Commentary

How The Second Screen Will Come Of Age (Part 2)

Last week, I offered my opinion on how Apple’s iBeacon technology had the capability to turbo-charge the development of the second-screen space by bringing seamless transactional and promotional functionality to a living room near you.
 
The article did the rounds of the Twitterverse and seemed to go down quite well. But was predicated on the promise of a future, in which Apple rolled out AppleTV more successfully to get the distribution that is needed to deliver advertiser opportunities at scale.
 
Silly me. Imagine my reaction on Tuesday of this week when Media Daily News published a report of a story broken in The Wall Street Journal about Apple’s proposal for a cloud-based live TV and on-demand streaming service through a partnerships with cable companies, such as Comcast.
 
If they manage to pull this off, we are likely to see the future I wrote about last week much sooner than I thought likely or even possible. But it makes perfect sense on a number of levels.
 
For Apple, partnering with the cable providers represents a shortcut to a massive leap in scale over anything that even they could achieve organically. Instead of building an installed user base, they become an integral part of the existing one — and one which accounts for the majority of households in the country.
 
For the cable providers, it means the banishment of the set top box — a cumbersome and increasingly old-school technology that has long-since held back the development of what could theoretically be done if only the boxes could handle it. 

Every cable provider has multiple generations of set top boxes in the market place, and it has long been a hindrance in delivering new services across their national operating footprint. The boxes themselves would likely be replaced by either a smaller AppleTV like device (with Apple’s technology inside) or that same technology increasingly built into the TVs themselves, which can only be a matter of time.
 
For the content providers, it would mean a set of enhanced capabilities that could generate incremental revenue — not just the transactional functions made possible by the iBeacon technology related to advertising and programming, but  the delivery of enhanced advertising experiences beyond the constraints of the spot or the brand integration.
 
And, of course, for consumers, it will inevitably give them greater control over what they consume and how they do it. Hopefully, the new dynamic this kind of functionality offers will be intelligently deployed (we shall see), and viewers won’t be assailed with thekind of communication that turns them off the whole idea and merely serves to drive more and different manifestations of ad or marketing avoidance.
 
One thing is for sure — if the not insignificant legal and business hurdles can be overcome so that Apple, the cable companies and the content providers can reach a point where each is satisfied with how the relationships are structured, we could see the future of the living room become an exciting reality sooner than expected.
 

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