The rise of Social TV, and the future of home entertainment…?

29 Aug

Recently, I spotted the following forum threads with people discussing upcoming features or changes to existing British Satellite TV Broadcaster Sky’s own set-top TV box and internet router.

Sky TV HD box changes

  • Boxes in UK to have “anytime+” renamed as “on-demand” or “catch-up”.
  • All set-top boxes to provide all UK on-demand players such as those from BBC, ITV, C4 and C5 with new UI.

New Sky Broadband router called Sky Hub

  • New device being tested which may provide all your net based entertainment / media needs inc content streaming, cloud storage, ultra fast broadband access, multi device control/connectivity etc

As a quick aside, all this will not be helping YouView’s cause much, and I suspect this is the way all ISP’s and subscription TV providers will be going shortly.

All this got me thinking and I started to imagine what the world of home entertainment and Social TV would be like in the near future. I doubt much of what i say ahead is earth shatteringly new to those into tech and social, but hey! In no particular order, I had the following thoughts…

Goodbye TV schedules?

I envisage use of a dish / tuner / aerial for TV reception will becoming redundant in the years ahead, as I see all TV viewing being schedule-less, all on-demand and self selected, and delivered via set-top box or built into TV’s with web connection pulling in feeds for content via high-speed broadband. This will lead to far less household wiring or the need for multiple boxes in multiple rooms, as TVs or Tablet’s / Smartphone’s would access all hub content and functions wirelessly around the home. Also, no “remote control” as we would be using our Smartphone or tablet as a 2nd screen or controlling device – already seen in recent updated Sky TV apps and Zeebox plans.

I imagine schedules would be replaced by user-generated playlist of shows taken from the cloud, or content provider “smart mixes” or playlists of popular or recommended blocks of viewing. These may be built in conjunction with programme makers or advertisers, or based on individual users viewing preferences or habits (intelligent self-created playlists).

I see cloud based storage for all “recordings” will also lead to no need for built-in hard drives for set-top boxes for recordings. Users would “tag” shows they want to store or retrieve to a new “virtual recordings planner”, and then they will pull the same single cloud stored version of show that all users will get, into their box for streaming. So that would mean smaller, quicker, quieter and cheaper set-top boxes in that case, but a massive amount more servers required by content providers?

Platform wars – Apple vs. Google…Again?

I started to wonder if this would all lead to fully fledged Apple TV vs. Google TV platform war. Will users end up trying to choose between an iOS type interface and eco system or an Android equivalent in a new system war for the TV world?

Will people want a user interface and apps from Apple or from someone else? Will Sky or others buy in to the Apple or others UI and build it into their boxes, or will they adopt their boxes for all customers?

Apple likes to have control over its end to end product line e.g. iPhone (hardware), iTunes (Content), iOS (software). Will they want to partner with someone like Sky to offer set-top box or software/UI for use with customers, or will they become a fully fledged content provider selling channels and shows via own boxes exclusively, competing with Sky etc? If rumours of an Apple set-top box are true, then we may already have some idea?

Convergence

Also, will such a convergence of technology lead to a more integrated piece of hardware that does it all – stream all media content from all channels, act as a fully fledged broadband router or media hub, provide access to cloud based hub of all on demand content, connect to other devices such as laptop or Smartphone, allow user to install apps and browse web, integrate VOIP and / or land line telephony and voicemails, allow for control / access remotely and via other devices (via apps or web) etc?

I can see how all of this would reduce gadget clutter, and pull together a series of related and connected tools for home based entertainment and communications, but even then it won’t really need to just be home based. It would allow for access and viewing anywhere anytime via connected app or website login.

One thing I’m unsure of, and still seems undecided is whether all of this will be integrated into full-fledged ‘Smart TV’, or will the separation of set-top box and the device used to view/control content remain separate or blurred? I think slave devices or 2nd screens may win out here.

New opportunities – Wireless frequencies and ‘TV Apps’

A question I asked myself was would the freeing up of broadcasting frequencies and satellite channels (if an all on demand/cloud based distribution model), lead to interesting new opportunities for wireless communications such as those seen for 4G rollout etc? Maybe don’t tear down the masts, dishes and aerials quite yet, but it’s an interesting thought?

I also started to get excited by the potential for the sorts of Apps developers may go on to create in this new eco system where an entertainment hub or portal in a person’s home exists in this way.

Imagine the clever things people would create, such as content mash-up apps, content management apps, social TV apps and utility type apps? Zeebox and Sky are already travelling down this route and stealing a march in this area with their recent partnership. With full connectivity and device integration, the truly social TV experience will go mainstream.

Also, what about apps that are non-content related, but make use of hub box and viewing screen such as a random idea i had of an app that links to family members Smartphone’s so users watching at home can have a widget or alert that tells them another family members current location/distance from home on a mini map (with ETA), whilst having content (TV show) showing full screen at the same time? Or is this one of things Robert Scoble would label as being ‘over the freaky line’?

If we combine this new home entertainment world and all its new tools and features, with the ability to wirelessly connect to home appliances and other systems via hardware and software already in existence (e.g. Nest), the truly connected home really is closer than we think?

Would it also open up the possibility for new entrants into the market? The likes of TNW would have less barriers to entry in the setting up and broadcasting multimedia content to a mass audience (with ease and at low-cost), via an “App Store” or similar. Content creators could produce items that users could subscribe to via their set-top box or new app.

Trouble ahead for some?

One thing is for sure, in this new entertainment content provider world, advertising and advertising models will need to change if all content is on-demand with no schedules.

Perhaps an increase in forced viewing of adverts like for on-demand programming on YouView, will occur more often, or maybe we will see more in-show advertising? How will this new landscape I am picturing be exploited and invaded to serve the needs of the advertiser?

Also, what about the barriers to entry into British broadcasting? The need for access to a frequency or a channel would reduce. Content providers such as Fox, HBO, NBC and others would have fewer hurdles to physically reach consumers.

Would there be more competition for viewers through increased access content by consumers? Would this also impact the release dates of globally popular programming where UK vs. US consumers see shows launch at different times (typically seen first in US).

Would hardware manufacturers also be affected in a positive or a negative way by such a new device and business model?

Who will win out in the end?

In my opinion, the USP’s that customers will be looking for, or home entertainment distributors such as Apple, Google or Sky TV will be:

  • Access to a wide selection of content from all sources (TV shows, movies, apps),
  • High quality of service (buffering, streaming, low amount of service down time)
  • Simple and elegant user interface (ease of use)

The one with the widest selection of popular programming in high-definition at a good price point delivered fully on-demand with simplicity will win out.

Final Thought

A lot to ask? Maybe not, since most of these things exist via individual providers, but it’s just not joined up and served up by 1 single provider. And with 4G speeds rolling out soon, and ever-increasing broadband speeds and access to these speeds, it’s fast becoming a realistic proposition.

2 Responses to “The rise of Social TV, and the future of home entertainment…?”

  1. rorys reivers (@rorysreivers) August 29, 2012 at 1:49 PM #

    Not much hope of the brave new world for rural people then… dial up just doesn’t cut it.

    • Matt Navarra August 29, 2012 at 1:51 PM #

      True. Hopefully rollout of high speed broadband will finally push up rural speeds quickly and more widely.

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