Its difficult to be optimistic about much these days. I dont need to go into the gory details. Yet I just returned from a place where the future is bright, the bandwidth is plentiful, and everyone is plugged in, online and interacting. The place was the CTAM Summit, held in San Francisco. The participants were mostly TV people—network executives, cable operators and some high-tech digital convergence types—and that alone explains the optimism. How else can you account for the endless stream of mediocre programming that comes out of Hollywood, if not for the fact that the producers of it have the eternally happy outlook of a child? But, in a way, thats what the "digital" future, as more than one speaker referred to it, will depend on—the young people of the world and even the not-yet-born. To hear AOL President Barry Schuler explain it, most of his companys broadband marketing efforts will depend not so much on new online users but on the growing number of multiple-user homes, as children join their parents online. Its these homes on which he is counting to drive demand of broadband for managing communications, entertainment and so forth.
I, for one, think that the country is going through a kind of technology malaise. I think we have enough tech in our lives.
But more and more young people are learning to grow up with it and are expecting all the services that are out there and even some that arent even possible yet. So maybe the industrys optimism is well-placed. But will the future arrive fast enough to save the present?
Some executives think its already here. Interactive TV producer Spiderdance has experienced almost guerrilla-like appeal for its TV/online shows from users of all ages, from MTV to the History Channel, according to President Tracy Fullerton. "That is always how it works," Fullerton told me at the Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing conference. "The fact is, people work technology into their lives in ways we cant imagine."
That also means they cant be force-fed useless technology. Maybe thats a lesson for all of us as we try to figure our way out of the darkness.