Connected Devices Push TV Everywhere Initiatives Forward
All of the above support video, and as iTunes has shown, users will pay to download movies. According to Apple's "Rewind 2009" list, feature films like "Twilight" and "Pineapple Express" were among the top iTunes downloads for '09.
The pay-to-play model got some interesting traction last week with YouTube's announcement of a Netflix-esque movie rental service. And of course, Apple's new device will be connected to iTunes, the established home of legal pay-for-play content distribution.
The rise of connected devices, and with them the pay-for-play model, represents a challenge to traditional cable broadcasters, who are making not-particularly bold choices when it comes to "TV Everywhere"-style distribution models.
To me it appears that in an effort not to make a bad decision -- valid goal -- the cable operators are operating pilot programs and testing new technology at a deliberate pace, and not placing bold enterprise-wide bets on TV Everywhere.
I understand the hesitation: cable operators must make the decision that protects their centrality and profitability. Literally billions of dollars are on the line. But if the major providers' decisions and plans are not executed swiftly and decisively, I can see a scenario where connected devices will corner the market on the concept of TV Everywhere. One day, that may even mean users canceling their service en masse, which is obviously a nightmare scenario for the cable business.
Curiously, even though these devices somewhat threaten the major cable operator versions of TV Everywhere, they are also a driving force behind them. I predict that connected devices, and specifically the iPad, will force cable operators to pay attention to the way their customers consume content.
Today's announcement of the Apple tablet is a big step forward for pay-to-play. In trademark fashion, Apple appears to be kick-starting another technology and content delivery revolution.
That revolution isn't limited to video, either. We've all heard the talk of the iPad reshaping the newspaper, magazine, and book industries in the same way the iPod reshaped the music business. If even a small percentage of that develops, it's great news for "old media," which may get a new lease on life. Who wouldn't want to read Sports Illustrated if it came complete with video highlights?
Another winner when it comes to premium video content is film and television studios. Whether pay-to-play, TV Everywhere, or some hybrid version of the two takes hold, the studios will soon enjoy clear delivery, security and monetization standards.
Back to my main point here. I think Apple's new device is a game-changer for TV Everywhere. Complete convenience and availability -- albeit at a premium cost -- will soon be a widespread expectation among users. And traditional cable providers won't be able to hold off their decision-making much longer.
To stay in the game, cable operators need to take bold action now and start delivering content to users wherever they are. In other words, they need to start delivering on the promise of TV Everywhere -- before somebody else does.