On October 21st we will officially hit the day that Marty McFly from Back to the Future II traveled to 2015. We are officially living in the future people! And while we don’t have re-hydrated Pizza Hut pizzas or wear colanders on our heads as fashion, we have his a major milestone for society: we have a working hoverboard. We did it guys! We did it! What a world we live in…
But if we have a real, working hoverboard, why the eff don’t we have modern, convenient, affordable television? Sure, Netflix, Hulu and the swathe of new streaming services have pushed us some of the way there, but we have a long way to go.
Failing to modernize television
It’s really amazing to see the amount of great content that can be accessed without having an official cable subscription. Just check out this list and you’ll see the scope of services available. The problem is that none of these options (even in tandem with one another) provide a very modern or convenient experience. The fact of the matter is that cord cutting CAN get you everything you need. The problem is that it is fragmented and often unwieldy for the average consumer.
Look, I can get everything I need from the following setup:
- OTA antenna receiving local HDTV content (free minus cost of antenna)
- Netflix subscription ($7.99 per month)
- HBO Now ($15 per month)
- Amazon Prime Instant Video ($8.25 per month)
- NHL Gamecenter Live ($8.33 per month)
- TOTAL: $39.57 per month
Not bad right? Without wading into illegal streaming, I can pretty much maintain the content that I would watch on regular cable TV with the above services. For me it makes sense. I can watch most content on-demand and pick and choose from content that I actually care about as opposed to be force-fed 15 different variations of Storage Wars and… My $600 wedding… or whatever the kids are watching lately…
The problem arises when a normal consumer is trying to make the jump from one combined service (cable TV) to the above more fragmented approach. The idea of jumping around between apps and interfaces isn’t really the best experience. And to be honest, I understand why many still see cable as a viable alternative even though it is way more expensive.
Google’s try for our living room
Googles’s first attempt at gaining a foothold in our entertainment lives was a pretty big flop. Google TV was at best a niche product for early adopters. Their second kick at the can, Android TV, has been a pretty great product actually. It tries to bring together all of the services that people might want. It also allows us to Chromecast from our computer if a service isn’t yet available. All around it is a great experience. But again, it suffers from the inability to replicate the TV experience that average consumers are expecting. Maybe over time the built-in search on Android TV will bring forward a new way to consume media that is both different from the current live cable TV model, and equally convenient. But that day isn’t here just yet.
If you’re interested, probably one of the best streaming boxes on any platform currently available is indeed an Android TV box.
Can Apple get it right?
We know that September 9th is a big day for cord cutters. Especially cord cutters that live and breathe Apple. To be honest, that is not me. But I am still really excited to see what the new 2015 Apple TV brings forward that might right the wrongs of Apple’s recent foray into living-room entertainment. We know that Apple is hard at work with building formal deals with cable providers to be able to offer some kind of lean TV experience that will deliver TV shows the day that they air. We also know that Apple is working on bringing more gaming capabilities to their new box, but that really is a side show at this point. Can Apple bring the holy grail to would-be cord cutters? Only time will tell, but I am excited to see what they announce on September 9th.
A vision of what internet TV should be
Let’s do a little thought experiment. Doc Brown shows up at my door tomorrow, dishevelled and seemingly freaking out about something.
“Mark! We need to do something about your kids! It turns out that they’ve grown up to be real assholes.”
So I slide in a few tubes of plutonium and hop in the Delorean next to Doc ready for arguably the most interesting time travel trip ever. The flux capacitor… fluxes… and boom, we’re in the year 2040. I figure that if we’re going to remedy my kids’ asshole-ness that I may as well get a peak at what future-folk watch on TV.
Long story short, we de-assholed my kids (it was a long process that I won’t get into here). But here’s the interesting part. They figured it out! TV is actually intuitive and affordable n 2040.
Here’s what it looks like:
- Cable companies have given up on the old ad-driven models of live TV delivery.
- All TV services are available on all devices (Android, Apple, whatever) so you no longer have to pick between what works well and what has the best services. There is one interface to access live TV, local TV, archived shows and movies.
- Basic local TV channels are all delivered over the internet (for free) as a public service but it is strictly limited to weather and local news. Everything else can be accessed on demand.
- Live TV still exists, but it is through apps instead of traditional cable.
- The cost is reasonable. It is about $30-$40 for all TV programming. Movies are accessed on demand through the “New Netflix” which has deals with all major production houses.
- TLC has reverted back to actual learning-based television.
- Conan O’Brien’s head is still hosting a late night talk show.
Amazing right? That is where TV should be going. Doc dropped me off at home back in good old 2015… And now I’m really yearning for a better TV experience.
But hey, we have a hoverboard. Which is nice.