Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Convergence On The TV Screen

Viewers are watching TV differently today. The rise of VOD, DVR, and internet viewing of video programs, along with the new HD screens has given TV manufacturers an opportunity to put the integration back into the TV set. "Improvements to the processors in TV sets are making it feasible to run Web applications on a TV without the need for a special set-top box, such as those offered by TiVo Inc. or Apple Inc." And with the web running on TV screens it brings more flexibility and the opportunity of more choice directly to the viewer without a black box standing between programming and screen. TVs from Sony and Vizio and others are now appearing with web access. Still there is a long way to go. "Yankee Group analyst Carl Howe said TVs are still lacking is a compelling user interface for the Internet. 'On the mobile phone it looked like it was never going to work until Apple's iPhone took off. That needs to happen with the TV,' he said."

This change is happening fairly quickly. Just look at how cell phones and blackberries have adapted to web browsing and video in such a short time. The TV screen seems the next to go and cable needs to proactively defend its turf. Cable has stood behind their clunky converter boxes, with poor interfaces and limited information flow, and have created a disgruntled population. The attitude toward cable companies seems to mimic the bad attitude felt toward the phone company decades ago.

"It's not clear whether consumers, long accustomed to the distinction between the 'lean back' mode of television and the more engaged mode of the PC, will welcome the introduction of interactivity into the television." And I agree; but that is not the only piece that will drive this change. A friendlier interface, faster response, as well as a better search engine, recommendations for different members of the family, choice, and the ability to "move" content from one screen to another (i.e. Slingbox) are other reasons why this convergence will take place and be embraced quickly. Cable needs to get onboard quickly or they will simply find themselves losing their cable subscription revenue business.