A glimpse into the future of TV: How Microsoft, Intel, Amazon and Netflix aim to change the game

Internet TVWhen you’re tracking the activity in the consumer electronics market, you follow the industry in many different directions. Though variety tends to keep things interesting and fresh, sometimes it’s more instructive when you keep heading down the same path. From the tail end of 2012 to the beginning of 2013 we followed companies of every shape, size, and sector to what became a very familiar destination: television. What we’re seeing for the future of TV is a dramatic shift in the way we get our content. Here’s a look at what’s been happening lately, and what we can expect in the coming years. 

Evolution or Obscurity?

In the past few years, TV has experienced a renaissance, but it took a bit of a dark age to bring it about. Once a great frontier, TV technology became stale and commonplace – the well of innovation had dried up. Sure we got sharper resolutions, larger displays and flatter screens, but the way our content was delivered seemed immutable, and the programming hierarchy that developed early on in television solidified into a sedentary status quo. There were a few power players, a couple of tried and true methods of doing business, and the industry generally operated in a formulaic, “set it and forget it” style.

In our experience, however, all technologies are subject to one of two eventualities: Evolution or obscurity. TV had been teetering between the two, but recent developments suggest that it’s finally on track for evolution, as new methods of delivery have reinvigorated the industry and enticed a host of new players to try their hands. The resulting influx of fresh ideas and free-flowing capital is intriguing to say the least, and has created a new landscape, threatening a once fixed foundation that has weathered the decades with nary a fissure to speak of.

Is the broadcast TV industry up for grabs?

This infusion of new blood has come largely in the form of deep-pocketed visitors from other industries. Microsoft: from computing and gaming; Intel: from processing and chip manufacturing; Amazon: from e-commerce; andIntel Offices Netflix: from movie rentals and streaming media. Many of these industries orbit or interact with broadcast television, but companies like the four we just mentioned used to stick to their section of the pool.

Lately, however, that has been changing – and changing fast. Earlier this year, we saw all four tech giants make big movies into the television space. While the news on Amazon, Netflix, and Microsoft concerned original content, Intel made its splash by telling the industry to expect its Web-TV service – complete with live TV – by year’s end. That got us pretty revved up, as live Internet TV is a bit of a holy grail, but has been protected by the industry’s sentinels for years.

So what gives with the gold rush? Why now? Jon Carvill, Intel’s director of corporate communications, provided DT with some insight:

“We believe the timing is right to take advantage of this market opportunity this year. We think broadband has finally reached a reasonable point where it can support a service like what we plan to deliver. This is of course also helped by major advances in video compression to allow HD content to be delivered at a very efficient bit rate. Most importantly in our eyes, consumer behavior has changed and we now access and consume such a large volume of content online and on-demand. We don’t think anyone has been able to blend Live TV and on demand content effectively yet which is why we believe our timing is good to participate in this growing market.”

In other words: TV is a different animal now – and one that has yet to be tamed. You have traditional broadcast powers on one side, trying to charm it with the same tune that’s worked for half a century, and the upstarts on the other, trying to put a saddle on it.

Out of the bag

For us, the most important element of what Carvill said was the bit about a shift in consumer behavior. The ubiquity of DVRs and streaming media services has provided the customer with a taste – albeit watered down – of what on-demand, a la carte cable could look like, and boy is it difficult to put that kind of cat back in the bag.

But the networks are still trying, suing up a storm and targeting anyone who even slightly upsets the applecart. But still others are trying to supplant those networks, and rather than railing against change, they’re hoping to capitalize on it.

Last one in’s a rotten egg

Take Netflix as an example: The company recently released the hit series House of Cards, a drama series that it’s offering all at once, rather than timed release. There’s no waiting a week for the next episode to be broadcast, no effort to build tension through water cooler talk, just pick up & play, whenever, and wherever you want (assuming of course that you’re a subscriber).

Internet apps on TVThat business model is one that’s shared by Microsoft, as is the year’s end time table laid out by Intel. The Bill Gates brainchild is expected to begin building a catalogue of original content before the dawn of 2014. In Microsoft’s case, the content will be available to Xbox users and will keep on coming, as the company looks to establish “a very robust content production schedule.”

Amazon, on the other hand, has a slightly different approach to creating original content. It is planning to produce pilots for six original comedy series, and will move forward with one based on viewer feedback. Lest you think that plan sounds like a gimmicky way to generate buzz for lackluster content (as we did when we first heard about it) consider that one of the shows (Alpha House) stars John Goodman and is written by Academy-Award-nominated, Pulitzer-Prize-winning scribe Garry Trudeau. It appears Amazon is taking its funny business very seriously.

