Television on the Internet vs Internet on the Television

Concept Map

Take a second to think about how asinine an idea it is to pay for television and internet separately.

They're essentially the same thing, just a bunch of 1's and 0's being transmitted to a box that knows how to interpret them. Go even look at your cable TV/Internet setup, and you'll notice it's all coming in from the one cable, split into one for internet, one for TV. Why? Is there any difference? No. We just live in a world where one existed before the other, and for as long as we've had high-speed internet, no big provider has been tenacious enough to think of them as one entity instead of two. With hardware like Boxee, the Logitech Revue, Apple TV, and the Sony Internet TV with Google TV, as well as most networks openly posting their content on their respective websites, we're definitely moving in the direction of a kind of symbiosis between internet and television. Heralding a new age in the way we watch tv, ala carte programming (already very much an option thanks to devices like On Demand, and TiVo) interactive programming, and advertising could make television a much more fulfilling and efficient experience for not only watchers, but advertisers alike. Unfortunately, with something as omnipresent as TV, there are inevitably hurdles along the way.

When the networks, tv/internet providers, and hardware manufacturers all have a different idea of how they can make money off of the technology, quite a few conflicts of interest begin to rear their heads. The networks want as much of their programming exposed to as many people as possible, so ad revenue are immediately priorities 1,2,3 and 4. TV/internet providers want something that they currently can't have, pricing based off how much you're consuming (think cell phone minute plans). So if you're watching a lot of internet TV or streaming a lot of music, you're paying more for it. It also could be a tiered pricing model, where unlimited access to certain popular sites cost more than others (think HBO/Cinemax/Showtime/Starz). So for internet providers, sky's the limit, and with owning the lines that run into your house, only a few honest politicains stand in the way of this being the case in our very near future. 

Given the opportunity to see tangible interest in television/internet synchronicity, hardware manufacturers are ever more important. If a typical person had access to the same amount of content online that they currently do on cable, I'm sure they'd embrace internet tv much more. While the internet does boast a very robust amount of content readily available for viewing, most of what we want to watch on TV is only available on the web in short clips of the full episode, and it's also not available fast enough, taking a few hours or even days to be posted to the web. So with so many sites essentially providing the same thing, it becomes more work than fun to find what you want to watch and where. Also, many of the hardware options available today suffer the symptoms of being the firsts of their kind. They're slow, the UI doesn't make sense, they're blocked by ISPs until the ISPs/networks figure out a way to profit off them, they're expensive, they're unsupported, and they're virtually obsolete before you even get it out of the box.

With a proactive cooperation between the networks and internet service providors, as well as a working relationship between the ISPs and hardware manufacturers, we could have 100% interactive television. Targeted and interactive ads, a la carte viewing, and more organized programming based on genre and your personal intersts. It would also reshape the way you watch live programming: sporting events where in-game stats and other games' score are available on demand, being able to tell your provider who your favorite teams are, so you won't have to watch two teams you don't care about because you couldn't fork over the hundreds of dollars for NFL ticket just to watch your favorite team from your home city. Or what about live chatting or using a webcam to watch the programming with family members from another state, suddenly you're able to watch live programming with the ones you love without even needing to be in the same state.

Interactive television truly is the future of in-home entertainment, for consumers and producers alike. Innovation, collaboration, and communication by our ISPs, networks, and hardware manufacturers are the keys to a future where television is people watching what they want, when they want, and how they want to. For advertisers, it'll mean selling the right products to the right people, at the right time, with the right results. Sounds like a win-win.