Connected TV brings more than just widgets, but are pay-TV companies prepared for competition from the box in the corner, asks Julian Clover?
Sitting in the corner of my living room is an old-fashioned slide projector. My father bought it sometime in the 1960s in order to show the slides that he had taken courtesy of the Eastman Kodak Company. The slides themselves are sitting by the projector and sometime over the next few weeks the memories will be sorted and converted into the digital format, the slides put away, maybe for a final time.
Instead of pulling out the projector the photos will now be displayed on my television, courtesy of Apple TV, actually my first reason for purchasing the product. As Connected TV’s appear on the market it won’t just be photographs that displace linear television viewing. More importantly it gives a further push to on demand television.
By adding the Boxee software to the Apple TV, arguably not the most consumer-friendly process, I have been able to pull in the BBC iPlayer, CNN, MTV and Joost from the comfort of my armchair. We’ll gloss over the fact that an Apple TV update meant I spent an hour installing it all over again. Small wonder that Virgin Media’s TV-delivered version of the iPlayer is doing so well, but with a little more commercialistaion, maybe through Canvas, maybe through something else and you start to see the shift.
What makes Connected TV both an opportunity and a threat is that the television display manufacturers almost seem as if they are dipping a toe in the water of the pay-TV business. If it is possible to order a movie from your television set, then maybe you won’t choose your cable operator, or at least send their ARPU southwards. Maybe the greatest threat is to the kind of proposition put forward by BT Vision, the one which goes, “as you don’t’ watch much television get your TV from us”.
So the environment offered by everyone else has to change in order to compete; and it will be a battle of the environments. The argument used by ITV when it withheld itself from the fledgling Sky Digital was that viewers could always turn back to analogue, the problem was they didn’t, and the broadcaster found a disproportionate erosion of its audience in Sky households. The only time you might really want to leave the broadcaster’s environment is, you guessed it, when the family gathers round to look at the holiday photos.
But of course the pay-TV operator can do that too, using the DLNA and MOCA technologies eschewed by Apple, and making the next generation environments even more compelling. Virgin Media has talked about a fusion of broadband and linear TV channels into a single on-screen portal.
For reasons best known to Sony and Sky my TV set will always switch onto the digital terrestrial channels rather than Sky – I never thought HDMI would leave me longing for a Scart plug – so my starting point is invariably the BBC News Channel. But I know that for sports and movies I need to move along the inputs and this takes me to pay-TV, where I stay. But the very fact I write these columns suggests I am prepared to put up with more than civilian viewers and it is these that make up the real audience.