The Future of Television



One of the largest and most prominent consumer electronics conventions in the world is the annual International Consumer Electronics Show (CES), hosted in Las Vegas every January. Over the course of the four day convention, major manufacturers unveil their newest and most groundbreaking products. So far, this year has been no exception, with companies showcasing everything from heart beat monitoring watches to $30,000 iPod docks.

An always popular area of interest for many consumers is the newest type of television related technology. Over the last few years, the television industry has been primarily focused around 3D. While still holding a sizeable portion of the market, the once red hot 3D TV idea has mostly fizzled with consumers due to lack of 3D programming and those ridiculous looking glasses. This undoubtedly left many consumers wondering what comes next. After all, there’s nothing shocking about a huge screen that’s less than an inch thick nowadays.

Many manufactures are taking a different approach at this year’s CES and are showcasing what they call “Smart TV’s” that will connect to and integrate with your existing Internet connection. This is not an entirely new concept, however. If you have ever connected a TV screen to your computer or laptop to watch a show or movie, you have essentially implemented this approach. What is new and noteworthy are the service providers that are trying to make this easier than ever before. Companies you may have heard of before, like Google and Apple, are making some headway to try and change the way you watch TV.

Some of these manufacturers are integrating their services directly into the TV itself, while others are pushing their proprietary set-top boxes that connect your TV to the Internet. Whichever service you choose, the idea is the same – the TV or box scours the web for free video feeds, aggregating and listing all of your favorite shows into a convenient and easy to use interface. The most appealing aspect of this approach is that you can theoretically watch all of your TV without a monthly cable fee.

In the US, roughly 145 million people watch video online. That figure should come as no surprise due to the proliferation of broadband Internet throughout the US. It’s still only half of the number of people that watch traditional TV, however (~290 million). The contrasts between the two mediums become even more apparent when you look at the amount of time the average individual spends on the Internet when compared to conventional television. When reviewing data from a 2011 survey done by Nielsen, Erick Schonfeld from TechCrunch states:

“… Americans spend an average of 32 hours and 47 minutes a week watching traditional TV. They only spend an average of three hours and 58 minutes a week on the Internet, and only 27 minutes a week watching video online. All those billions of videos watched online still only represent 1.4 percent of the time spent watching traditional TV.”

However, the gap is closing quickly and ditching cable for Internet based TV has become a growing trend among consumers. These “cord-cutters” as they have been called, are leaving the big name cable and dish providers in favor of services such as Netflix, Hulu, and iTunes. A survey conducted by Deloitte reports that nine percent of respondents say that they have already cut the cord, and up to 11 percent more are at least thinking about doing it. Their survey continues to show that up to nine million people say they have stopped paying for cable TV entirely. That’s roughly the population of New Jersey.

These numbers are expected to increase in the very near future. Content providers on the Internet realize that the key to attracting a larger user base is offering more content – many programs can only be viewed via premium cable packages and are simply not available online (legally anyway). But this is quickly changing. YouTube and Hollywood have recently struck a deal that outlines their plans for a new YouTube “Channels” service which will feature big names like Jay-Z and Madonna. Even Tom Hanks plans to debut a 20 episode animated series to be released exclusively on Yahoo.

Thinking about cutting the cord? You have a few options. The wisest of these may be GoogleTV, which adopted the same strategy it used for its Android based phones. GoogleTV can already be preinstalled on many SmartTVs or it can be purchased as a standalone box. If you’re a fan of Apple products, then AppleTV may be your default choice. While it acts like more of a storefront for purchasing media, it does integrate with your existing iTunes account so this option would naturally appeal to those that already have a large iTunes library. The lesser known competitors in this arena are arguably Roku and Boxee (manufactured by D-Link). Both offer small hardware boxes that connect the Internet directly to your TV.

Each of these products will allow you to access and organize all of your favorite steaming media in one place and view it on your hi-def TV. However, the question still remains – is a Smart TV (or its related products) worth the investment? Would you ever consider ditching cable for Internet based TV? How much would you miss your cable company’s long list of programming that cannot be accessed over the Internet?

All of these are questions to ponder before deciding to cut the cord. One thing is sure – as budgets continue to dwindle during this economic downturn, consumers will be looking for more cost effective alternatives to access their favorite shows and movies. The Internet is more than capable of storing and distributing content to television sets across the world, and as seen at this year’s CES event, manufacturers are more than willing to integrate that functionality into their products. It’s up to content providers and studios to take what’s on the silver screen, shrink it, and deliver it over the Internet so that consumers can enjoy it at home.

If they are unable to, this “Smart TV” fad may be even shorter lived than the 3D craze before it.

Do you think SmartTVs are here to stay? Do you have any experience with them so far? Let us know by sharing your comments in the box below, or by sounding off on our Facebook Page or Google+ Page, or by tweeting us at @HostDime.