The Future of TV – Is in the remote – Are these predictions or wishful thinking? #appleTV

July 19, 2013

in apps, General Interest, innovation, scenarios, Smart Home, Strategic Foresight, Strategy Formulation

AppleTV ScreenSpeculation around Apple TV is rife, with little deeper thought (see Links at end). I’m adding to it! If you have an iPhone and iTunes you may have experimented with Apple’s “Remote” app. If you have an AppleTV you probably recognize that the Remote App is better than the button remote that came with it (with the exception of reconnecting). Still there are so many things that the Remote App doesn’t do and should / could.

Let’s apply a case for re-imagineering (to use the Disney term) AppleTV and the Remote APP and thus really considering what “SocialTV” might look like. Is it the future? You tell me.  This is a thought experiment.

The Problem: 

  • RemoteApp remains a kludge and fails to bring a full touch screen experience for the AppleTV to our remotes (iPhones/iPads)
  • Video / TV playback is missing a “connected” social layer. So video remains “watch” / “consume” rather than a medium that encourages real-time participation.
  • The Cable Operators and Networks want to retain control. They aren’t networked and software savvy enough to take “participatory” and “SocialTV” to the next level and are afraid of a more App like future. The opportunity is to make social part of the program fabric.

Observations of an AppleTV – Today. 

Have you looked at the latest iteration of the AppleTV? Perhaps you have one. It’s a good device if you use Hulu, or Netflix or both. Recently more icons were added to the home screen. HBO, SkyNews etc. Yet the remote app (for iPad/iPhone) continues to require a clunky “mouse-over” selection process. This seems increasingly dated and old school to use. It’s increasingly messy to navigate as you are always drilling down to a program or music file. I’m sure viewers / users want a “touch” interface that is icon driven. Something we can organize – so we get TV our way. We want to touch our TV screen from our chairs. Even waving the remote at it should do something! Logically the screen must appear on the remote.

TV Reinvented – A Revised Product Description:

So lets reach for the future. A world in which TV is all touch and fully integrated – particularly with social media. The remote (smartphone) is the touch device and AppleTV is just another app manager and platform. The TV is just a screen – forget SmartTV’s.

What’s required is Airplay like from AppleTV to iPhone/iPad remote app. This provides the full AppleTV screen experience in a full touch format on the remote.  The hidden benefit is not just the new benefit of “skipping the ads” which rumor has it is coming to Apple TV. Rather it is what the “Skip button” means on the screen. Let’s predict that the Apple get’s it’s TV deal. No ads works against Hulu and Netflix but doesn’t address the huge need to reinvent and re-engage viewers in live TV. That is what networks want. Meanwhile Comcast and cable operators don’t want Apple as an over the top service – like Hulu. They want to maintain control over their content. Thus we sign-in to these apps CNN, HBO etc using our cable provider ID. That moves the “social” back into the program even if shared with Twitter and Facebook.

The bargain Apple should strike with the TV companies will reinvent LiveTV (well any TV). Let’s assume the networks get the cable companies to agree. In essence we will be able to watch all our Comcast channels through our AppleTV and you can do that in HD. (I can take my HD box back and save $10 per month – Comcast soon will even trade them in for AppleTV’s!). This is happening already with channels like HBO available on AppleTV if you sign in via your Cable provider. Don’t think it is likely. Go into an Xfinity store and see all the iPads.

At Launch? Phase One: So what does TV reinvented look like? When it launches you get “skips” and voting on commercials. You get “learn more” options. These we already have to a degree of this on Hulu. The industry gets this model. You also now get Twitter and Facebook integration. Easy to tweet during the show or see the comment stream on the show. No need to search for it.  More importantly, every viewer watching at that time with their own iPhone/iPad may log their own comments. You may even get polls and other research. This doesn’t require much in the way of sophisticated screen overlays or gestures. And users will want to share more.

So we go from broadcast to multicast and multi streamed. It will not just begin to reinvent news, or sports, there will also be a revolution in Home Shopping TV. Reality programs will take on new directions. We may see TheatreSports come to TV as ideas for story lines are voted up and actors ham it up. Shows may become even more polarized as a result. That’s playing to your audience. Meanwhile the remote becomes key to the entertainment.

