Originally published by ACM, Computers in Entertainment, on November 21, 2012.
By Dennis Anderson and Katja Schroeder
Wanted: Perfect Web TV Companion– Must Be Mobile and Socially Connected
Die-hard fans of the TV series Sex and the City might remember the episode where Miranda’s passionate relationship with her TIVO hits a bump when the digital video recorder fails to record her favorite shows. For Miranda it was a deal breaker.
That was in 2003, the beginnings of web based TV. The possibility was there, the capabilities still limited. Tivo’s main attraction was ad free TV at your leisure. Fast forward ten years. The urge to see favorite shows is still the same. The way to consume news and entertainment has dramatically changed. Mobile devices have broken previous boundaries for TV consumption. Notably the iPad, Roku, Apple and Google TV and the flurry of smart phones act as powerful content machines that capture and display live content “as you like it”. Cloud technology has enabled a new generation web based TV providers that promise a live TV experience everywhere, delivered through the Internet.
Here are three of the companies that want to change the way we watch live TV using the Internet.
One of the most publicized newcomers is New York-based Aereo. A monthly subscription gives New York City residents instant access to TV programs in HD quality through the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch. There is no additional hardware needed to set up the service. On July 11, Aereo successfully won a law suit that was brought up against it by a group of 17 network broadcasters. The group of broadcasters had sought an injunction that would have required consumers not to watch their recorded programming until the underlying broadcast had completed airing.
NimbleTV promises access to live TV from any country, anywhere, with unlimited recording. Beta program participation is by invitation only. Excited about the opportunity to watch TV programs from other countries, we applied as beta users and are still waiting to hear back. According to a YouTube video the company is also prepared for any lawsuits by the content providers.
Another example is Buffalo-based Synacor, which provides a customer-branded platform that enables cable, satellite, telecom and consumer electronics companies to deliver “TV Everywhere” to consumers. Synacor’s innovative digital platform acts as an intermediary between the content and service providers cable, telco and satellite operators, programmers, consumer electronics companies and the end-consumer. The platform delivers DRM-protected TV content to consumers via their preferred device at anytime. The concept has been successful. Synacor just went IPO this February.
Cloud technology has spurred a new generation of web based TV companies that cater to consumers that want simple solutions, without any installation headache like waiting for the cable person. But what makes these new TV services most attractive to consumers – and advertisers – are the mobile and social media sharing capabilities. Subscribers can share recording options with friends via Twitter and Facebook. Web based TV has become the connected TV.
24 million North American households currently own a connected TV and that number is expected to nearly rise to 81 million households by 2016, according to DFC Intelligence. Advertisers are now exploring new ways to reach and engage with consumers, who are willing to share their activities and tastes, across multiple channels and devices. Web based TV has changed, and so has the way consumers watch TV. Miranda does not need to feel despair. She has more choices today. There is more than one perfect companion to consume TV. However, this will not be the end of the series. As technology evolves and broadcasters adapt to the changing viewing patterns and consumption models, the business model for providers of web based TV will continue to change. Think about Netflix. The company was a media darling until last year, when the company announced that it will split its DVD shipping and streaming video business into two separate businesses. At the same time, NetFlix lost content deals that were valuable to its viewers, such as with Starz Entertainment. As a result, movies and original TV series from Walt Disney Studios and Sony Pictures, including blockbusters like Tangled, disappeared from the library. While the spin-out decision was reversed, the company is now struggling with slowing subscription growth. Consumers have moved to different choices such as Amazon Instant Video, Time Warner On Demand, Hulu and Vudu. The new generation of web based TV providers could face a similar fate in the future, if they don’t continue to innovate and adapt.
Dennis Anderson, Ph.D. is Chairman and Professor of Management and Information Technology at St. Francis College, New York City. Prior to this appointment, he was a professor of information systems and associate dean at Pace University. He has also taught at NYU Courant Institute. He received his Ph.D. and M.Phil. from Columbia University and completed Harvard University’s Institute for MLE Program. He has given numerous keynote speeches and interviews related to ICT for sustainable development, social media technologies, e-government, etc. to academic conferences, blogs, and media including various newspapers, CNN and Bloomberg Turkey. More information can be found at http://www.drdennisanderson.com.
Katja Schroeder is the President of Expedition PR, a communications consultancy advising emerging technology companies. Ms. Schroeder holds both a Master in Information and Communication Sciences from Sorbonne in Paris, France, and a Master of Arts in Communication from Free University in Berlin, Germany. She is an adjunct professor at St Francis College. As she is a bad cook, her current favorite TV show is Chopped. She is looking forward to better ways of watching Tagesschau and Tatort, German TV shows, in the U.S.