• Meet the TV Viewer of the Future - You Might Not Recognize Her

    Over the last several years, the TV landscape has changed at an almost frenetic pace. Everything from the shows we watch to the devices we watch them on looks different than it did just a decade ago.  More and more of us own TVs that facilitate choosing from an unprecedented amount of content that we can watch on our terms. In fact, a recent study revealed that the number of American households with Internet-enabled TVs has doubled in just the past four years, from 24 percent to 49 percent.

    Connected TVs, however, are just one of a deluge of new products and services that are quickly shaping consumer behavior and bringing about massive change. So much in fact, that the TV viewer of the future will look very different than she does today. She’ll be savvier and more discerning than her contemporary counterpart… and she’ll need to be, in order to navigate the labyrinth of options available to her. Read on for four predictions on what she’ll look like.

    If she lives in a small city, she’ll probably have Google Fiber…

    On the heels of a highly successful deployment in Kansas City, analysts have become very bullish on the prospects for Google Fiber, predicting that it could become “a serious competitor to existing cable operators.” And while consumers would likely welcome such an option, the reality is that regulatory complexity in states like California and the scale of the infrastructure needed to launch a fiber optic network make it unlikely that Google will roll out the service to most medium and large cities. It’s much easier, after all, to rip up a town like Kansas City than say, New York or San Francisco.

    … but if not, she’ll probably have everything streamed to her TV.

    Consumers in the rest of the country will move to a world in which all content is streamed to their TV. Set-top boxes will disappear and be replaced by smart TVs, gaming consoles and streaming players. Even DVRs will be rendered unnecessary as all content becomes available on demand. Consumers who want hi-definition TV from someone other than their cable company will be able to have it delivered over next generation wireless networks (5G!) that will be fast and available in all major cities. Most importantly, today’s data caps on wireless data will probably disappear as it becomes significantly cheaper to offer broadband speeds over the air.

    She’ll be more likely to get content from piracy sites.

    Although online piracy is nothing new, it’s going to accelerate significantly in the next few years for two primary reasons. The first is that the barriers to entry are being lowered. While file-sharing sites and the small size of MP3s made music piracy relatively easy, the threshold for TV and movie piracy has historically been much higher.

    Recently, a new site launched that I believe will change all of that and make it significantly easier for viewers to view and download pirated content. The site, Popcorn Time, allows users to bypass the cumbersome process of using a BitTorrent client, with one-click streaming like that in a Netflix-like user interface. The end result is a high degree of usability that will likely entice even viewers who aren’t terribly tech savvy.

    The second factor is a more gradual shift in attitude. A significant portion of today’s Internet users grew up in the absence of both physical media and major barriers to the illegal sharing of content. They don’t have the same appreciation for things like copyright law as those of us who grew up with CDs and DVDs and before iTunes, Napster and Spotify and thus, are more likely to illegally stream or download content.

    Ultimately, I believe that the result will be increased incentive for content rights holders to offer good economic value and great usability for this next generation of tech-savvy TV viewers.

    She’ll be craving a more streamlined experience.

    The proliferation of services like Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, Hulu and HBO Go has forced consumers to maneuver between various platforms in order to access the content they want. And while today, most don’t mind navigating back and forth, managing multiple subscriptions, log-ins and interfaces in exchange for that content, this tolerance is likely to erode in the next few years. The average consumer will want to watch both the latest episode of her favorite show, as well as all the ones that came before it, in one seamless experience.

    She’ll also want that experience to translate to various devices, so that she can start a show on her TV and easily pick it back up on her phone when she leaves the house. We’ll see attempts from various entities to combat this through aggregation, universal search and possibly even an OS that works across multiple connected TVs, however today’s fragmentation is likely to persist for a long time to come. 

The options for the type and amount of content we watch and how that content makes its way to our living rooms are flourishing all around us.  My guess is that most of these changes will come about even sooner than we expect - with the industry changing a mile a minute, I find that even the most prescient of predictions can be turned on their head. The one thing that I am confident about is that we’re moving towards a future in which consumer choice and flexibility trump everything else. That’s one trend I think we can all be excited about.

    (Note: Clearleap is a VideoNuze sponsor)