Wednesday, December 14, 2011

If You Have An Xbox, Will You Need An Apple TV

Connected TVs are emerging to be more valuable than even 3D. Manufacturers are building sets with wireless and wired connectivity to the web while at the same time streaming media is finding spots on guides of various set top boxes. All this while cable operators push to keep their cable subscriptions growing.

For younger audiences, more entertainment is happening through their XBox, Playstation and Wii gaming boxes. And streaming media companies like Hulu and Netflix are attaching their subscription services to these boxes. "According to a new survey and projections by Strategy Analytics, the connected TV player will sell 4 million units this year to capture 32% of the streaming media player market. The media player market includes competitors such as the Roku and Boxee boxes."

And while the first generation of Apple TV boxes haven't caught on yet, hope is on the horizon with a next generation Apple box incorporating its cloud service and app connectivity with iPads and iPhones. "But more importantly, the AirPlay feature in iOS allows the mobile devices to move media to the TV from the devices and allows the iPhone or iPad to serve as complementary screens." And of course the rumor that Apple will manufacture its own television set. I also hope that Apple improves the remote control experience and perhaps includes Siri in the set top and TV set.

The XBox game controller is also a more adept device in enabling search choosing what to watch. And consumers that own a gaming device may not see the need to buy another set top box controller. Still the Apple appeal should never be minimized. The TV set in the home is becoming more a centerpiece for viewing and interacting with content.

Competition for alternative ways to connect to the web is growing rapidly; at the same time, cable operators are doing nothing to make their cable boxes more user friendly. As more meaningful content moves over to web devices, the threat of cord cutting becomes much more pronounced.

Is You Tube Redesign Favoring Professional Over Amateur?

Once again, despite or desire for new things, we dislike change that affects what we are comfortable with. Change with the look of Twitter, change when our cable networks change their channel numbers, and now change with the You Tube redesign are all examples that get people frustrated. But change is meant to drive innovation and hopefully, once people get used to it, proves better, easier, faster, smarter than the previous version.

With the redesign of YouTube, the other question is being asked, is it meant to favor professional content over uploaded amateur content? Is it a move that raises barriers to viewership by guiding viewers to content that brings more revenue to YouTube? "In place of that free-for-all will be a new YouTube, more commercial, more predictable and, its owners hope, more televisionlike. The underlying reason is money, of course, but the immediate issue is control. By cutting away the user-driven underbrush and shepherding viewers, especially those with YouTube accounts, toward TV-like content channels — an increasing number of them produced by corporate media partners — YouTube and its owner, Google, will gain more control by giving amateur videographers less exposure and funneling viewers toward fewer choices." TV experience on the web, professionally produced, fewer but better content. Are the lines between the TV set and the web becoming more and more blurrier?

YouTube's original objective was to enable consumers to share their videos with family and friends. Upload once and share among all. But that primary mission has evolved over time as its original owners sold YouTube to Google. The business plan is all about revenue and "the redesign is to push the viewer toward the higher, more brand-name end." More clicks, more ads, more revenue, more profit. The amateur video will be pushed further down the long tail. And the higher the viewership on a particular "channel", the easier it is to charge higher advertising. Is the article calls it, "predictable viewership for specific content". It is the TV model pushing ratings to garner premium pricing.

Will the amateur videos still exist on YouTube? They still generate ad dollars based on total views across all video clicks, but they will be harder to find. How the search button will push these viral videos over professional content remains to be seen. It may affect too how the next piece of amateur content is or isn't discovered. Search and recommendations may be pushing more professional content over amateur and that might be the worst sin of all for You Tube users.

Last point, like any good business model, the more revenue streams the better. Currently, YouTube has only the ad revenue stream. That may change as well as You Tube ponders a premium model to gain a subscription footprint. It worked with Hulu Plus, why not YouTube. Free only works for so long.