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Is TV becoming just another screen?

In my next book, CTRL ALT DEL (out in May 2013), there is an entire chapter titled, The One Screen World. In it, I make the argument that the only screen that matters is the screen that is in front of you. That we’re quickly moving from a three screen (or four screen) world to a one screen world (if we haven’t aren’t arrived there). Screens are increasingly becoming more connected. Not just to the Internet, but to one another. So, it makes sense that screens (everything from their price and functionality) will essentially become smart pieces of plastic and glass that connects us to our content. A place where the size and experience will be dictated by how we want to consume and interact with the content. In short, you can watch TV on whichever screen you like, when you like it and how you like it. One person’s Homeland experience can happen in their den on a traditional TV, while another’s can happen on a smartphone on the way to work in the subway, and another’s can happen on their iPad at 39,000 feet in the air.

So, how is TV handling this one screen transition?

Very well, thank you so much for asking. All Things Digital ran a news item the other day titled, Tipping Point? We’re Watching More Web Video on TVs Than on PCs. Here’s the crux of the situation: "Consumer-tracking service NPD says TV sets are now the most popular way to watch streaming video. NPD says 45 percent of consumers report that TV is now their primary Web video screen, up from 33 percent last year. It basically swapped places with the PC, which used to account for 48 percent of viewing but now represents 31 percent. This is a story about devices: NPD figures that 10 percent of homes now have at least one Internet-enabled TV (though I bet that only a minority of them are actually plugged into the Web), and we’re seeing a steady increase in the use of Web-video peripherals, like Blu-ray players, Apple TVs and Microsoft Xbox 360s."

The post PC-world.

PCs are the true victim here. Mobile devices and TVs connected to the Internet are making the PC a relic. Quickly. Don’t listen to what the computer manufacturers are telling you. These are trends that are churning with exponential growth. What makes the All Things Digital piece that much more interesting is that it points to Netflix as a key driver for this shift in consumer consumption behavior. The lesson: give people what they want – cheap and easy – and they’ll adapt to the new landscape faster than you can say, "social media is so yesterday, it’s all about big data now." It’s all about removing friction.

What eight dollars a month gets you.

When you can grab and stream a whole bunch of movies for eight bucks a month, you start seeing the truth about mass adoption (also known as The Tipping Point). People can do the math and they can do it fast. If Apple TV costs about one hundred dollars, and one month of Netflix is eight dollars, you don’t have to be a math wizard to know that it’s equal to about three visits to a movie theater with a friend (and we’re only talking about the price of admission here). Granted, these are not the same entertainment experiences, but having access to that many movies on so many devices makes it an enticing option for those who can’t afford the luxury of having both.

The cloud wins.

We’re at the beginning of networked appliances, but this too is happening at a fast and furious pace. The majority of new TVs for sale are Internet enabled and, as the All Things Digital article suggests, that many people are probably not even plugging them into the Internet… yet. Once they do, and they experience Netflix, there is no turning back. Having that type of content stream is powerful, and that will push towards appliances as well. No, I’m not talking about streaming Netflix to your dishwasher, but I am talking about having full control over your appliances through your screens . The ability to not only manage the devices, but to have the devices being networked to the cloud (and one another) is going to change a lot of things about how we manage our lives (and content will be just one of the many channels).

My guess is that this is all going to happen a lot faster than the majority of us are prepared for. Do you agree?


  1. And, cue the Netflix haters. 😉
    I wholeheartedly agree. I’ve been trying to get my husband to cancel our cable for months now, because 90% of what we watch on our big screen is downloaded content (Netflix, AppleTV, YouTube). I hate having to wait for the top of the hour for a show to come on regular TV. In fact, I’d rather wait till the day after it airs and download it so I don’t have to sit through commercials.
    That’s already my normal. And I agree that it’s going to become everyone else’s normal very, very quickly.

  2. if I cancel DirecTV, that means: No more CNN, CNBC, and a host of other news channels, not to mention local news, KCET (for you West Coast viewers) and PBS.
    No Palladia (VH1’s all live music channel).
    No live sports for period for that matter: no Saturday College Football, no Sunday NFL Football, No Monday Night Football, No NBA Basketball (between Fox Sports West, ESPN, NBA TV and TNT, during the regular season I can almost watch a NBA game every night), no March Madness (expect for CBSSports.com’s crappy stream, chock full on glitches and short on personality). I couldn’t give a rats patootee about baseball (America’s national past time) or Hockey (Canada’s national past time), but they’re out too.
    Howard Stern, King of All Media, has ascended a new throne appearing on prime time TV with America’s Got Talent – housefrau’s (as Howard refers to them) who purported to hate him have discovered how good he is, they’re into him now.
    Scripted series shows is only a small component of TV’s media offering. TV is as much, if not more, about live programing, news, events, etc… And viewers are into the ‘personalities.” As much as I disdain Fox News, they’re genuinely speaking to their audience – Fox News viewers don’t just tune in for the news, they tune in for Bill O’Riley’s asinine take and arrogant delivery of the “news.” Sports fans live for Dick Vitale’s completely overblown crescendo that passes for sports color sports commentating.
    It’s impossible to argue Netfix isn’t cool: I can stream grips of movies and TV shows directly to my Web enable TV. But Netflix’s doesn’t do live events – it’s all canned content that could in essence be considered “stale.”
    And the internet news and sports coverage doesn’t do personalities on the scale of Bill O’Riley or Dick Vitale.

  3. Mitch you nailed it. We’ve not had cable or satellite for years.
    All our TVs are connected to the Internet. Mostly through apple TVs. This is huge because it means every person that walks into our house can play video on any of our TVs. We tend to gather around big screens to share YouTube videos now (that is until Apple castrated the YouTube player by preventing it from using Airplay…I can’t see that lasting long).
    We’re really becoming screen agnostic for media consumption. Interestingly we’re not tweeting or face booking from our TVs and really don’t want to. But we we are interacting on our iPhones while they stream a movie to our 60inch LCD :-).

  4. Totally agree! We have our big screen online in two ways: TiVo & our Blueray player. We have such a 1st world problem, is netflix faster through the blueray or tivo? However, I chatted with my coworkers and they looked at me like I was crazy when I said our tv is connected to the internet. Times will change soon!

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