It's 2017 and TV is still a thing. We've made progress in the recent years with the new arrival of streaming services. These streaming services offer broadcast TV shows and in some cases even produce their own first run content. This is a good step forward for reducing reliance on a cable company subscription but there's one major problem that plagues streaming services and broadcast TV today. There's no one single solution that provides access to all content.
In the 1970s and 1980s it was common place to see a converter box under the TV to enable viewing of TV channels that the TV itself could not display. The 1990s saw modern TVs and the disappearing need for the converter box. Fast forward to the late 1990s and early 2000s the TV landscape expanded offering hundreds of channels and digital content and a cable box was once again required!
The box issue was further exacerbated when streaming services appeared. Initially some kind of third party box would be required to access streaming content. This problem was partially fixed by smart TVs in that they offered apps built directly into the TV. The downside of smart TVs is two fold, first your desired streaming service may not be supported on your smart TV. Secondly the apps provided on smart TVs are often buggy and slow because the software of smart TVs is an afterthought running on underpowered hardware.
To recap, a box is required if you want to watch conventional TV aside from local over the air broadcasts. A box is also required if you want to use a streaming service that your smart TV does not support. And a box is also required if your smart TV is under powered or features poorly designed software. What's more is that one box may not be enough to solve these issues.
The answer is to have one device that can solve all of these issues. Our new device must fit all of these features:
- Take input from a coaxial cable in order to access subscribed broadcast TV.
- Provide a guide and allow browsing of subscribed TV.
- Provide recording of subscribed TV in the event the program is unavailable on a subscribed streaming app.
- Feature decent apps for majorative streaming services.
- Allow for easy updating of these applications and the general software platform.
- Provide a strong search utility that searches live TV, recorded content, and streaming services for requested content. i.e. a "my shows" feature would either record these shows from subscribed TV or notify when they become available on streaming services.
- Be absent of subscription fees except for subscribed services and have a hardware price of $149 or less.
- A remote control that is easy to use and simple.
While this list is extensive, each feature has been created in software before and when applied to the modern problem of TV could be landscape changing. The problem, however, comes from a lack of will due to the monopolistic nature of cable companies in North America. This issue on its own means this project would need to be tackled by an organization with incredible sway (Apple, Google, or Microsoft). If one of these companies were able to get the cable companies or even the studios that produce the majority of the content onboard with a plan that increased profits and made the user experience better it would be an easy matter of creating the software and hardware required to change the TV landscape.
There's also the other option if the current trend of TV fragmentation, bad hardware, and bad software continues: less and less people will subscribe to cable company TV slowly making them irrelevant until the majority of what's watched comes from streaming services. At this point the cable company will have no choice but to allow innovation or create their own hardware that meets user demand and current media market dynamics.
Currently it's very hard to find something that accomplishes this task but there are options that get us close. That's what will be discussed next month!