Next Iteration – Phase Two – Bye Bye Tivo?: 

Now we have Live TV and TV with Ads playing through the AppleTV. The remote is your iPhone / iPad. Now we are in a world where screen real-estate become pixels on the remote. It’s easy.  Example you want rewinds, or to zoom in on a picture or freeze frame. That all becomes simple. They are just gestures. The AppleTV can buffer the show for this. This aspect is TiVo in your hand. Use iOS’s new multi-tasking and channel flipping is also activated. Again gestures enable pictures from one while sound from another is playing. You may even listen to another show on the headset while the TV continues playing away. iPad will provide those screen in screen options. This will all serve to create an archive of what you watched and when.

Phase Three – WWDC 2014 – Story for Developers:

Now back to the pixels. Apple creates a Touch API for TV.  It will be released as part of next years WWDC 2014. There will be some structures around it. However, elements in the show can quickly become interactive. What can program developers do when TV becomes a game. What happens when we can be the Jeopardy player. What happens when we want to use their program to join new game shows? How can we see how we are doing vs the live show? Add in Facetime and can we participate live? Concurrently, this will open up Apps to AppleTV. Now every game, every show, every budding newscaster can get into broadcasting. The biggest battle is likely to remain “content approval”. In this world Networks and operators may put controls on who watches that are a little more sophisticated.

Phase  Four – Emergent Apps – Activity Streams: Reframing TV like this will also create moments. Apple is already experimenting with moments in their upcoming Photo App. Many also already tie their “moments” of listening to music together in Facebook or other social media. “Listening to”. When TV becomes part of the activity stream it will swamp much of what has come before. “Scene shots”, live reactions, and then later the ability to relive moments in news and shows as content is tied to location, time and who watched. Shows are talked about anyways. Feed the buzz and content that is shared may also improve. Think Favorite for last 10 seconds.

If Apple wants their stock price back up then this may be the innovative direction that’s required. Software becomes part of mainstream TV production, audience involvement and participation. Apple could own the living room and given the number of iOS devices in-US homes already there is a good chance of this becoming a real standard. Comcast retains it’s billing interest. Networks retain control over their shows. Apple helps them expand both their understanding of who watchs and why and increases audience involvement and engagement. It’s a win-win and Samsung / Android are a long way behind in this area. The Windows solution via X-box isn’t likely either.

Lessons in this thought project for others… 

  • It’s not the box it is the remote. Remember the mobile sucks up everything. We expect it to be a remote for life. It’s inevitable (at least for now). So if you are the network you must play to the remote. If you are the cable operator the remote is your best friend (and you don’t own it!)!
  • When programs can be streamed to the phone and then streamed to the big screen this is effectively a dumb over the top play. Its also been the PC vs TV model that worked so well for Hulu. When programs are streamed to the TV with a “remote” overlay then the Network gets the value of the integration data – who’s watching, participation etc. You can even sign into the show rather than via Facebook. There is value in that.
  • When Xfinity stores, or BestBuys hook all their TV’s up to an AppleTV so you can both get the data on the TV and play anything you want from the phone in your hand in the store… we have a new type of demo. The magic also shifts from the TV to the remote and the SmartTV is now just a screen. The biggest problem with AppleTV has been visibility and perceived utility.  Plus it is only $99. Social TV in HD $99!
  • Note – It doesn’t seem that farfetched to believe that all of the above could be executed by Netflix in an AppleTV/iPhone app. Or Hulu or CNN.  Perhaps that whole “Layers” thing in iOS7 will get us away from a simple video player and into video playback that is much more interactive.
  • I long for the day when I can share precisely which frame or frames I want to share rather than perhaps the whole segment – do that quickly and easily. I also suspect this will generate many new “compilation on the days, or shows events. It could be fun.
  • Apple releases AppleTV remote for Android. This is effectively the iTunes moment for Windows.

How doable is the above? I suspect the tech is almost there. The networks and cable co’s have little choice other than stalling.  The above could really challenge Netflix unless they work with Apple on it and Social TV is their way ahead. Amazon will work to provide the same for Android using Kindle as the basis for this. Social TV could be their big breakthrough with Prime Users.

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