I remember when basically there were three channels—ABC, CBS and NBC. Sure, there were some other channels, but for the most part there really wasn’t much in the way of programming. Today it’s all about choice. I’m not talking about cable choice either; I am talking about iTunes and podcasts. What should be scary to the cable industry is that most of these choices have nothing to do with today’s cable choices.

A growing number of professionally produced podcasts are competing directly with the cable industry’s programming choices. As the success of the iPod and iTunes grows, so too does the likelihood that successful, new advertising- and subscription-based business models will come to an iPod or a computer near you. The number of available podcasts already is large and growing exponentially.

Sure, you’re aware of the ability to purchase TV shows and recent movies on iTunes, but have you tried subscribing to video podcasts? That’s where all of the growth is coming from. New competition is coming…and fast.

Video podcasts, or screencasts, provide a new look at where programming is going or, in this case, coming from. I’m not talking vertical programming like The Tennis Channel. This also isn’t about downloading full-length TV shows. This is downloading only particular segments that interest you. Consider a tech geek like myself who used to have to search the dial for computer-related TV offerings. Today I can focus my interests on podcasts like MacBreak and other professionally produced, Web-only "shows" comprised of short episodes targeting specific needs. I download only what I want, or subscribe and get automatically downloaded segments or shows.

Why shouldn’t I be able to get backhand lessons from The Tennis Channel the same way? I need help on my net play—why not download Tennis Channel-branded lessons? It would not only be a great marketing tool, I bet Tennis could get sponsors for them. What’s more, I can watch an episode over and over again. Branding, branding, branding.

What do you need to do to have your shows or segments on iTunes? Cut a deal with Mr. Jobs? Well, that’s one way. Another is simply to supply a "subscribe to podcast" button, and whenever there is an update to the Tennis Channel instructional series, the viewer will get the new lesson on his/her computer or video iPod. Don’t spend time and marketing money getting the word out that your shows are on iTunes, send them to the subscribe button on your site.

One last thing: Steve Jobs recently demoed a device that will stream video from your computer (read iTunes) to your TV. The device will be ready in Q1 2007. Will you be ready? Think of the implications…

Scott Gentry is VP and group publisher at Access Intelligence.

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