Some little way in to the web's second decade and we finally understand that the digital revolution is about unbundling - about selling (or giving) consumers the packets they want rather than the packages we once happened to bundle those in. Op cit the phenomenal success of iTunes in selling listeners the individual tracks they want rather than the CDs those tracks happened to be arbitrarily packaged on by the bands and/or the record labels. Hence indeed the runaway popularity of news aggregators with digital natives who want to see the packets of news that matter to them but won't pay for a package of news - a newspaper - that happens to contain a few snippets about their interests but also four hundred pages of stuff they don't care about.
Unnecessary middlemen everywhere are losing ground, and nowhere is this as apparent this week as in the rush by American TV to digitise its offering and get it online.
ABC has been using iTunes to distribute individual programmes as paid-for packets for some time now, and the latest figures indicate that some five million downloads generated $10m for them in revenue. Fox is the latest bandwagon-leaper, also announcing (Reuters) a plan to distribute its content over iTunes, and Warner has come up with the rather more innovative notion of using the peer-to-peer BitTorrent network (BBC) for its own digital distribution strategy.
But the biggest news in this round of the scramble must surely be the NBA's plan (Micropersuasion) to deliver match coverage via iTunes. That's not Fox or ESPN offering basketball matches online, note...that's the NBA, the national basketball association itself. Disintermediation? We haven't even begun. Yahoo! Sports is already (PaidContent) airing webcasts of some National Hockey League games.
Amidst all the sound and thunder (TMCnet) surrounding the auction of the Football Association's rights to UK football matches there is a more important, longer-term question. Sky has just secured the right to four out of the six premiership packages until 2010. By the time 2010 rolls around, will the FA even need a "broadcast" distribution channel like Sky? And has Sky secured an incredibly prescient commercial and technical coup by locking down the football league content for four years just as (Buzzmachine) everything explodes? The question of the FA distributing match coverage themselves, without the need for an intermediary (except perhaps as a payment mechanism and aggregator such as iTunes) is very evidently now a when rather than an if.