The theory of quantum media (aka ‘quantum media theory’ or ‘QMT’) was first conceived by TDG in 2006. Quantum media theory is a term that helps strategists understand forthcoming digital disruptions and their impact on the future of media, video in particular.

In essence, Quantum Media describes the creation and consumption of digital media, and how it relates to the world of quantum physics.

Why Use Quantum Media Theory?

It is our belief that a quantum theory of media provides a superior conceptual framework in which to understand contemporary media creation, distribution, and consumption—notably superior when compared to the once-traditional media framework.

Quantum Media Theory in Action

In 2008, we published a report entitled “Bending the Rules of Time and Space.” That report focused on the concept of place-shifting one’s personal media. From the report:

The Internet revolution has helped create a culture that expects (even demands) comprehensive access to personal or business information regardless of time or location.  This “anytime, anywhere” mindset assumes that consumers are relatively “unbound” in terms of communication and computing.  Place shifting is but the application of this general concept to our personal media consumption. 

In its simplest form, place shifting enables digital audio, video, and photo media to be consumed not only when one wants but where one wants.  In other words, place shifting enables the transport of one’s media to whichever corner of the globe one may happen to be.1

Keep in mind, in 2008, we had physical copies of movies (both VHS and DVD) that we had purchased or rented from Blockbuster or the newly-popular Redbox. HBO and Showtime showed movies on their timetables, and Netflix hadn’t yet moved from DVD-by-mail to streaming and long before ‘over-the-top’ or ‘OTT video’ existed as a concept.

As digital media technologies have evolved, a number of companies recognized that the Internet could, as it were, be turned on its head.  Instead of seeing the Internet as a “cloud” of digital content “out there” from which services such as iTunes or YouTube could stream content to the end user, consumers could use the Internet as a means of accessing the digital content they have stored at home, regardless of their location (assuming, of course, they have an Internet connection at both locations). In other words, consumers could access their personal media from locations far beyond the confines of their home.2

Quantum Media Describes Changes in Media Consumption

Quantum media is of course, more than place-shifting. It is also time-shifting, device-shifting, ad-shifting, and media-shifting. It is unprecedented control over one’s media experience; allowing easy access to a widening variety of content for reading/listening/viewing wherever and whenever you choose.

It is the shift from passive viewing (being force fed what the networks are currently showing) to active viewing (demanding what and when and how).

Analog Age to the Digital Age

  • Device – In 2008, ‘watching TV’ largely meant watching TV broadcasts on a television. This would cease to be the case, as non-TV screens (PCs and mobile devices) would ascend as viewing platforms.
  • Place – In 2008, ‘watching TV’ mostly involved viewing on a living room or bedroom TV. This would cease to be the case, as the introduction of portable/mobile devices and wireless Internet connectivity would permit video engagement just about wherever a viewer could be.
  • Time – In 2008, ‘watching TV’ largely meant viewing live linear shows on cable/broadcast networks at times predetermined by programmers. Even video- on-demand meant a trip to a physical retail store to rent or buy physical media (VHS and DVD). No longer, as on-demand viewing over broadband would soon become a mainstream utility.
  • Conduit – In 2008, ‘watching TV’ largely meant receiving signals using over-the-air broadcasts (terrestrial and satellite) or from a cable operator. No longer, as the range of conduits would expand to include broadband and wireless.
  • Service – In 2008, ‘watching TV’ generally meant subscribing to a multi-channel pay-TV service from a cable or satellite MVPD. No longer, as the range of business models delivering video to the home would expand to fit the range of conduits (SVOD, FVOD, TVOD, and DTC).

Over-the-Top Video (OTT)

The media universe is undergoing rapid, persistent, and dramatic change, so much that the word ‘revolution’ does not seem out of place. Simply stated, digital technologies have altered the very essence of media production, distribution, and consumption. Over-the-top video allows consumers to engage both video and ad content in entirely new ways. Smart TVs and virtual assistants continue to learn more about the individual’s tastes and preferences.

In the quantum media model, place, time, and device cease to be limitations to the experience and become variables in the experience. The absolutes of yesterday’s mass media—a fixed time, a fixed place, and a fixed platform—are replaced by the absolutes of consumer preference. An audience of many is replaced by an audience of one, a world in which media experiences are as unique as individual preference; relative as the context in which the consumer happens to be.

How Quantum Media Theory Relates to Quantum Physics

Interestingly, the ‘isolated aspects’ listed above invoke the imagery of post-modern theories of science such as relativity and quantum mechanics, in which reality is defined relative to the larger context, a context in which the observer is actually a participant. In many respects, the two are the product of the same world view, one premised on:

1. The absence of an objective reality independent of human experience, and…
2. The rejection of absolute time and space.

It is these striking parallels between digital or ‘new’ media and quantum theory that coined the phrase, Quantum Media.

For a more in-depth look at this concept, please see Toward a Quantum Theory of Media or fill out the form below to download the Market dBrief.

1 Bending the Rules of Time and Space: Trends and Analysis of Place Shifted Media, Colin Dixon, TDG, 2008
2 ibid

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