As I’ve said for years (fast forward to 7:18 into video), television has a big user interface problem, and until it gets modernized to the reality of how today’s viewers are truly consuming video (the contemporary term for “watching TV”), legacy programming providers - especially MVPDs - risk significant and potentially irreversable disruption. And as cable/DBS/telco prices keep going up, the consumer drumbeat for transparency only gets louder.
For TV lovers this is both the best of times and worst of times. Best because there truly is more quality programming fare available to consumers than ever before. Worst because with the average US household receiving 120+ linear channels, dozens of hours of consumer time-shifted DVR programs, hundreds of hours of (telco, cable) VOD offerings, and the seemingly infinite tsunami of “Internet video” that is starting cross over the top into the formerly controlled walled garden of television network operators - viewers are overwhelmed. A Paradox of Choice, if you will.
Innovation is happening in this area - as anyone with XBox Live with Kinect can tell you. But today’s announcement of TiVo’s elegant integration of its latest Premiere boxes with Comcast’s prodigious Xfinity VOD library (articles here and here) is a huge incremental step that does a bunch of things:
1) Suggests that legacy MVPDs like Comcast (especially) will not submissively bend over and become dumb data pipes;
2) People’s desire to access various permutations of video - linear, time-shifted, on-demand, over-the-top, and, increasingly, place-shifted - is very real and very mainstream. And their desire to access it in easy-to-find, multi-dimensional formats should now be assumed;
3) The successful re-invention of TiVo is nearly complete - and it is an undervalued holistic video discovery solution that network operators (or Apple, or Rovi, or CE manufacturers, or…) might do well to consider learning from, partnering with, and/or acquiring. (Hint: TiVo has a bunch of really substantial patents, and isn’t afraid to flex them.)
While only first available to TiVo/Comcast subscribers in the San Francisco region (those outside of the San Francisco metro area can sign up here to learn when the functionality will be available elsewhere), the march towards more intelligent television/video guidance, navigation and discovery is well under way - and a whole slew of social, relational, visual, and metadata-searchable improvements to the viewing selection process are right behind.
But kudos to Comcast and TiVo for the incremental achievement of linking together four heretofore separate viewing experiences - live linear, DVR, OTT, Internet video, and VOD - and actually giving consumers something they want right now.