Don’t forget about Hulu either, which is also relying on original content to distinguish it from competitors. After a spate of original series last year, the service won’t be slowing down in Summer 2013. It plans to debut three exclusives before fall.

It used to be that when we heard that a non-network would be creating original content, we were surprised and intrigued, but nowadays we have a different response: Who isn’t?

Over the last decade or so, many entities have tried to break into the TV industry, but most have done so by pursuing content partnerships and paying other companies (often astronomical fees) for their content. For decades, aspiring media providers have been frustrated by butting up against the un-crackable foundation we mentioned earlier, but many are starting to try a different approach and are doing some building of their own.

Channeling the competitive, entrepreneurial spirit of this country, companies are finally looking at television and saying: “we can do it better.” That’s a reality that should drive progress, and should result in a better product for you: the consumer.

 images via shutterstock/Photosani/oleksiy Mark’s/


Here are the best 4K TV deals for November 2018

There's no doubt that a good 4K smart TV is the best way to take your home entertainment setup to the next level to enjoy all your favorite shows, movies, and games in glorious Ultra HD. We've got the best 4K TV deals right here.
Home Theater

PlayStation Vue adds more local channels, bringing the total to over 600

PlayStation Vue is Sony's answer to live TV without the need for a cable or satellite TV subscription. To help you understand the service, its plans, and numerous features, we've created this handy guide.
Home Theater

Time for a TV upgrade? Here’s what you need to know about 4K Ultra HD TV

Ultra HD 4K has quickly taken over the world of TVs. But what is Ultra HD 4K, how does it work, and most importantly, should you upgrade, or keep your old TV? We explain it all right here.
Home Theater

The seven best TVs you can buy right now, from budget to big screen

Looking for a new television? In an oversaturated market, buying power is at an all-time high, but you'll need to cut through the rough to find a diamond. We're here to help with our picks for the best TVs of 2018.
Movies & TV

The best movies on Amazon Prime right now (November 2018)

Prime Video provides subscribers with access to a host of fantastic films, but sorting through the catalog can be an undertaking. Luckily, we've done the work for you. Here are the best movies on Amazon Prime Video right now.
Movies & TV

Best new shows and movies to stream: ‘Room 104,’ German thriller ‘Beat,’ and more

Need something to watch this weekend? Check out our list of the best new shows and movies to stream right now. On the list this week: Room 104 returns for a second season, Robert the Bruce fights for Scotland's throne, and more.
Product Review

Cut cable and keep quality with TiVo's 4K-friendly Bolt OTA DVR

Free over-the-air programming isn’t available in 4K, so why would you want a 4K OTA DVR? We’ll discuss what makes the new TiVo Bolt OTA a viable choice for cord-cutters with 4K UHD TVs who want to get ahead of the game.
Movies & TV

'Prime'-time TV: Here are the best shows on Amazon Prime right now

There's more to Amazon Prime than free two-day shipping, including access to a number of phenomenal shows at no extra cost. To make the sifting easier, here are our favorite shows currently streaming on Amazon Prime.
Home Theater

LG price cuts on C8 OLED TVs for Black Friday are more of a sliver than a slash

LG cut prices on its vaunted C8 series OLED TVs, but the deals aren't as good as last year, and therefore are less compelling. Still, if you're in the market for a new TV this year, we still suggest giving these deals a serious look.
Home Theater

Looking for a podcast? Pandora’s Podcast Genome Project is just the ticket

Pandora has created a brand new service for podcast listeners. Powered by calls the Podcast Genome Project, the new podcast offering uses an advanced combination of algorithms and human curation to deliver the perfect podcasts for you.

Great PC speakers don't need to break the bank. These are our favorites

Not sure which PC speakers work best with your computer? Here are the best computer speakers on the market, whether you're working with a tight budget or looking to rattle your workstation with top-of-the-line audio components.
Home Theater

Get the most boom for your buck with the best headphones under $100

Everybody wants a bargain, and this list has a bunch. For those looking for a solid set of headphones without spending a big stack of cash, this list is is your starting point. Check out our picks for the best headphones under $100.
Home Theater

5 gorgeous turntables that spin stacks of wax in style for less than $500

Vinyl records are awesome, but they're also finicky. To get the best out of your stacks of wax, it's best to play them on a quality turntable. Here are the best turntables to be had for under $500.

Don't know what to do with all your old DVDs? Here's how to convert them to MP4

Given today's rapid technological advancements, physical discs are quickly becoming a thing of the past. Check out our guide on how to convert a DVD to MP4, so you can ditch discs for digital files.