Custom TV Beyond the Conventional
Sep 1, 2002 12:00 PM, NATHANIEL HECHT
DO THINGS STILL SEEM TO BE MOVING PAINFULLY SLOW IN THE area of custom TV, or is it just me?
I hesitate to predict the future, because I don't want to end up eating my words. (I recall reading that someone once predicted that mail would be delivered in the future by guided missile — so much for good ideas.) I'm sure everyone is a bit sick of the word convergence by now, but I see it more as a puzzle with pieces that are coming together. It is way beyond TV.
Digital entertainment is continuing to evolve, though in many ways the public really isn't in the know. Most people see content through cable, broadcast TV, rental video and DVD, and pay-per-view just about the same way they have always seen it: on the big box in the living room. Yet a new way to view is in the works, and it involves paying for content to see whenever your heart desires. That will happen because there is an economy of scale in providing one big service broadband network to your home or business, and it will carry not only digital movies and TV but also video games, Internet video and music, and maybe some things yet to be imagined.
Frankly, conventional providers are not even scratching the surface yet. True, some broadcasting companies provide programming for digital televisions, and there is some new and exciting display technology out there. But cable doesn't offer anything really exciting that doesn't involve the use of a computer and a television (as is the case with interactive TV programming, and who really wants to do that?). The public wants a one-box solution, but it isn't clear if it will be provided by the game companies, such as Sony and Nintendo, or the existing set-top box manufacturers and value adds such as Motorola, TiVo, Liberate Technologies, Open TV, or Microsoft. However, don't count out the owners of the content. Many leading analysts suggest that a few giant companies such as TimeWarner, News Corp., Microsoft, and Sony will be the big competitors by offering custom TV services.
Once the companies that own the digital content start providing the solutions for distribution and the platform upon which the distribution will take place, the era of custom access to TV shows, movies, music, and games will be here. But why stop there? If broadband access becomes a reality through a black box, why not add telephone and Internet access? Because the box will have an operating system as part of its architecture — which could certainly control peripherals such as security, audio, video, appliances, HVAC, wireless devices, and lighting — why not have the system interface with the wired or wireless home or business network so it can become the central controller? It is obvious how this kind of technology will touch everyone, as well as the businesses of the future. It is not a question of will it happen, but when. Stay tuned — S&VC will keep you informed every step of the way.