Sites like Hulu and Netflix’s relatively new streaming service appear to have started a revolution in how we consume media. Is this revolution complete? Absolutely not. In the future, I expect to see more open standards for viewing television online and through products such as the Google TV and the Apple TV. More importantly, however, I am confident that web-based television will ultimately surpass traditional antenna, cable, and satellite television services. Why is this important? The fact of the matter is, that TV networks that neglect to open themselves up to electronic distribution will be left in the dust.
First off, web-based television is truly a win-win for advertisers, producers, and consumers alike. As it stands now, television advertisers are only able to target their advertisements to consumers based on the televisions show and network they are watching. While this is better than not having targeting at all, the fact of the matter is that web-based television would open the doors to my dynamically targeted advertisements and would allow the advertisors to get better impressions as apposed to simply a high number of them. By targeting their audiences, advertisers will ultimately have a better chance at getting a better return on investment.
This is the same concept that we see in Google’s Gmail web-based email, where ads are displayed based on the contents of an individuals email messages. Moreover, the example with Gmail shows that despite initial concerns over privacy, targeted advertising is not something that many people worry about anymore in terms of privacy.
While producers typically do pretty well with the traditional television framework, the fact is that web-based television would give more and more people – people who would have no chance of becoming successful in the current entertainment system – the opportunity to make their content available to the world. By doing so, these people would have a much better chance of obtaining sponsors for their content, ultimately allowing them to further their productions and make better content. Not sure if it will work? Think YouTube.
Perhaps most importantly, web-based content would allow users to have a world of entertainment at their fingertips; wherever and whenever they want. For people who frequently travel or are away from their homes, having their television programing available from anywhere would allow them to keep up-to-date with their favorite shows regardless of the device they are using. The fact that cable television giant Comcast is now making their content available online shows that they realize the importance of this, and ultimately realize that their business depends on their keeping up with the latest innovations in technology.
While some may argue that web-based television would allow an end-user to save television shows offline, it still stands that DVR devices and TV-tuners for computers have allowed people to do the same thing relatively easily for years. Web-based TV would allow for people to make their viewing easier.
I think the one thing that is standing in the way of online television taking off is the fact that the traditional television networks have control of all of the current shows and series. However, if the producers for said series conclude that they’d do better with online distribution, we may be seeing web-based television in the relatively near future. I would even go as far as predicting that the “traditional” cable and satellite companies will begin offering web-based solutions within a year, allowing users to use their own hardware (Apple TV, Google TV, Boxee Box, etc) instead of a standard receiver.