Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Google TV and Apple TV: how the living room was won

At the IFA trade show Google's CEO Eric Schmidt announced that Google TV will be launched this fall. Only in the US at first but the world will follow next year. Apple announced similar plans at an event at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco on 1 September.

This means both Google and Apple have thrown down the gauntlet and are now challenging the big TV networks. At first the adoption of TV through the Internet may be modest. It will mean connecting yet another device to your TV that connects to the Internet. In Apple's case this is the Apple TV and in case of Google this will probably be any computer where you can run a browser on. Many people may not be ready to surf the Internet from their lazy chair and change their TV viewing habits yet. Although the Apple TV provides a nice interface with an iPod touch, iPhone or iPad, that lets these devices stream content to the Apple TV and thus to your big screen.

Yet there may be a quicker adoption of this technology than one might think. Don't forget that YouTube outperforms many big networks when it comes to prime time viewer numbers. Transporting YouTube to the living room TV may transport with it an instant audience of 2 billion a day.

This is good news for both Google and Apple. Bad news for the networks. But lets face it, when YouTube with its piano playing cats, hyperactive teenagers and snippets of prime time TV manages to outperform the major networks, the major networks have only themselves to blame! Instead of fighting the Internet as the evil land of free for all they should have embraced it. Cuddled it and snuggled up to it. Made love to it and finally made it their own. Then they would have had a big say in what happens with the bits and bytes that travel from the handy cams to the TV screens. Instead they persisted in opposing it when parts of their shows turned up on YouTube. They gave it the stink eye the rest of the time, partly by incorporating it in their web sites in the most bungling, user unfriendly ways they could think of.

Now the big TV networks are left with a bruised pride and a lot of skittish viewers who are as used to watching TV on their laptops, iPads and media centres as they are on their networks. YouTube et al will become just another channel to watch in the eyes of many viewers. And considering the quality of programming of many channels, that piano playing cat doesn't even stand out.

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  1. I focused on YouTube because due to draconian stupid licensing deals we still don't have services like Netflix here in Europe. Even the iTunes store video features are only available in certain countries in Europe. But certainly, in the US Netflix would be a huge factor in the adoption of streaming boxes to the TV.

  2. Thanks for a most enjoyable read - a point I'd failed to make.
    Great minds think alike, while fools seldom differ. But which is better? There's only one way to find out.......

  3. Apple TV and Google TV represent the fact that the paradigm shift of video content delivery has reached critical mass. The old "schedule it and they will watch it when we want them to because they have no other alternative" model was weakened with Tivo and the DVR in general and is now about to be destroyed by these platforms. Which ultimately I think is good because quality gets emphasized over quantity when distribution and the filling of a schedule become secondary concerns of content producers. Too much of what we now call "TV" is just a mechanism for delivery of advertising, a framework for exposing eyeballs to 30-second commercials. The networks or channels as we know them are going to lose their reason to be as viewers start to exclusively only watch what they want when they want and ignore the schedules and brands of the networks of the channels.

  4. Netflix /= streaming tv. It's great for watching movies and past seasons when they get to putting them up for viewing, but it won't replace viewing last week's episode of your favorite show. Hulu is probably more in line with this article as it has a good amount of networks streaming from it (but again, this is US based viewing only).

    Apple is charging USD$0.99 for a past episode, Hulu is free (with commercials, paid without), no word yet on Google's service. Also consider, Apple and Google are selling their own boxes - Apple TV is USD$99, no word yet on the price of the Android box. I can watch Hulu, Netflix, YouTube, etc. (even apple tv using iTunes) all on a PC/MAC. Lets see if Google will have the same ability - or if it will be "Android Only".

    Also remember how skittish the network providers were when Boxee began to allow users to watch "TV" using Hulu on net-top boxes just a few short months ago? They forced Hulu to not allow the Boxee app to work. Their argument was that the Hulu advertisements were not designed for a "TV audience" therefore Hulu could only be watched from a PC. This is a turn-around. Of course they want a piece of that $0.99!

  5. I think this Dave Chappelle skit still holds true. Genius.

  6. I hadn't heard of boxee until last night, and I was very impressed. I believe it does have hulu working now among many others. It uses XBMC which I've always loved because it supports any video format you throw at it. I'm guessing boxee won't be a competitor with Google and Apple, they'll probably just make an app for each company.

  7. Boxee will be producing a new hardware set-top box here very shortly:

    The Hulu thing will be an old topic very soon.

  8. As budgets decline due to lower revenue from advertising (and fees) the quality of shows will decline in line with the growth of distributed viewing. Reality TV is a result of declining viewers and budgets. Quality programming will disappear. There will always be a lot of great amateur programming coming from the web, but the high end stuff that takes real money (big dramatic series, big comedies) will continue to erode. It is all inevitable, but sad nonetheless. We can already see this decline in the disappearance of great independent movies. There is no revenue model for them anymore, so you get either excellent micro-budget flicks made by amateurs. Or $15 million dollar movies, there is no middle game anymore and we have lost of ton of great content as a result. Independent film literally blew up in this last decade. Mid to highend TV is next.

  9. Someone mentioned Boxee, which I think is probably going to be superior but still lose out to Google TV due to brand-name recognition and Google's deep pockets.

    Apple TV is not a contender. With Apple TV you pay per show, like iTunes for TV. It is not even a serious contender to Google TV.

    I'm going to get whichever is released first, a Boxee Box or a Google TV box. But I still maintain that the Google TV box will be the ultimate winner.

  10. I switched to Boxee/Netflix about 6mo ago and dropped satellite tv. My wife and kids have dramatically changed our viewing habits and we watch at our whim rather then having to timeshift everything. We don't even use our big living room flatscreen much anymore - we watch a lot of shows on our laptops.

    Once you make the transition, you realize how much time you save by not having to adjust to a cable/satellite schedule. Additionally you save at least $40+ a month and can watch your shows/movies from anywhere at anytime.

  11. Its surprising the % of the tech community not caring about sport. Its a given that live sport is the single biggest reason cable is surviving the internet onslaught. Give me ESPN and the gazillion other sport channels in live HD over the internet, and I'll cancel my cable subscription. Until then, all the google wizardry and apple gadgetry can suck it, the general public will buy it as a hobby, not as a replacement.

  12. We discontinued satellite around a month ago. Spend much more time reading. I watch tennis with better picture and more human type commentators and not so many commercials without. It reminds me of when TV sports was much better than now. ("The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat") I am sure internet TV will follow broadcast TV to hell. Everything revolves around money and revenue growth for Google as well as NBC