In just the last few days, there were a few news announcements that, separately, were kind of ho-hum. But together, it appears that the stars are suddenly starting to align for the next generation of television, one that's more of an on-demand Internet-based experience, instead of a schedule-driven feed from broadcasters.
- First, Bloomberg published a report on Monday about TiVo that said that the DVR pioneer - armed with a major victory in a patent infringement lawsuit against Dish Network Corp. - was gearing up for a major expansion "onto every U.S. pay-television system."
- On Tuesday, TiVo announced a partnership with Quantcast, a company that provides online audience analytics, to offer a "cross-platform audience analysis solution" that will allows advertisers to measure the web activity generated by a television commercial and vice-versa.
- The same day, Vizio announced more partners in its Via Connected HDTV feature, notably eBay, Twitter and Facebook. The feature, which will be found in specific sets later this year, is powered by Yahoo TV Widgets engine and brings Web apps and on-demand video directly to the set via WIFi (802.11n) or Ethernet connections.
- Finally, on Wednesday, there was news of a partnership between Comcast and Time Warner to offer "cable television" programming on the Internet - but only on behind the wall of a authentication system that would require that viewers be subscribers of a cable or satellite service.
Suddenly, we've got Comcast and Time Warner looking for ways to put more content online without losing their revenue stream, Vizio gearing up to launch Web-enabled TV sets and TiVo working on an advanced analytics system that will allow for a flow of advertising dollars in this new form of "television."
When I first saw Yahoo TV Widgets Engine demonstrated at the Intel Developer's Forum last summer, I was impressed. I couldn't wait to get that technology into my own living room - but figured it would be some time before we'd see it in play. A year later, it's becoming reality - and I'm still excited.
(Suddenly, I envision a Showtime App on my screen that allows me to pay for a season of Dexter or a month's worth of access so I can watch all of the other programming, as well. This, of course, is just my wishlist. No announcements that I know of.)
It wasn't that long ago that people looked at me with a confused look in their eyes while I explained TiVo to them. (We were early adopters. My kids have only known life with a DVR.) It was a foreign concept and changed the way they would watch television. The idea of Web-enabled TV and interactive advertising are new - but the idea of some programming being free and other programming costing extra (over-the-air broadcast vs. cable/satellite) is not so crazy.
This is the future of television. Are we ready?