As the World Turns From MTV to ITV

Apple's Announcement Means Another Hairpin Turn for the TV Business

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Apple CEO Steve Jobs was at the top of his game when he rolled out new iPods and more last week. The big news, by far, is a product that will debut early next year. Tentatively called ITV, the set-top box will stream movies and TV shows purchased on your Windows PC or Mac to your big screen TV.
Steve Rubel
Steve Rubel Credit: JC Bourcart

Whether Jobs succeeds in his quest to turn every TV into one powered by Apple is an open question. Lots of companies are moving head-first into the IPTV space. But what's certain is the TV business is going to make another hairpin turn that will make your TiVo look like a UHF in a few years. Here are three trends to watch.

From YouTube to Your Tube
In order to succeed, Apple's ITV and others like it will have to go beyond just streaming mainstream media content like movies and TV shows. Video on Demand, DVRs and TiVo already handle much of this quite adeptly. As high-powered video equipment, ultra-wideband bandwidth and online storage come down in price, these technologies are going to become a lot more accessible to prosumers. This will open the TV to everyone and drive higher-quality consumer -generated content off YouTube and onto your tube. In fact, Jobs said last week that ITV will be able to stream video podcasts to TVs when it ships.

Would You Like ESPN With That?
Most of the TV programming delivered over the internet that you pay for comes ad free. As PCs and TVs get chummy, consumers may prefer to buy certain programming on an a la carte basis. For example, if you could care less about sports, why should you have to pay for ESPN every month as part of your cable package? Instead, you can just buy a game on the day of the big party and be done with it. This might mean that certain specialized networks begin to move to subscription models and even eschew advertising.

Network 23: The Ad Channel
In 1988 the cult sci-fi TV show "Max Headroom" portrayed a future dominated by corporate-controlled TV networks. Maybe they were right. Advertising is a part of our life. As more internet content finds its way on TVs and distribution costs will come down, don't be surprised to see all kinds of new niche networks pop up that don't require advertising support. Could there be an all-ad channel one day? Let's hope so.

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Steve Rubel is a marketing strategist and blogger. He is senior VP in Edelman's Me2Revolution practice.
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