Franklin McMahon /
05.01.2012
Originally featured on BroadcastEngineering.com
Why mobile TV influences the future of television one channel at a time

Are Smart TVs getting smarter? Are they beginning to remind you of something very familiar? It’s easy to spot the trend that has been advancing upwards in the past few years and seems to be heading to fruition this year: The TV in your living room is starting to look a lot like the mobile device you have in your pocket.

Broadcast TV used to be something you had to arrive for. If a show was on a certain day or time, you had to be there, planted in front of the set. As history progressed, the invention of the VCR made this a little easier. From codes in TV guide, you could type in some digits and as long as you had enough space on your VHS tape and the programming was not delayed, you could watch the show at your leisure.

DVRs only enhanced this option. Now you could record dozens of shows and programming, and set it to happen automatically. These days most people sit down and whittle away at their DVR programming as opposed to channel surfing. (Seriously, when was the last time you channel surfed?) Now you can download and watch almost anything on-demand or via streaming. There is certainly no chance of having too little options these days.

But a curious thing happened via mobile: Programing became very à la carte in the form of a new breed of networks. The networks became apps that you could choose from. Brands such as Vudu, Netflix, Hulu Plus, Xbox, PS3 and Roku, as well as industries such as MLB, allowed consumers to pick and choose programming from content providers and content developers. Many were angling to be their own “network,” and now that sense is not too far off.

The next phase of mobile influence is the Smart TV, TVs that allow choice and bring programming via a series of apps or programs. Gone are the days were we were locked into a few networks. Mow almost anyone can become a network.

Or can they? Apple is being secretive about its new Apple branded TVs it is rumored to be developing. But its strategy is sure to draw along the same lines as it has been charting. Its standalone Apple TV device is much like the concept of a Smart TV or networks as apps. In fact, the whole concept of “TV apps” has transitioned from mobile phones to just about every other device, including set-top TVs. The sense now is consumers are paying large cable TV bills that offer hundreds of digital channels when really the consumer only may want a select few options. What would it be like to merely order ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, HBO and CNN? A nice tight package that covers all the bases without having to buy whole tiers of services with hundreds of extraneous channels.

This is the promise of TV apps, but the implementation is far from easy or seamless. The networks and cable/satellite are mostly locked in with long-term contracts set up years ago. Untangling this would be a lot of work and reduce the stability of the current scenario.

However, TV is one market currently poised for a shakeup. After seeing the music industry and the book industry completely reinvented, broadcasters have to be wondering what is in store for them. They are either going to be proactive in their new moves or get swept away as their industry gets redefined. As TV viewership declines and mobile viewing increases at a dramatic pace, they should not wait too long to plan a strategy path.

One thing is certain: The landscape is changing. Mobile TV has been a redefining influence, and the future of television looks a lot like the mobile space. They only question is: Are the broadcasters ready for it?



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