what do I want to do on a Sunday morning? You guessed it, watch da Bears.
Only I can’t. At least not on TV. Not with my cable package.
So what do I do? I find it online. (Thanks Moe!)
But it’s a pain to find. The quality isn’t that great. The streaming can be jerky.
And like digital music, I’m perfectly willing to pay a reasonable price.
So why doesn’t the NFL offer online streaming?
Instead, they’re focusing on pushing their NFL package on cable. But cable today is like the BBS was in the early/mid-90s. Sure, there’s lot of action there today, but it’s clear the writing is on the wall. Video is going online.
If I get the expensive cable package, my options on watching are fairly limited. I have to be at home, the package options are limited to what cable providers are willing to carry & so on.
None of that applies online. I’m traveling to Mexico in a few weeks. With an online package, I could get a season subscription to the Bears and still watch it there. They could even offer Tivo like functionality built in, so if I’m late getting home, I can still watch the game from the beginning and catch up. Or the next day.
I could choose to stream the game to my big screen TV, or put it on a second monitor while I work (like I sometimes do with Hulu).
So why would I ever want it on cable as opposed to online?
On the other hand, I guess I should be glad they didn’t setup a NFL BBS.