TV Needs to Be Reinvented

Ben Bajarin is the Director of Consumer Technology Analysis and Research at Creative Strategies, Inc, a technology industry analysis and market intelligence firm located in Silicon Valley.

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When I first joined Creative Strategies, Inc. as an analyst in 2000, I started tracking and studying products related to the digital home. There was a lot of talk then and there still is now about innovation with the TV set. Since 2000, when I started, HDTV and DVRs are the only two advancements that have made it to the mass market. Really not much has changed in 11 years and, to be honest, not much has changed in the last 50 years. Color, HDTV, and the DVR are really the only “experiential” evolutions we have seen since television was invented. We still don’t have true anytime-anywhere access to all the content we desire on the screen of our choosing. In my opinion, all of this needs to change. The TV experience needs to be reinvented.

What excites me about things like Samsung’s connected TVs, or Google TV and Apple TV is that for the first time we can begin to see how the TV will become a platform in the future. What I mean by that is that personal computers, smartphones, and tablets are all platforms for software companies to write rich applications and deliver rich services. The TV is the next screen to follow suit, and technologies like Apple TV, Google TV and others are the beginning of how software developers will be able to create new and never before seen experiences for the TV set.

Ways TV Can Be Reinvented

Whenever I speak with folks in the tech industry about this subject, the most common thread about re-inventing TV is the streaming of TV shows directly to the TV set. Those of us who look at future TV trends call this consumer TV “over the top.” This term just means that instead of consuming broadcast content through the cable line and a provider’s set-top box, we consume the same content over the internet through our broadband connection. This is a good idea and is inevitable to some degree. Right now this experience exists through a browser on your PC where you can go to any of the major TV networks sites and begin to watch most of their primetime shows streamed to your PC. This experience is also taking place on tablets and smatrphones through apps like the Hulu Plus app and many others.

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These are all good solutions and will evolve, but none of them represent a fundamentally new way to experience content. When people talk about accessing TV shows on the go and in real time, they are generally just describing a minor evolution of the TV experience, just one that may not need to include a service provider. This is, again, not bad—these are good steps in the right direction, but I think there is more that can be done to reinvent what TV is.

One interesting innovation I’m following is the design of new TV sets using a 20×9 aspect ratio. The standard aspect ratio today is 16×9 and all content, whether it be DVD, game console, or broadcast video is distributed in 16×9 currently. So why a new aspect ratio? Wouldn’t that mean content needs to be re-created? Not in this case. What is happening with 20×9 goes along with what is happening in Smart TV. These new displays would still display all video content in 16×9 but the added space on the sides or top and bottom of the TV display could be used for additional content: things like scrolling news feeds, Twitter feeds, Facebook updates, home alerts and notifications, and data related to what you’re watching on TV.

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