Internet TV: Here already?
According to this piece in Sunday’s New York Times, the reason we do not have full convergence between the Internet and television is because TV manufacturers do not want it.
From the article by longtime Times tech reporter Matt Richtel:
“Sony’s stance is that consumers don’t want an Internet-like experience with their TVs, and we’re really not focused on bringing anything other than Internet video or widgets to our sets right now,” said Greg Belloni, a spokesman for Sony.
Ditto for Sharp Electronics. “I don’t think that consumers are yet ready to access all content on the Internet on the TV,” said Bob Scaglione, senior vice president for marketing at the Sharp Electronics Marketing Company of America.
It’s true that TVs don’t really come prepackaged with Internet chips so that we can find and watch Internet programming as easily as we can surf our electronic program guides. It would be cool for Hulu to be a channel on my EPG just like TBS or CNN. It would also save space because I wouldn’t have to record Heroes, House or 24, like I did last night.
Eventually there will be the kind of hardware-based Internet TV convergence Richtel is talking about, and it will probably come sooner rather than later. But there’s also already quite a bit of convergence, and I can’t disagree more strongly with Scaglione that consumers are “not yet ready to access Internet content on the TV.” Maybe consumers don’t want to access all Internet programming, but I’m sure a lot of people would like to have the option to watch video off the Internet on their living-room flat-screen.
Already TV and the Internet have merged quite a bit. I can watch all sorts of Internet programming over my TiVo. Once you get the TiVo box, it doesn’t require any sort of hardware upgrade or swap. And I know plenty of people who now don’t see a reason to pay for cable when they can watch most of what they want online for free. If I miss an episode of Lost, I can just go to ABC.com and watch it. If I want to catch up on last Sunday’s Meet the Press, I just go to MSNBC.com. I can’t find every show I want to see for free, but if I’m willing to shell out $1.99, I can get almost anything I want on iTunes.
I don’t yet see how distributing TV shows for free helps any of the revenue partners – the cable company, the production studio or the network – but it’s definitely helping the consumer.
In fact, I would argue that if the mainstream manufacturers don’t get on the stick, upstarts and consumer habits are going to pass them by. It’s no big deal for me to grab my laptop and watch TV shows over our wireless network via cable broadband. And the Times talks about companies such as Gordon Campbell’s Personal Web Systems that are building $150 adapters that will Internet-enable TVs.
Regardless of whether manufacturers want to stick a chip into their sets, the Internet already has crashed into television and in a big way. If TV manufacturers want to be a part of it, the time is now.