Bird flu: contagious. Platform-itis: far less deadly but even more contagious.
Every time I read about another distribution parternership between digital content creators and consumer electronics manufacturers, my moo-goo detector automatically defaults to a HIGH setting.
This especially happens when I learn of partnerships that make no sense to me. Like shoehorning television programming on devices that absolutely cannot do the production values of the content any justice or perform any useful purpose.
Two of these silly deals were announced this week. Cingular Video will offercell phone users three to five-minute clips from Fox News, shows such as HBOs "Sex and The City," plus various ESPN sporting events (such as the NCAA football game shown above) and Cartoon Network programming.
Then there's TiVo Mobile's new deal with Verizon Wireless- which will offer Verizon cell users the ability to schedule recordings of tv shows in advance. $5 bucks a month on top of TiVos regular $12.95 price.
So let us take each of these deals apart. If I had a 3G Cingular handset, I am sure I would want to take a few minutes out of my run-around day and watch the latest car bomb devasation from Baghdad, Lebron James' thunderdunk from last night, and some crazy cartoon characters darting about on a tiny screen.
And my life would not be complete without the ability to stop what I am doing out there in the world, and access my 3G Cingular handset to schedule recordings on my home TiVo right now, rather than wait until I get home to do so.
Yes, as I said, these deals make no sense to me- until I remember the old line, "show me the money."
These deals are all about freaked-out content distributors having some sort of knee-jerk notion that their consumers are not only mobile, but manic and obsessed, and that you need to enable your content to get to them no matter where they are, what they are doing, and what type of electronic gizmo they are carrying around with them.
This zeitgeist has, in turn, created an atmosphere of fear that if your competitor is doing this, then you better do this, because you better keep up.
And, of course, tv show distributors love it because of the royalties, studios love it because of the promise of a few (OK, more than a few) extra bucks for their talent, phone makers love it because they view this capability as something that will sell more handsets.
Still, I wonder if what I have described here represents a well-thought-out distribution strategy, or is simply reflexive platform-itis: abandoning reason to get your stuff on as many platforms as possible. Even if those platforms have little or no ability to do justice to the digital content you are distributing.
Look, I am anything but a Luddite. I was one of the first with a camera phone, and I bought my first TiVo just a few months after the boxes debuted.
But watching highlights from HBO's "Curb Your Enthusiasm" on my cell?
Sorry, but I have no "enthusiasm" to curb.
Something else to curb, maybe, but not enthusiasm.