How Mobile Technology is Defining the Future of Video
by Graeme Newell
Part 2 in a web series on the future of mobile technology
-The technological breakthroughs in mobile viewing are driving a new generation of living room TV set.
-Companies like Netflix and ESPN are leading the way, showing how smart programmers can move into internet delivery and still maintain profitability.
-Until the revenue model is worked out, little progress will be made. Cable TV still has huge power and will do all it can to maintain the traditional TV viewing experience.
After more than a decade of waiting, the electronics industry is finally making some solid progress towards unifying the mobile and living room television experience. The breakthroughs are finally showing up in devices such as the iPad, Roku, and Google TV.
Google TV failed miserably, but it wasn’t a technology fail, it was a licensing fail.
The rumored Apple TV is the next great hope on the horizon, but the computer giant has wisely held off any launch until it can build a solid revenue model that programmers can accept. Unfortunately they have made little progress in this direction.
These hybrid TV devices represent a paradigm shift in how to build a truly interchangeable viewing experience. The smart strategy? Get the small screen viewing experience right, and then build it big.
Build it small, then build it big.
Generally, the TV industry has been going at mobile TV the wrong way. They have been trying to miniaturize the traditional television experience, while companies like Google and Apple were flipping the model on its head. They took the functionality and innovation of the miniature screen and supersized it to fit the needs of a new generation of viewers who want a very custom and very personal viewing experience. The philosophy? Multiple screens, each with a custom form factor. A big TV for the living room, a tablet device for watching under the covers, and a mobile phone screen for viewing in the grocery checkout line.
Although a few companies have managed to pull it off, what is still missing from this model is the universal ability to seamlessly shift between devices. I should be able to start a movie in the living room, then get a little sleepy and head to the bedroom where I will whip out my tablet computer, and seamlessly continue the movie. After falling asleep in the middle of the flick, I will then pick back up again the next day by viewing it on my mobile phone. This is possible on Netflix right now. Apple and Google also have the technology to do this, but still have to get the cable industry to play ball.
Living room TV as Big Mobile Phone
This is the promise of new platforms like Google TV and Apple TV – function will follow form. The guts of the iPhone and the iPad are almost identical – both devices operate on the iOS operating system. But while the insides of these two little computers are the same, the viewing experiences are very different.
The large TV viewing experience was figured out years ago. It has always been the small TV experience that has held the industry back, but Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android have figured this out. Now the next step is easy. Supersizing the operating systems to the gigantic flat-screen size will not be a big leap. Your living room TV will be running the same operating system as your tablet computer, and the phone on your hip. The possibilities become endless. In essence, your TV will be a big, whomping mobile viewing device that never moves, but shares much of the functionality of that mobile device, including the ability to surf the internet, make calls, use geo-tracking services and index video. Think of it as a screen from Sony, but a brain from Apple.
Cable TV’s Worst Nightmare
While this melding of the mobile and home TV experience sounds like TV heaven for the viewers, many of the major players in the cable industry are doing everything they can to shoot this down. The satellite and cable industries stand to lose billions if they lose control of the living room television experience. Cable will use its incredible power and amazing lobbying ability to hang on to its dominance and shut out the computer industry.
Cable providers would love to own the internet TV experience. Their real power is that they own much of the pipe that delivers the internet, but their entrenched bureaucracies have been unable to capitalize on it. They just can’t seem to figure out the customer interface side of the equation. Customer satisfaction pros like Apple and Google beat them to the punch with slick interfaces and customer loyalty that has consumers anxious for the change.
Because cable is still the major player, and provides a huge chunk of the revenue to the entertainment industry, the studios will be very hesitant to bite the hand that feeds them. Google and Apple have built amazing systems, but they are having a hard time convincing the studios to join them. Cable still gets its pick of the best programs and live events, and computer companies like Apple and Google must be content with reruns and older content.
Content Delivery Platforms Become Programmers
Netflix’s series “House of Cards” was a major step forward for the IT content providers. By producing its own content, then using its own network to deliver directly to its customers, Netflix is showing the way forward. It even changed the accepted scheduling model, allowing customers to download an entire season of episodes for marathon viewing sessions.
Netfix have been trying to wrestle control of content from the cable industry for years. That is why it has been morphing itself into a content provider, not just a distribution arm that can easily be cut out of the loop. ESPN is becoming more and more dominant online with a suite of apps, programs and devices that allow its fans to interact with the channel, and other fans, all day long.
Still, TVs with powerful internet functionality are coming – and maybe soon. If the computer industry can build a solid revenue model to entice programmers over to the dark side, the viewer will benefit hugely. Apple and Google are carefully implementing a sophisticated pull strategy with consumers, and a push strategy with programmers. But make no mistake, nothing is going to happen until the revenue model has been worked out. Few programmer are going to mess with internet TV until it can deliver reliable revenue.
Graeme Newell shows companies how to build fanatical customer loyalty through emotional marketing research. Check out his web site, speaking videos, training videos, and white papers.