Doing my best Jeane Dixon
This time last year, in this space, I cast a deeply sarcastic eye on the events surrounding the cable industry. I then made a humorous (I hope) attempt to predict the major events of 2000. In that commentary, the goal was to look at current trends and match them with outlandish outcomes, all in an effort to make readers think about the kinds of things that just might happen.
With tongue planted firmly in cheek, I even suggested that cable giant AT&T Broadband would end up buying America Online. Little did I know that several weeks later, I'd tune into CNN's coverage of the AOL/Time Warner merger announcement. Reality is sometimes as strange as fiction, I guess.
So, in that same spirit, I'd like to offer these thoughts regarding the events that will define 2001:
- In need of more money to make good on his famous $1 billion pledge to the United Nations, Ted Turner announces his intention to force a hostile takeover of AOL Time Warner. The idea is met favorably by investors until it's disclosed that he's secretly funding a Star Wars-like laser system designed to shoot down satellites owned by DirecTV and EchoStar.
- Proving that he'll do most anything to make a mark on corporate America, Dr. John Malone joins forces with Australian media mogul Rupert Murdoch. The deal combines Malone's interests in programming with Murdoch's vast networks. Overheard during the first board meeting: "We intend to squash Ted Turner like a bug."
- Video-on-demand finally gets off the ground, but interactive TV remains stalled, owing to major integration problems and continued provincial in-fighting between giant software companies. Feature-laden set-tops sold to the country's largest operators as long as two years ago are repurposed as hotplates and coffeewarmers.
- The Gore/Bush administration (the vote was so close, it was declared a tie; each man serves as president every-other year) opens a national debate on digital television and the plan to retire analog broadcasting in 2006. Bush wants broadcasters to live up to their obligation to begin digital broadcasts, while Gore says the spectrum would be better used to listen for messages transmitted by extraterrestrials.
- In what has to be the craziest and most controversial use of the Internet to date, peer-to-peer networking becomes a wildly popular method for men to find and select mail-order brides. Research shows that those who use cable modems and DSL technology stay married longer than those who don't.
- The much-publicized worldwide shortage of fiber optic glass turns out to be a myth perpetuated by the manufacturers as a way to keep prices artificially high. The secret is made public when reels of the tiny glass strands begin showing up in catalogs labeled as "designer furniture."