Being right at the wrong time

A confluence of events at my household has led us to finally enter the TV internet age. First, the kids use of the internet and fondness for youtube led to an increase in our broadband plan, then the closure of our local video store (the company went bankrupt, again!), and finally the burn out of our 12 year old television all converged in recent months resulting in us now enjoying the internet on our new TV.

Last night we watched a movie from Netflix (from a selection akin to a very average video store). As the movie downloaded in less a minute, it struck me that the long predicted revolution has indeed arrived (at our household at least). Almost to the day 20 years ago, in the cover story on BusinessWeek on the 12th of July 1993, the then Chairman of Time Warner Gerald Lavin is quoted as saying he envisaged a future where when “I turn on my television, I’ll be able to switch to anything, anywhere”. Of course the article was over optimistic on timing predicting that “interactive TV would get to 20% of US homes by the turn of the century”.

In investing terms over the intervening 20 years much has been lost on predicting the timing and quantum of the financial benefits of online TV and on betting on who the ultimate benefactors will be. Irrespective of the current entertainment benefits to my household, from a personal investing point of view the following quote from trader Yra Harris (see selected quotes gallery on right hand side of blog for more) sums up the lesson my experience brings to mind – “If you’re right at the wrong time, you’re wrong”.

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