Let's be honest. We are essentially talking about a commodity product; there is really very little difference between all of the providers when it comes down to it. At this point in the evolution of television content distribution all of the providers offer HD, a robust library of on-demand programming, DVR, high speed internet and phone services. Yes, costs and packages vary and at any given moment one offering may be more enticing than another, but it all evens out in the end and they essentially offer the same service.
So why do I jump?
Yes, I do like trying new technologies and having the Latest-Dot-0 version of whatever device I am carrying around. But it really stems from a general and nearly complete dissatisfaction with the user interface provided by the cable companies. They are, and have always been, archaic. And it has never been truer than now. We are at the peak technological innovation (though I guess that is always true) yet the interface on our televisions is more akin to the TV Guide magazine that came to my house as a kid than what we are all used to based on today's Web-driven world.
Online we have content being shared and distributed in every possible direction and it has become commonplace to see rich content just about everywhere we go. So I ask: why can't this extend to our living rooms? Why can't the interface, in short, be more Webified?
I see two areas where the user experience is greatly lacking: The first is the interface itself, typically slow and illogical. You either have to know exactly where the program you want to watch is listed or be willing to sort through pages of information to find what you want. Search functionality is weak at best and there is no hint of recommendations based on user preferences.
The second area is companion content. Television content begs for companion data to enrich the user experience. Any major category of programming would be greatly enhanced by adding a layer of information viewers can access at their discretion. A few cases in point:
Question:Red Sox game on and I want to know what Varitek is hitting this year.
Solution:Stat feed from mlb.com that shows, through real time stats, he is at .240.
Question:Is this movie "War" with Jet Li worth watching?
Solution:Content feed from Rotten Tomatoes, and no (only 14% positive) It seems pretty simple. A few data agreements here, a rev share there. Heck, throw a few ads intp the content stream and you've got yourself a business model.
The question is, why can't the cable companies raise the bar? I believe the simple answer is that they haven't been forced to yet. They have not innovated because they are more concerned with gaining subs and their churn and as a result the experience of their consumer has been the unfortunate casualty.
I urge cable companies and their brethren to embrace the technology that can do nothing but help them deliver a better product to their consumer. There are plenty of web video providers out there who are ready to pounce who have the content and the UI to make an impact so even if the direct competition is not doing it, consumers will eventually find the distribution provider that gives them everything they need.