While devices such as the iPod and the Kindle heralded digitally-driven changes in the consumption of music and printed media, the classic TV-watching experience has yet to undergo the same overhaul. Despite the popularity of Youtube, “timewasting” video-viewing is still seen as more of an adjunct to traditional primetime viewing rather than real competition for the experience of watching big-budget TV on an HDTV/3DTV screen. A recent NYT & CBS survey found that 88% of Americans still pay for a monthly cable subscription, with only 15% even contemplating replacing it with a service such as Hulu. However, as two heavy-hitters step into the arena, things may be about to change.,
Not content with the on-going battle of iPhone vs Android, Google and Apple will be once again heading out to the battlefield to determine the fate of the humble television. While companies such as Sezmi, Boxee and Kylo have tried to combine the virtues of the web with the ease of TV, only these two tech giants truly have the capital to initiate such a major shift.
Google TV was announced approximately 3 months ago, positioning itself not as a replacement to cable or satellite but as a way to combine them with the best of the web. In their words: “If the web is so smart, and our TVs are so fun to watch, why do we have to choose?” Google TV’s US launch is partnered with Dish Network, meaning it offers true integration with an existing cable package, making the service a smooth transition for most customers.
While Apple’s iTV, due to be announced on September 7th, currently lacks major network support, broadcasters are far more sympathetic to their business model. Apple has been lobbying to reduce the cost of TV shows from their current $1-2.99 price-point to the more ‘impulse-buy’-friendly $0.99. While the existing price will allow users to purchase shows and keep them permanently, the lower figure allows them to ‘rent’ shows, giving 48 hours access to an ad-free copy of the programme.
With two equally viable, yet highly different, approaches to the future of TV, it is difficult to predict which will catch on with the public – and the extent of the impact this will have on advertisers. Pundits such as Kevin Rose peg Apple as the early favourite, assuming that their device will “destroy the television side of the cable and satellite industry…Imagine getting a notification of new family videos the next time you turn on your TV. My mom will love this feature.” Another point in Apple’s favour is that it is better-suited to produce its own TV sets and therefore push a the ‘complete television package’ – if consumers are as willing to purchase programmes the way they purchase apps, Google will have an uphill struggle getting viewers to tune in to their way of thinking.