MIT Technology Review: The Internet Tore Through Newspapers, Magazines, And Music... Now Poised For Television

written by: Richard Kastelein

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Robert D. Hof, former Silicon Valley bureau chief for BusinessWeek, has written a very prescient and palpable piece in MIT's recent issue of Techology Review — called Searching for the Future of Television that brilliantly dissects Google's move into the living room from it's roots to where it is today and the players and reactions around the move. Hof colours the article with people, places, and players that give it a New Journalism edge.

Predicting, as we have many times at, Hof notes that disruption is inevitable in the TV industry. And it's not only Google that's going to dramatically alter the TV ecosystem as we know it today.

Even without Google's contribution, the consumer electronics industry has already transformed the TV set into a computer that can be connected to the Internet. That means the future of television is now up for grabs: the screen, the industry, even the meaning of the word. Just as the Internet tore through newspapers, magazines, and music, it's now poised to make television the media battleground of the coming decade. That's why Google knows it has to be involved. If it wants to protect its leading role on the Internet, maintain its prime position in online advertising, and grow into emerging markets, then it can't risk letting other companies control the online experience on the living-room TV. But getting the technology right is only part of what Google needs to do.

Note that another, more critical piece also came out about Google TV in Techcrunch recently - called Is Google In A Dream World? - which provides an excellent contrarian opinion to Hof's. This bit of news in particular from the Techcrunch article, did not make the deadline cut at Technology Review.

Yesterday brought news that Google was asking partners to delay large-scale unveilings of Google TV products at the upcoming CES due to concerns about the overall reaction to the current products already on the market. Obviously, despite some Sony spin, that’s not good news.

And Techcrunch writer, MG Siegler not only lifts the clothes off the emperor in this piece on TV, but also many other facets of Google's attempts to doing anything other than search or advertising online - such as Google's disastrous hardware mobile move and bottom-charting Google Music. And he didn't even get really started with Google's deserted forays into social media where they have absolutely been unable to get any traction.

But back to the bigger picture, in reality, it's the CE manufacturers that are the driving force behind truly bringing on democratization, the disruption and the future TV revolution. These headlines tell part of the story.

And more here...

Hof also brings in the differentiator between this wave of web meets TV and Microsoft's attempt in the previous millennium: the impact of social media on television - and the emergence of more interactive TV formats being dreamed up by creatives, that can be realized in a two-directional IP driven architecture rather than one directional, linear broadcasts.

Already, Nielsen has found that a lot of viewers—60 percent!—use the Internet while they watch TV. In fact, on average they spend three and a half hours a month doing those things at the same time, up 35 percent from the previous year. Often people are texting friends or posting on Twitter about the shows they're watching; during MTV's Video Music Awards in September, artists getting awards were the subject of 2.3 million tweets. Now some adventurous content creators are embracing this trend: in October, actor Seth Green launched a reality Web series called Control TV in which viewers voted in real time on such questions as what the main character should eat for breakfast and whom he should date. In time, the technology could even learn what you'd like it to show you. Why not, for example, a TV that can recognize your voice when you walk into the room and deliver video and other services utterly different from those your spouse would see? Or an app that brings up your fantasy football stats during a game?

Emerging transmedia formats - from the Henry Jenkin's school - being developed by pioneers such as Jeff Gomez in the USA and projects such as Resonance - being driven by Tom Dunbar in the UK - will also most certainly play a part in pushing through dramatic change the future of television.

Cord Cutting is also a reality as we have noted a number of times previously. And Hof also pulls no punches - but rather pushes the facts:

Bypassing pay TV is precisely what more than a few people seem to be doing. U.S. cable and satellite TV companies together lost 119,000 subscribers in the third quarter of 2010, according to the market research firm SNL Kagan. That's a minuscule drop compared with the approximately 100 million subscribers overall, and no doubt it was chiefly because of the poor economy. But it was the second drop in a row, after a first-ever decline in the second quarter. Meanwhile, Netflix added 4.7 million new customers in the first nine months of 2010.

These subscriber losses may not be over for cable and satellite companies, either. A September survey of 2,000 Americans by the market researcher Strategy Analytics found that 13 percent of them planned to drop their cable in the next 12 months. "My kids think I'm crazy for being in the pay-TV business, because they don't pay for TV, and [they] watch a lot of TV and movies [online]," Dish Network's Ergen complained during a conference call with financial analysts in November.

Even customers who still have cable are rapidly altering their behavior in a way that represents a fundamental challenge to the television business. Already, with help from DVDs and the DVR, many viewers have decided they'd prefer to pull in content when they want it, where they want it, rather than glue themselves to the couch for appointment TV. As Internet TV devices give viewers even more choices, says W. Russell Neuman, a professor of media technology at the University of Michigan, "push technology is shifting completely to pull." Yet the TV advertising model still assumes that people are watching live content and ads pushed out to them.

To wrap. I just got back from Rio de Janiero in Brazil where I was invited to share thoughts in a keynote presentation on the future of TV - particularly connected and TV apps to the Brazilian television community. You can view the presentation at Slideshare here. Note text was added later.




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