Tuesday, September 14, 1999

The new Religion, or "I want my eTV!"

There was a lot of religion and preaching going on at eTV World's breakfast conference at the Crown Plaza Hotel on September 14. Allison Dollar, director eTV World started off the day's events with talk of the juncture of religion and electronics. She mentioned Douglas Rushkoff's new book and quoted Jon Belushi with "we're on a mission from God" with regards to the passion and devotion that people in the new media industry have for the Internet and the covergence with traditional mediums. Today was Day Two of the eTV conference that focused on entertainment, broadband, television and the digital world. Mark Cuban was the speaker for the morning show, and he waxed historical with references to Barry Manilow and other cultural aspects of life 20 years ago.

Now stop for one minute and just think--imagine your life minus a fax, a cellphone, a walkman, a cable tv service, Microsoft, the Internet. …………………………………………………………………………………….. Life would basically be a flat line, no? Kind of funny to think that it was just 20 years ago before such major technological developments became mainstream. Just last year marked the addition of essential features in our lives, the new Volkswagen Beetle, streaming media, stock trading afterhours, or ordering Ben & Jerry's, a video and all those cute butterfly hair clips via your Palm?!

Well, from headbands to broadband, our world is changing. Cuban brought up several interesting points about how "broadband is changing everything." Near the end of his presentation he unveiled a magical mystery box that retails for about $1,899 and offers everything you need from a computer and full-scale digital recording and entertainment center. "It starts to get compelling," said Cuban. Start? I'm hooked! Sign me up! Basically now anyone can be their own Internet station and your home becomes your studio. Mark also made mention that when he started Broadcast.com they wondered "Who would want to turn a $4000 PC into a $6 radio?" But what is happening is that the $4000 PC's are turning into full entertainment systems. In fact, Mark watches movies on his computer in his bedroom.

Well! On that exciting note, I milled around and spoke with a few attendees like my "front and center" audience partners Mark Stahlman (Mark Stahlman New Media) and Sam Albert (of Starsites.com). Wen Liao of Fantastic and I spoke a bit about their developments and how the States are finally starting to pay attention to foreign companies. After jumping out of my skin when the Yack! chattering teeth stunt actor yapped at me, I chatted with Joe Rubin (EVP web development and co-founder) of HeyNetwork.com, and spoke of some exciting news that’s coming up for them (see below in Bits & Bytes). The ACTV people were showing off their set-top system, which was ironic since they were the butt of a jab Cuban made at the clunky-ness and non-scalability of set-top boxes during his speech (hosted by ACTV). Next door was Mary Jo Fahey demoing Veon and showing me their video hypertext program where you can click on items to get more info as you watch a video. Adriana Karewicz (formerly of Oracle and now with Next Venue) introduced herself, and Tim Appmel of Agency.com told me how he's transitioning in his job from production to marketing and the interesting limbo phase that he's in.

The self-proclaimed "Johnny Carson of the Internet" and "Bob Villa of Computer World" Richard Garbowski of TechKnow Productions schmoozed away in his mauve suit with suspenders with Stan Bunger of KRON-TV and Chip Lewis of MetroChannels. TV-men unite! On my way out I chatted a bit with the enterprising Alan Brody (executive director, eTV World) and Greg Panos of Personaform.