Editorial: TV-Web Convergence Gets Closer to Reality

Jan 20, 2008  •  Post A Comment

Apple founder Steve Jobs last week unveiled a new incarnation of his Apple TV product, which was introduced last year as a bridge between the computer and the television set. Last year’s device was a limited step in that direction; this year’s model is another step that TV executives should examine as a portent for the future.
The big unveil, part of the annual rite known as MacWorld, came as the TV industry continued to atrophy in a writers strike that has the potential to drag on for months. The lack of new shows will drive ratings down further, alienating viewers more and training them to look elsewhere for entertainment.
So what if living-room TV viewers today could access all the Web video that’s being produced in the creative explosion that’s populating the Internet with new content? They certainly would have little difficulty finding entertainment that wasn’t produced and distributed by the current studio-network system. It’s a future the production companies, the networks and the writers ought to think about with some trepidation.
Luckily for today’s dominant players, that isn’t reality yet. The technology is there for so-called early adopters, but an elegant solution has yet to emerge. Still, Apple TV isn’t the only product that moves the media industry in the direction of Web-TV convergence. Sony’s Bravia TV sets facilitate content migration, as do services like Vudu and Akimbo. Microsoft’s Xbox Windows Media Center and the TiVo digital video recorder also are linking the living-room 42-inch flatscreen with the computer screen.
But it’s again Mr. Jobs, who struck the landmark deal in 2005 that put ABC television series on the iTunes store, who seems to be leading the way.
The revamped Apple TV box rolled out alongside the news that Mr. Jobs is adding movie rentals to the iTunes store. So once users’ TVs are connected to their Apple TV box and their Web access, they can rent movies directly on their living-room widescreen. Another key feature lets users watch more than 50 million videos from YouTube using Apple TV.
It seems convergence between the TV and the Web is approaching faster than some had thought. Perhaps the advances Mr. Jobs made with the Apple TV product will serve to remind both sides in the writers strike that they aren’t the only game in town, video-entertainment-wise, and that they should get back to making and distributing content.

Your Comment

Email (will not be published)