Hollywood might be the king of content and Madison Avenue might be raking in the big ad budgets, but the future of TV is being produced outside the United States.
This new version of TV can be found in Sweden, the cold country that brought you IKEA, Volvo, Skype, Spotify, and meatballs. Yep, the country tucked away near the Arctic Circle.
Lets examine this claim with 2 questions:
a) What is the future of television?
b) Why is it being made outside the United States?
Part 1: The future of television:
To see the future, people must to look into the past (or, in this case, the current status quo).
Television is the modern campfire and today’s TV has better content than ever. I love more TV shows now than I did few years back. At the same time, the Internet and the proliferation of devices have given us outlets for entertainment that didn’t exist before, spread throughout the day, across devices, and across scenarios. The Internet has diffused the concept of entertainment and spread it across the network, touching the corners of the globe in a fraction of a second. While the Internet is admittedly entertaining, content on TV is still the real blockbuster.
And for some reason they don’t seem to have a happy marriage.
TV still feels old and archaic. The way we consume TV has changed, but something about TV has not. We buy our TV subscriptions exactly like our grandparents did. It comes with 1-2 year expensive contracts, and maybe a smart DVR box that helps you to record some programs. It comes with a remote. It also comes with 1000’s of channels, and face it, you like HBO more than the 24 hour snooker channel. The real enemy is not your fat clunky TV. Neither is HBO or even that snooker channel. It really is your cable / TV operator. Sure, operators might have online services to help you control your set top box, but if someone invented TV today, I am sure TV would be easier to use.
Current consumer behavior trends point towards an interesting future
1. Although there has not yet been a mass exodus of people leaving their TV operator, “cord cutting” is real. People are giving away their subscription in favor of a completely on-demand world. This New York Times article nails it. Despite the lack of any good alternatives to cable television, people still seem to be leaving it as it costs too much and benefits too little. The TV operator is starting to look like the bad guy
2. Looking at kids as an indicator of the future, we can tell that they “log in more than they turn on,” preferring the Internet to television. They consume a lot of video online, which explains why everyone including Amazon and Netflix is trying to get kids content from cable to their platforms.
3. Having multiple remote controls seems outdated. In Fred Wilson ‘s article “Cheap will be Smart; Expensive will be Dumb,” he rightly argues that our cheap devices would be smart and control expensive devices like TV sets. TV is nothing but a “high fidelity Jambox” that beams content to a giant screen from a smarter device.
4. And oh, haven’t we seen it in the music industry and the print industry? Digital media has yet to transform the biggest industry of them all. Hey, even Steve Jobs said so.
So the task at hand is to scratch everything there is today, take into account trends like the above, and reinvent TV. If I were to consume this future TV, it would be along the following lines:
1. A giant beautiful TV screen. It is big, has all colors and amazing resolution.
2. There is a trustworthy TV provider who is reachable anytime I want, preferably lets me configure my subscription online, and offers me:
1. all the channels I need, which I can customize online, add as I wish, and cancel either without a subscription period or a limited subscription period
2. all the channels on any device I like, so I can watch it on my phone in the tube, or with my pad in my bed, or on the hotel TV when I am traveling
3. all the programs from these channels would be automatically recorded for me, so that I don’t have to choose manually. Auto recording also helps me discover content items I wouldn’t find anywhere else
4. the option to also watch programs live. I might not watch most of the programming live, but I like to keep up with news and follow sports, so that I can brag at work the next day
5. all my channels, live and recorded, are in 1 place, in the same interface (and not multiple apps with their own interface that require me to type with the TV remote), with no quality loss across device.
3. Bonus: if the same provider has Netflix or local VoD players integrated, et voila, take my money
Some may ask how realistic this future is …? We’ll address this in Part 2 tomorrow.