A correction has been made in this story. See below for details.
YORK, Pa. (AdAge.com) -- Remember WebTV, the uber-hot, mid-'90s gadget that consisted of a box and a keyboard that hooked into your TV and brought the web right into your living room -- all at incredibly slow dial-up-modem speed and a premium price of $300 for the box and $20 per month for the service?
Since then, electronics, cable, telecom, hardware, software and media companies have been struggling with the promise and problems of internet- connected TV. Now, thanks to a confluence of factors -- ubiquitous broadband, changing viewer habits and cheaper tech parts -- internet TV is on the verge of a breakout. However, there are still too many interested parties trying to play a part in making a seamless connection -- and nabbing a piece of the payoff.
"It's completely feasible to create, but it's just the question of who dares to do it," said Forrester analyst James McQuivey.
It's not just a power struggle between hardware makers who can make the boxes and content owners afraid of opening up their content and revenue stream. It's also the cable and telephone companies that own the wires, plus a whole slew of entrepreneurs with better, faster ideas who see an opportunity to make money.
This time, though, consumer demand could reach the tipping point. Some 2.5 million households would be willing to pay $100 more for a web-connected TV, according to a recent Parks Associates' study.
This sub-$100 box is also
called the Netflix Player.
That's because until
recently, that's all it could
be used for. Roku just
signed a deal to offer
video-on-demand titles via Amazon 1-Click
purchasing. A Roku spokesman said it will offer
10 new channels by the end of the year and
continue to expand its offering with "everything
from user-generated content to photo-sharing
services to premium, ad-supported content
from a wide variety of partners."
Love the budget
price tag for
the box and
Sling Media became a
media darling "way"
back in 2004, when its
original Slingbox allowed
consumers to watch TV
on PCs -- basically the
opposite of what we're
talking about here.
However, not one to let a
trend get ahead of it, Sling has created a new
$200 SlingCatcher that includes the ability to
"project" PC content onto a TV.
feature to an
product. A tad
clunky, as the
laptop has to be
the TV, and
offers no TV
and easy set up.|
XBOX 360 AND
Video gamers who own
these boxes have been
getting web content on
their TVs for a while, but
it's still a limited offering.
At Xbox Live
owners can pay with
points to rent games, movies and TV shows.
And the new Xbox Experience did add Netflix
"Watch Instantly" support. Sony's PlayStation
offers games, plus movies and TV shows to rent
(although fewer of the latter two than Xbox ).
expensive (if you
one, move up it
to 3 stars) and
content is still
limited, with no
At the beginning of the
year, Boxee was asked by Hulu to be removed from its offering, which it eventually was. Boxee is a
free open-source software
app still in alpha testing,
available on Macs and in invite-only form on
Windows. The software uses the home network so
users can watch web content directly on their TVs.
Boxee CEO Avner Ronen told All Things Digital a
beta launch is planned for this summer.
Free is definitely
the big appeal,
to be a content
problem in the
Roku and Slingbox is
Vudu, an independent
Silicon Valley start-up
that has struck deals
with movie studios and
others for content, with
an emphasis on HD. Its
price falls in the middle,
at $149. The movie and
TV content work much like video on demand,
with Vudu owners renting or buying movies at
set prices. Vudu also has 120 web channels
with content from YouTube, Flickr and
Pandora, as well as selections provided by
networks such as ABC, CBS, Nickelodeon and
of web content
and good stable
of movie and TV
The promise of Apple TV --
a pet project of CEO Steve
Jobs -- was high when
launched in early 2007.
But the $299 price tag
and Apple-limited content
resulted in little traction
and some complaints.
The second version, released in early 2008, had
a lower price of $229 and got better reviews but
still plenty of apathy. Consumers can access any
iTunes content on their TVs but not much else
besides YouTube, because of Apple's
notoriously closed system. Tvpredictions.com
analyst Phil Swann predicted Apple TV will
disappear this year, thanks in part to the
retool opens up
Yahoo has hooked up
with a handful of partners
including Intel, Samsung
and AT&T for this widget-based
created the software and
makers to add
it to their proprietary chip
sets inside TV sets. Samsung's first TVs with the
capability -- branded as [email protected]
shipping now. The idea is much like Apple's App
Store: Users will be able to push a button on their
new Samsung or Sony TV remote (later this
year), and a widget bar will pop up at the bottom
of the screen.
We like that
users who might
be buying a new
anyway can get
as an add-on,
but if you're not
to buy, it's an
PCS AND OTHER HARD DRIVES
It probably shouldn't be
too surprising that the
most direct way to get
the internet on your TV is
to connect your PC to
your TV. While that may
sound like a daunting
task, with HDMI
connections, a direct route is as simple as a
cable connect from one to the other. Without the
HDMI connections, it is still possible but more
difficult, and will probably require assistance
from a tech-savvy friend, or at least a website. It
can be expensive, too, if you don't have an HDMI-enabled
TV or an extra PC just lying around.
agree with this
rating, but for
expense -- as well
as the perceived
required -- makes
it a less-popular
~ ~ ~
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story mistakenly said that Hulu issued a cease and desist order when there was no formal legal action, just a request for removal. No legal action has ever been taken against Boxee.