A terrific article in today's NYT that shows the direction that TV usage is taking. The rise of tablets and web viewing showcases just how clunky the cable box interface is and how the consumer ideally wants to interact with their TV set. TV manufacturers are going around cable operators by building sets with web access and app interfaces. "Already, apps for Hulu Plus, Netflix and Wal-Mart’s Vudu streaming service, among others, are built into Internet-enabled televisions. Devices like Microsoft’s Xbox 360 and the streaming video player Roku let viewers watch apps that mimic channels. New sets by Samsung and others come with built-in apps loaded with television shows, movies and sports." And Apple is speculated to have its own TV set in the works, perhaps to be called the iPanel, that will could become the ideal way to navigate TV. All this while cable still must rely on set top box.
The biggest complaint for cable is the high cost of its monthly subscription and consumers feeling like they are paying too much for channels they don't watch. But "buffets" have always helped to provide an all you can eat model for one price and make the total price lower than buying less and paying about the same. Most cable programmers don't want to give up this model; it provides great revenue whether the network is watched or not. Authenticated viewing on mobile devices, like tablets, extends the value of the cable subscription and keeps the cable subscriber from cutting the cord.
Still, cable operators must do more to make viewing on the TV set as easy as navigating a tablet. New guides, better remotes, supporting web connections through a better set top box could go a long way to customer satisfaction. Up, down, left, right just doesn't work anymore. Revolutionize the set top box and the on screen experience or watch as more and more consumers switch to other sources.