Good news for those wishing for the death of traditional TV...deals are currently being struck between various companies that allow for internet-based distribution of TV content. The latest is between Dish Network and Disney, with Verizon and DirecTV also rumored to be pursuing similar content deals. This means a potential end to the near-monopoly of cable companies and increased competition in the marketplace. It also opens the door for Apple to move their AppleTV past the ‘hobby’ stage into a disruptive force in that market (or so I hope). Read more over at Engadget.
The TV industry is moving ever closer to either collapse or a reinvention of their business model. They’ve been resisting change for years, but just like the music industry before them, technology is enabling inevitable change. A federal appeals court just ruled in favor of Aereo, a service which lets people watch over-the-air TV when they want, where they want, delivered over the internet to iPads or any device. TV networks fought this, naturally, but lost (they may yet appeal to the Supreme Court, but that’s their only option at this point). Read here for more on that.
The other story of late is season three of Game of Thrones debuted to record numbers of viewers. What’s significant though is that it also set a record for the largest BitTorrent swarm – people are downloading this in huge numbers, as HBO does not make it available to non-HBO subscribers for quite some time. Remember how Napster helped lead to the upending of the music industry? Something similar is happening with TV. The cost to gain access to a single show is so high that people are choosing the only other option (other than wait months to a year for it to be available on DVD). As iTunes showed when it debuted, people are willing to pay a reasonable amount for content, if delivered in a timely manner comparable to other options on the market. The TV business model is more complex, but is proving to be incompatible with consumers’ current desires and technologies.
Combine this with Netflix and Amazon producing their own shows, and we’re seeing an imminent collapse of the TV industry as it has been known…and the birth of something much more consumer friendly.
TV networks have resisted the push by Apple, Google, and others to go to more of a channel less, video-on-demand business model for years…but they’re fighting a losing battle. The consumers want it, and the technology makes it easy. The latest development is seeing these video-on-demand companies offer original programming…essentially starting to become a new sort of TV ‘channel’. Netflix has House of Cards and Lilyhammer (with eight more shows in the pipeline), and Amazon has announced a new show called ‘Betas’. When people start turning to these internet-based companies for their TV shows, the traditional model of cable boxes and TV guide ‘schedules’ will quickly become obsolete. As someone who ‘cut the cord‘ years ago, I can’t wait!
It seems every hardware company is working on creating a better TV experience (Apple, Google, and Samsung being the big ones). Intel is now joining the mix with a set top box, but they’re encountering the same problem that has kept Apple’s TV in the labs instead of your living room. Namely, they are up against content owners who like things the way they are and don’t want to change. This ‘head in the sand’ approach is simply not going to work…technology will advance and change is inevitable. This is much like the music companies resisting change to their business model, until file sharing services like Napster came along and forced change. TV will eventually face similar pressure…if the TV content owners act now and partner with the tech companies, they can help shape the future of TV…rather than sit on the sidelines and watch it be shaped for them.
TV, as we have known it, is dead…the industry just isn’t willing to give up and is doing its best to keep it on life support. The best example of this is commercial-skipping technology. ReplayTV was sued and ultimately put out of business largely due to this feature, and the latest lawsuit targets Dish Networks for similar technology, that automatically skips over commercials in recorded shows.
Does this technology impact studios’ bottom line? Probably. But the invention of the horseless carriage affected horsewhip makers everywhere…and this alone is not a reason to hold back progress. The technology is here to give the viewers a better viewing experience, but studios are doing everything they can to block change. Apple has been rumored to be working on a TV, though building the hardware is the relatively easy part…it’s the software and user experience that is the most challenging to fix….here’s hoping they can pull it off in 2013.
As for me…I cut the cord over a year ago, tired of paying so much for so many channels I just didn’t want. I replaced our DirecTV subscription with a combination of purchasing shows via iTunes, and recording free over-the-air broadcasts from the major TV networks. My iMac records those broadcasts using an EyeTV tuner, with the free software plugin comskipper automatically going through and marking commercials for deletion (I still like to review that manually as it often leaves some in there). A simple click then exports it directly into my iTunes library for viewing on any of our AppleTVs. It’s really not that hard…just imagine how awesome the user experience could be if the studios embraced technology instead of fighting it every step of the way.
TV’s business model is obsolete…it’s time to reinvent it. If anyone can do it, it’s Apple. My AppleTV prediction – voice and gesture control. Face recognition tied in with parental controls to limit what kids can watch without an adult present. An aluminum enclosure, very similar to the latest iMacs. Sales in the billions.