Media Conspiracy Theory
Some facts then some predictions:
The DRM enabled Cell processor from IBM will be inside the PS3.
DivX allows levels of compression which will in turn allow cheap video distribution over the Net.
Cable set top boxes will move to the Cell processor (my Pioneer HDTV set top box is currently too slow to render the channel guide effectively)
Google is snatching up dark fiber for unknown reasons. A Slashdot quote:
"You can lease dark fiber from a telco... I worked for a company that did it for a short while...
There's probably 100* more dark fiber than lit fiber in the world - when they're putting it down it's dirt cheap to put a few more bundles in. You can get it pretty much anywhere to anywhere (where there's some kind of physical link anyway)."
Maybe Google is thinking that instead of the typical "distribution sky is falling" theories that the demand for content in the near future is underestimated (maybe they read the longtail blog) and that the distribution monopoly of the future will be in fiber optics.
"If Google were to build its own global or national fibre network, the project would likely cost billions of dollars and take years to implement, an investment that would be hard to justify based on the networking needs of most companies. Renting "lit" fibre from carriers is generally a cheaper, and therefore preferred, way to go."
That quote is the current (I'd argue short term) thinking.
I was setting up a content filtering device for schools at the Cox data center and saw the Video on Demand server during an impromptu tour. It's a fairly small (3' high) RAID array considering what it does. Time Warner now has a channel that lets me rent High Definition movies on demand which begs the question: Why do I need a $600 next gen Blu-Ray DVD player if I can just use Video On-Demand and get it over the net? This is different from previous "next big thing"s because it's so damn easy to use.
Pretty much any content will be available at any time and the expense will be lower thanks to better distribution technology and economies of scale from the long tail. The Cell Processor, DRM and things like fiber to the home will also bring down prices. So the question is then how to make money in the media business if you don't own content. My guess is search, filtering, all the fancy new ideas happening with metatagging and blogs except applied to High Definition 1080p video over the net, content journalism. If that's the case then Google's mysterious dark fiber acquisitions and their purchase of Blogger.com starts to make a lot of sense.