John Battelle wonders: "What if there was some kind of TelevisionRank that noticed, in real time, what people were paying attention to, right now? Where moments like the [Fox News' live coverage of trial] rose to the top of a television index in real time, so that at any time, anyone could ask of the web: What are people watching, right now? Wow. Now that would be powerful. Is it possible? Oh hell yeah, it is. And it's coming in the next five years, I'll wager. It's pretty much Technorati mashed up with Neilsen, YouTube, and Comcast. And when it happens, we'll never see television in the same light again. I, for one, can't wait."
If you read the comments to the post, you'll learn that some companies are either working on or already offering similar services.
Metaphorically speaking, the old TV model was that of a water stream - it would flow and you would have a choice of drinking and not drinking. You could also use a jug to put some of that water away and drink it later, and perhaps even carry it around and give away; that's when VCR came in. Today's TV is more like flavored ice cubes (or jello vodka shots, depending on what you are watching). You pick the ones you like in whatever combination you want, you melt them down, stir, drink, put them back in a freezer.
What Battelle talks about is already working on services like YouTube. How difficult would it be for TiVo to make a web portal with similar stats for live and recorded TV? Could they introduce a social network element to it and let friends recommend programming to each other? Or employ the Digg model where viewers push the most interesting even if obscure shows on the top of the chart? I'd say, not difficult at all.
The Rise of Remotely Social Television