Cable Companies Beware: Google and Netflix are Coming for You
As smart TVs slowly take over living rooms, the question is not whether traditional cable companies and television networks will evolve alongside the change in television, but how. Because whether the kings of traditional cable such as Time Warner Cable (NYSE:TWC) or satellite providers like DirecTV (NASDAQ:DTV) like it or not, Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) and Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) are attempting to change television forever sooner rather than later.
GigaOM recently ran a three-part article chronicling the slow progress of smart TVs and how Netflix and Google are doing their very best to accelerate the process. Their study of current smart TVs is likely similar to what you’ve experienced if you have one at home: they can be clunky, slow, and simply don’t work as well as your tablet or even smartphone. Even Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) popular TV leaves something be desired when it comes to user experience.
“I don’t think that you will find a single person who says that it’s fun to use a smart TV,” Scott Mirer, Netflix’s Partner Devices Director, says. However, Mirer and Netflix want to change that with the streaming-service now pushing manufacturers to start thinking outside the traditional cable box.
“[Modern TVs] are really still old-style linear TVs with some network feature bolted on,” Mirer explains. For starters, Netflix wants to change that by pushing manufacturers to include features such as on-screen navigation that makes it easier to find and launch apps, adding a sleep mode that can be controlled by tablets and other wireless standards, and simplifying remote controls.
There’s also the issue of apps themselves. As GigaOM points out, there’s Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, Pandora (NYSE:P), and not much else. “We need to have four, five, six other experiences that are as compelling as Netflix to see that adoption really increase,” John Gilles, Director of New Media at the interactive design agency Code and Theory, says.
But one of the main sticking points does seem to be the remote control. While traditional TV seemingly benefited from a very linear method of changing channels and searching for content, smart TV opens up a whole new range of possibilities — instead of scrolling through the sports channels on traditional cable, users might search for sports in way much closer to how one would search on a computer. Along with search engine style surfing, the focus on voice control is likely to be one of the main features of smart TVs as new ones start to arrive — although voice controls already do exist in small numbers.
Now, Google’s recently announced Chromecast, a USB-like device that allows content to be streamed from nearly any device to the TV screen, has onlookers buzzing about the future of television — and traditional cable companies cowering. Traditional pay-TV providers like Time Warner Cable or Dish Network (NASDAQ:DISH) could potentially see the entire industry move towards internet streaming television and have as of yet not found any way to defend themselves from such a move.
Media companies and networks also have reason to worry because pay-TV providers pay fees for the rights to their programming. However, the media companies and television networks are seemingly much better equipped to adapt to the changing environment as CBS (NYSE:CBS) recently displayed when it made headlines for signing a deal with Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) prior to the premiere of the hit show Under the Dome.
The success of Under the Dome shows that the networks and media companies can survive as the times change, and we will likely see more networks strike similar deals in the coming months after the raw data is revealed from the Amazon partnership. You can expect similar Netflix deals in the near future. Traditional cable companies and satellite providers, however, don’t appear to have many options when it comes to the future of television. It might already be too late for them to do anything to avoid going the way of the dinosaurs.