The saying goes, “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.” Evan Hansen, Editor in Chief at Wired.com, spoke at the Toronto Board of Trade last Monday; he contended that new TV business models have failed because there is really nothing wrong with TV. There is no question that TV has done a great job of fulfilling the low cost and convenience aspects of the entertainment experience. Many consumers own a High Definition (HD) flat screen set allowing for a quality entertainment experience at a vey low cost. The average monthly cost of subscribing to TV is $0.78 per hour (using 3 hr1 per day/30 days per month with a $70 cable or satellite package). There is no other entertainment form as inexpensive as TV that one person or the whole family can enjoy.
I will argue in this post that TV is in fact broken in the sense that it has failed to bring true innovation to consumers. It is not the TV set itself that is the problem; it is the whole ecosystem from content to distribution that has failed to bring as much into the living room as what is currently technologically possible. I am speaking from a Canadian perspective as many new innovations are available in other countries including the USA. I will summarize the main issues as follows:
-We have no choice. The incumbents (Bell, Telus, Rogers, Videotron) are a strong force controlling the content, the access and the introduction of new TV technology (other than the set itself) to consumers.
-It is difficult to find something we want to watch and channel surfing can get frustrating. It would be much more useful to have a simple search field to enter some terms and have the guide populate itself with what is available based on our search terms.
-TV is not engaging. It is a laid back experience which is good when we want to turn off our brains. However, it could include interactive applications for when we do want to participate.
-There is a lack of content. We should be able to get as much on the TV as what we can find online. As a Canadian, however, it is very frustrating to be blocked from accessing Hulu or any of the online US-based “catch-up TV” content sites.
As consumers we deserve more. I think we can get more at the same or lower cost with true innovation. This innovation could come from the Incumbents but without the incentive to make the effort, I do think they will bother. Or, it can come from a new entrant with enough guts and creativity to turn the current business models upside-down and really shake up the industry.
1 – Actual number of hours varies widely between different age group. Please see Table 2, Page 20 of the CRTC Report titled Navigating Convergence: Charting Canadian Communications Change and Regulatory Implications for their 2009 research data.