Sunday, July 14, 2024

Apple, Microsoft, Google Television- A Shaded Affair

The most recent news reports Apple being in talks with huge TV operators to convert Apple TV into a live programming cable box. However, no deal has been signed as yet, as cable companies stay suspicious of letting Apple enter the world of televisions business.

There are some analysts who believe this move by Apple to be a defeat for the firm. Apple had earlier disturbed the CD industry, when the company started selling single songs on its iTunes for $0.99. In the same way, it is believed that the Calif.-based firm is now trying to unbundle the cable and disrupt the TV space the same manner. Seeing previous records, it is believed that Apple now plans to just repack the old cable and sell it through its own device.

However, there have been other brands too on the same path, which tried to reinvent TV, but ended with products that look the same. Let’s take a look at some of those:

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Microsoft’s Xbox 360… This is perhaps the most innovative device available for living room entertainment. The device boasts of gesture control, gaming, access to live TV, and over the top video content. Many users feel that the TV part of the box is the most boring. Initially, Redmond decided to have its own live programming, and was reported to even negotiate with Conan O’Brien to get the Xbox exclusively. Instead, it just settled for TV Everywhere apps from HBO and EPIX and live feeds from Verizon FIOS. These apps worked only if users had an existing pay TV subscription.

Google TV also struggled with the broadcasters to settle Hollywood by making a platform that was particularly pro-cable. The search giant even struck an agreement with DirecTV. Google wanted to unify web video and pay TV, but that didn’t sit well with broadcasters who across the board decided to block Google TV devices accessing their online content.

TiVo also tried to become a set-top-box provider, just like Apple. When TiVo started leasing its boxes through cable operators such as Suddenlink, Cox and RCN, customers found no access to apps from Netflix or Hulu Plus. Suddenlink- the cable operator wanted to have Netflix on these boxes, but Netflix’s and Hulu’s contracts with studios simply didn’t allow them to deliver their services to leased pay TV equipment.

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It is believed that many issues are trying to kill innovation in TV including unbundled programming, access to web content on the TV and apps on a pay TV set-top box.

All these issues are a threat to huge broadcast’s demand of retransmission fees. Many broadcasters and cable TV operators felt the threat of a disruption to their ad revenue, which made them grow their B2B relationship with cable and satellite operators.

Broadcast channels and their local associates increasingly ask pay TV operators to pay up for content that was earlier available for very little price. Operators were unwilling to pay up, and hence faced blackouts. They routinely gave up after their customers’ revolt.

However, there is also good news surfacing the innovation in the television space, but that is not likely happening without the approval of big broadcasters.

Maybe it is time to innovate on content delivery outside the world of cable television. Companies such as Netflix and Hulu are making their own content, with no strings attached. YouTube is also reported to be massively spending in content that looks more like TV fare, without being TV-only.

Many analysts believe that the biggest push towards innovation may just come from over-the-air television, which is one of the oldest technologies of TV business. Skitter has now started to redefine what pay TV looks like. It offers live broadcast streams within the existing legal retransmission framework.

There is Aereo also, which is pushing the envelope when it comes to personal over-the-air transmissions. is trying to reinvent the DVR. And Boxee is rumored to have a cloud-based DVR in the workings. All these efforts sidestep negotiations with broadcasters and instead rely on open legal exemptions.

Let’s just hope that the innovative companies pull up some challenging things in the television space; else the future of TV might just go haywire.


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