My friend Jeff Jarvis is having an interesting debate with Peter Fincham.
Jeff doesn't like the "old, linear channels", and looks towards a future where audiences can express their tastes "apart from the tastes of network programmers who tried to tell us what we should like". My take:
A TV programme is just a way of aggregating video content (news packages, shots, etc) in a sequential way. In their early days, radio stations were called "programmes", because that's what they are.
The extreme on-demand experience is one of totally disaggregated content. If we take the on-demand vision to its ultimate consequences, we can expect audiences to not only question programmers' choices of what shows to schedule when, but also of what parts of what shows to arrange in what order.
Indeed, that is happening already - but only up to a point.
You could want to disaggregate the "programme" that is a movie into its component scenes, and in some contexts that would make sense. But most of the time you prefer to lean back and take the entire linear experience that the programmer (the movie's director) has prepared for you. This is not a matter of a powerful publisher using a medium's rigidity to force you into an experience: it is a matter of expression and enjoyment. If you don't let me speak I can't entertain you.
Or consider the genre of news: here disaggregating a bulletin into its constituent packages does make sense, except when you want to "get the day's news". And disaggregating a package into its constituent shots, although occasionally sensible, is not generally what people want.
The same applies to TV schedules, which are themselves just another genre--one that lends itself to quite a bit of disaggregation, but which also makes sense, and is occasionally preferable, in unaltered form.
Programming is not just a means of distributing content; it's also an art form. The more content becomes available on-demand, the more the former role will give way to the latter. As I've argued, aggregation is a form of expression. Complete disaggregation results in silence.