April 2014 Archives

Kottke recently wrote about the Slow TV phenomenon which I've been following for a while. YouTube also has great recordings that go on for hours of tropical rainforests during thunderstorms and things of that nature. Just aim the camera and record and come back in a few hours. Wonderful stuff.

I call this stuff Ambient TV and I think people would watch more of it if they could get it. Years ago when I first got an HD projector with a 12' screen at home (order of magnitude cheaper than buying a big LCD/Plasma display at the time), one of the first channels I started watching a lot was Mark Cuban's HDNet, because all they did was feature HD content which was still rare to intermittent on other channels. Another channel I loved watching was NASA TV, which would air Shuttle launches without any blathering network/cable news nabobs talking over the entire countdown as if the audience had to be constantly spoken to. With NASA TV, you just watched the video feed and whatever announcements happened to come from mission control or launch control, otherwise they kept quiet.

At times, NASA TV would broadcast long segments of an ISS camera's view of the Earth, live, or even recorded, it didn't matter. No sound, just a silent, gliding voyage over the Earth. That's when I got an idea.

What occurred to me was, why isn't anyone offering a live feed, in glorious HD, of the view of the Earth from the International Space Station? As in 24/7, just aim the camera, turn it on, and leave it alone? I would pay for that.

In fact it got me thinking, why don't some of the geosynchronous satellites offer a live camera?

If 20% of the Norwegian population will sit and watch a train's journey, or a ship's voyage, for hours on end, I bet they, and many others in the world, would tune their TVs into a live shot from space, especially considering the ISS is traveling at some 18,000 miles per hour, and circles the globe every ~90 minutes, so you get new sunrises and sunsets and amazing vistas all the time.

How many consumers at home, not to mention schools and universities, all around the world, would pay, say, $10 a month for a 24-hour live, uninterrupted, unedited, un-narrated, ad-free HD view of the Earth? 10 million? 20? 50? That'd be $100 million, $200 million, $500 million . . . a month, or $1.2 billion, $2.4 billion, $6 billion a year, respectively.

A nice chunk of that could go right back to the ISS project itself, and to pay for missions to and from the station.

In time, you could install multiple cameras with different views, and even offer multiple channels. Or land a really nice HD camera on the moon, or on Mars, or land a Rover on the Moon or Mars that does two things really well: slowly drives around, and never stops sending a gorgeous HD video signal back to subscribers on Earth.

This isn't the first time I've blogged about this, see my post from 2005. Here it is 2014. Well? It's time. Somebody should be doing this. Seems to me it's so lucrative it'd be like printing money. Whatcha say, Elon? Should SpaceX take the lead?

As for Ambient TV, I would subscribe to cable TV again if there were dozens of channels of commercial-free, human-free live uninterrupted high-definition feeds of places around the world. Maybe it's dinnertime and you'd like to switch to the live feed of Paris or Tokyo or Bora-Bora or Victoria Falls during dinner? If there were a cable TV package of say 50 Ambient TV channels to flip around and enjoy, from live Space to live undersea, and that is all you got, no CNN, no HBO, no ABC, no ESPN, none of that crap, I would gladly pay 50-100/month for it. And I bet a lot of other people would too.



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