Google, Apple, Netflix are among those trying to shape 21st Century TV

Google, Apple, Netflix are among those trying to shape 21st Century TV

Summary: As television evolves into its own 21st Century version, the forces behind the scenes are working hard to carve out their own niche, thought it will be tough to guess which model will do best among viewers.


The thing to remember about the future of television is that, someday soon, the TV screen itself will no longer be all that important. The on-screen interaction and consumer experience is what will determine the path for the next business model of television.

This week, there were three developments related to television that offer us a glimpse into what's happening behind the scenes and how these forces might come together - or collide - in the years to come.

First, Netflix said on Tuesday that it had reached a deal to add movies from Paramount Pictures, Lions Gate and MGM to its online subscription service. And while that sounds like a deal that's more about movies and the Internet, it certainly has an impact on television. Remember, Netflix - via game consoles and soon Internet-enabled TV screens - is becoming another content provider for that living room "screen." That goes directly at the cable and satellite TV providers, who are also in the business of distributing some of those same films via PayTV channels.

Second, Google and DirecTV announced a partnership on Wednesday that allows Google to open its Google TV Ads inventory to the networks available on DirecTV. Technically, Wednesday's news had nothing to do with GoogleTV, a new service that's expected to be launched in the fall. At this point, Google has really only talked up the user experience of GoogleTV, which opens the content offerings to not only regular television programming but other forms of video content on the Web, as well. Still, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to understand why Google would want to tie the content and advertising sides of the business together. After all, content and advertising on television have been working hand-in-hand since before the days of Lucille Ball and Jackie Gleason.

Finally, later Wednesday, the online rumor mill kicked into gear over a buzz about a long overdue update to AppleTV, which reportedly could include apps and the return to an old name (iTV) but won't be upgraded to stream 1080p HD quality programming. For years, Apple has been referring to AppleTV as a hobby and, despite a not-so-impressive upgrade last fall, the company hasn't said much about where it might take the product/service in the future. Still, the company hasn't dismissed it, saying that there's a there there somewhere. A report on Engadget yesterday, which cited a "trusted Engadget source" offered only a few details and basically said to keep an eye out for AppleTV/iTV news later this year.

Now that Vizio is doing for High-Definition television what Dell did for the PC market - making it affordable to have one in every home - the companies behind the content and advertising business can finally start rolling out business models to take television as we've known it for the last 60 or so years and really give it the 21st Century makeover that it needs.

What will it look like? That's hard to say, obviously, but it seems that Google has an approach that's likely to ruffle the fewest feathers - at least on the content side. GoogleTV is aggregating content from across local, cable/satellite and Web (think Hulu, Amazon, YouTube and the network sites) to give the viewer the ability to truly watch anything he or she desires with a quick search. Throw some ad dollars into the mix - without actually changing what consumers are already accustomed to - and it could set the stage for victory in this space.

But that's not say that Apple couldn't make a strong showing in this space, too, especially when you consider that the iPad is almost like a portable TV screen that can stream video. Can the company find a way to apply the app model to AppleTV, or will it continue to be an extension of iTunes the way the older model is? I won't even begin to guess what Apple has up its sleeve - but I will go out on a limb to note that whatever Apple comes up with, it's likely to have a user interface that resonates well with users.

As the competitive landscape heats up, it will be interesting to watch as Silicon Valley, not Hollywood, takes on a bigger role in the transformation of TV.

Topics: Hardware, Google, Mobility

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  • Wow, Sam!

    "I will go out on a limb to note that whatever Apple comes up with, it?s likely to have a user interface that resonates well with users." You are a real risk taker, Sam!
    • RE: Google, Apple, Netflix are among those trying to shape 21st Century TV

      @frabjous - quiet.<br><br>iTunes being a great example of "works for a set of predefined circumstanes only, but dare to inquire or organize things that way YOU want and it becomes a frustrating hurdle-ridden waste of time." Been there, done that myself.
  • battle lines aren't even drawn yet

    I think we're still a ways out from knowing whose turf is whose. Google's agreement with Verizon suggests that maybe the big broadband internet providers realize that they're not going to be allowed to play favorites with their own vs. other companies' content - but that the wireless space is still negotiable.

    The thing that worries me most, in all honesty, is the possibility that Apple will try to lock up some portion of that space with a combination of platform, apps, and content licensing that DOES allow them to block other content providers, and Apple customers will let it happen.
  • i haven't had cable or sat in almost a year

    Most of What I like to watch can be found on hulu and netflix, although there are some shows that aren't supported, for whatever reason, and they do take approx a week (in hulu's case) before I can watch new episodes. The fate of 21st century TV is that cable and sat companies are going to switch to isp's. You can do everything on the internet now. For what I save by not having a lan line phone and cable, its a wonder more people don't do it. If you look at a bill, lets say $99.99/mo for a tripple bundle from Cox or Comcast, drop the phone and TV, you're looking at ~$45.00/mo. now add Netflix, $9.00/mo. Plus any taxes or misc. fees, you're looking at ~$60/mo. That's a $40 decrease. Now add a $20/yr. magic Jack and you have a $460/year savings. May seem small, but all of the little savings add up.
  • RE: Google, Apple, Netflix are among those trying to shape 21st Century TV

    I rarely use or watch tv anymore and for what little media entertainment I consume I get from online services like Netflix for TV Shows I like but can't get home in time to watch and movies. I have started using Napster as my source for experiencing music. All this on the go via my laptop, when I get a chance. Its amazing how we need less powerful laptops than we used to have to have, but the high end PC market still has a place for some. I do not use iTunes on a PC anymore I have and use, and Love Media Center on the PC. Anyone need a cheap ipod or 4? We selling all of our since the new Droid phone has a ample media player. Bye Bye iTunes and Apple for me. Let the PC rule.
  • Re: Google, Apple, Netflix . . .not news

    Another ZDNet story with no substance written just to get website hits. Where is the discussion of GoogleTV or the TV Everywhere initiative by Jeff Bewkes and Brian Roberts, the CEOs of Time Warner and Comcast. Opinions on press releases are is not news.