Envisioning Post-Hollywood TV and Entertainment

Y Combinator called for startups to “kill Hollywood,” but what is that going to take? How can we envision a future without mainstream TV and movies?

Joining in on the Kill Hollywood discussion, I wanted to add a few thoughts of my own. I found the call to kill Hollywood to be well thought out and inspiring, but one part stood out to me in particular. A question was poised:

What are people going to do for fun in 20 years instead of what they do now?

This right here: real future thinking, is what we need to kill Hollywood. The “next big thing” or “the thing that will kill Hollywood” is not going to come from a repackaging of old technology, but complete reinvention and innovation. When I think about envisioning the future of technology, one thing always comes to mind: Bret Victor’s article entitled A Brief Rant on the Future of Interaction Design. In the same way Bret argues against “pictures under glass” as the future of interactive technology, killing Hollywood is going to be a bit more difficult than, say, applying a Startup approach to movie making. It’s going to take an entire re-envisioning of how entertainment is going to be consumed in the future.

Digital Life Accessory

Currently, the television is treated as a separate entity of our digital lives. There are numerous devices that are trying to connect your television to the rest of your devices, such as Boxee, Roku, Apple TV, PS3, Xbox 360, the Wii, et al. While these devices are handy, they’re doing nothing but providing a “picture under glass” approach to entertainment. They’re simply providing an old-world television experience and connecting it to the internet.

Our televisions should be as synced to our lives as our laptop, tablet, or smartphone. Google and Apple continue to tease us with rumors of a next generation television, but how will this new experience be different than our current television experience? More importantly, is there room for startups in this market?

The future of television, I would argue, is going to be in applications. Within a few years of these next generation televisions, I believe that tv apps will replace cable channels. This way, no one will be paying for a package of channels they won’t watch. Instead, people will only pay for the channels/programs/movies that they want, and that money will go directly to the content producers, rather than the intermediary cable companies. But this will only hurt Hollywood as much as the iTunes Store hurt the RIAA.

In 2001, Steve Jobs changed the way we thought about technology by introducing the concept of the computer as “the digital hub for the digital lifestyle.” Included in this vision were digital cameras, video cameras, portable music players, PDAs and DVD video players. In recent years this idea has evolved to be much more centered around the smartphone. Our phones are becoming extensions of ourselves, accessories that are always with us, providing information and a way to connect our entire lives together.

Yet, our phones cannot talk to one of the most pivotal entertainment centers in most households: the television. Finding a way to truly bring the TV into our interconnected digital lives, as connected as our laptop, tablet, or smartphone, is going to be the next defining evolution of television. This is the first step to killing Hollywood.


There is a currently a war taking place to gain control over data syncing, with contenders such as Dropbox, Google, and Apple’s iCloud, all vying to come out on top after the dust clears. But what will Television syncing really look like?

I am going to make the assumption that in twenty years we’ll be internet accessible everywhere. We won’t be confined to cafés offering free wifi or searching for the nearest hotspot. Rather, our devices will be able to connect to a network no matter where we are and this service will be built into the price of owning a device (much like the Kindle’s 3G services, only faster and for every device owned).

In this world, and with a Television that is a part of your digital hub, it goes without saying that you’ll be able to pause live TV and continue watching on a device of your choice (be it a phone, tablet, or some other future device). Searching and recording future shows, for viewing on any device, will be as easy as adding an item to your calendar. Searching for shows to record will be available on any device, and will include “cable” shows, internet shows, Youtube channels, and any other form of produced content, all in one place.

If a coworker tells you about a great show, you’ll be able to pull out a smartphone, search for the show, click a button, and be able to watch the show at any time, on any device (including a television).

The Remote

The remote control is going to need a complete re-envisioning in this future world. Hell, it could use a redesign today. The problem with advanced remotes is their complexity. There are too many buttons, too many things to program, too many devices to control, too much of a learning curve. Viewing these devices as an evolutionary step in remote technology is not only wrong, but can be detrimental to innovation. We need to step back and look at the individual functions needed in a remote control and put these together in a package that utilizes advanced technology.

In the same vein, remote control apps, whether designed for the smart phone or tablet, have the same “pictures under glass” approach to envisioning the future. Sure, these apps are currently constrained by the hardware devices available, but in order to create the future of television, we need to bring the remote up to date and provide a simple and usable way of dealing with complex devices.

Looking at Apple’s Remote app may be the beginning of envisioning the future television remote. Scrolling through channels like one scrolls through music artists would be a refreshing interface. However, this vision is still constrained by current technology thinking. We need to build a clear vision of phones (or the future phone-like pocket hub) before we can design the proper app. Until then, we need to build a way to improve an old technology that still hasn’t caught up to the rest of our lives.


While there are a few exceptions, many people watch television while doing other things. They’ll surf the internet, text their friends, read twitter, or be generally distracted at various points throughout their television experience. So how can Hollywood, or future content producers, not only deal with—but embrace—users who want to quickly watch a Youtube video in the middle of a movie?

Whether the experience will be intuitive pausing or rewinding (a television connected to your laptop or tablet will know what you’re doing) or some other form of smart interaction remains to be seen. But it’s definitely something that will play a role in the future of entertainment.


One of the most important elements of the entertainment experience is going to be pulling everything into one seamless experience. Once Hollywood is dead, content will come from a number of different sources. From larger production companies to independent venues. As the costs to professionally produce content drops, individuals can even get in on the action, creating a Youtube channel, producing regular content, and competing directly with established companies. Content will be king.

Boxee, XBMC, and Roku are all building primitive versions of what will someday be a television operating system. With each of these services, you can browse Netflix, Hulu, TED, Youtube, and many other content houses. But there isn’t any functionality pulling all these services together and leveling the playing field. There isn’t a DVR-like experience pulling together both cable shows and internet channels.

There will be a very real need for a DVR-like interface that pulls content from mainstream programs, favorite Youtube channels, and other content providers. When a new episode of Auto-Tune the News shows up next to the new episode of Breaking Bad, then the playing field will finally equal out.

Final Thoughts

We’ll be able to kill Hollywood once we can get independent content to compete directly with mainstream content. We need to make the user experience is seamless, the content freely available anywhere on any device, and all pulled into one simple search and playback interface. Hollywood will have no choice but to shatter and branch off into numerous different production houses.

Reinventing the way we consume entertainment is the only way to evolve television and kill Hollywood. We can’t just update our current technology; we need to completely change the user experience. We need to bring Hollywood direct competition by creating a user interface that is simple and intuitive enough for the general public. This interface will put independent media equal to mainstream media. Independent media, in turn, will improve to match and beat Hollywood productions, and the old infrastructural will collapse.

If you want to kill Hollywood, level the entertainment playing field.

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