The Future of TV – A Battle for Your Screens

battle for screensWe are on the verge of big changes in the world of television and entertainment.

Take it from me, five years from now the way you watch TV will be completely different. Yet exactly how things will shake out is still very much up in the air.

The future of television is right around the corner, but the big question is…who will figure out exactly what the next step in television should look like. There are at least six different companies working on plans to revolutionize the industry and win over consumers like  you.

Here’s the rundown on how the race is going so far…

Netflix

Despite all its issues in the past several months, Netflix is still the company to beat when it comes to providing in-home entertainment to the masses.

However, Reed Hastings and Co. are sort of like an injured gazelle running through the wilderness, and there are a lot of hungry wolves out there looking to take it down.

Netflix lost more than 800,000 customers, and its stock tumbled after announcing it was splitting its DVD by mail and streaming services this fall. But it still serves close to 24 million customers, and you have to expect to lose some business when you introduce what’s essentially a 60% price hike!

But all of that opened a door for other companies to woo Netflix subscribers towards different options.

How often do you see advertisements boasting new releases sooner than Netflix? That’s a sign that they are still the biggest name out there, but it’s also a sign of the problems at Netflix – getting access and making deals to get content from the big media companies.

Netflix can only afford to pay so much for content, and even when they get it, restrictions often force them to wait before releasing it to subscribers. They are dealing with cable companies and major studios that all want a bigger piece of the pie. If Netflix wants to remain competitive with streaming entertainment – it will probably have to start charging subscribers even more.

Oh well, all good things must come to an end. But as a current Netflix streaming subscriber,  I would not be opposed to paying a few extra bucks a month if it means a significant increase in the quality and quantity of the movies and TV shows offered.

Apple

The company Steve Jobs left behind is probably the biggest threat to Netflix. Apple has everyone shaking in their boots, and why shouldn’t they? Apple dominates every product it delves into.

Remember when they just made computers for a niche group of people?

Then the iPod and iTunes completely changed the way we buy and listen to music. iPhones blew away everyone else in the cell-phone/smartphone world. They call it the “Blackberry Killer” for a reason. Tablet computers were around long before the iPad – but from how popular the product has become – you’d assume Apple invented it.

Now Apple may be setting its sights on television with talk of an Apple TV set.

It’s pretty obvious that Apple would love to own the digital entertainment world, and the iPhone 4s with Siri’s artificial intelligence and voice recognition technology could be the key, according to Matthew Smith of Seeking Alpha.

“Siri could potentially find itself included on all Apple products in the future and be a librarian of sorts for your music, video and TV show collections… Imagine synching your iPhone, iPad and iTV, assuming that is what it is called, via iTunes to control your TV viewing. “

It would certainly seem that an iTunes type platform is the logical move for Apple if it launches a streaming service similar to Netflix. Of course, it would also have an option for you to buy TV and movies – further monetizing the content.

Smith writes that Apple could potentially be a devastating blow not only to Netflix, but to the cable companies. When Apple took over the music game all the record labels followed. The reason? Apple had a “captured audience,” and iTunes cut out piracy problems.

“Netflix, with their smaller scale is probably left in Apple’s dust should this scenario play out. Who wants to be an exclusive supplier to Netflix with the Apple option available? Further, who wants to have a Netflix account when they already have an account with Apple?”

Google

Sometimes Google products take off and sometimes they fizzle out.  Google TV is one of the latest ventures that seem to be on shaky ground.

Google’s  SmartTV technology blends your web browsing and TV viewing into one interactive experience. It actually allows users to search content on live TV as well as on Netflix. Plus, smartphones with Google’s Android OS can be used as remote controls.

Google developed the technology with Sony and Logitech – but just this month – Logitech announced it would no longer make Google TV devices because they just aren’t selling that well. Basically, it’s cool for technology junkies, but Google TV hasn’t been catching on with average consumers.

However, Google TV is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the internet giant’s potential strategy.  Charlie White of Mashable.com recently wrote that Google may be eyeing up advertising potential in the television market and planning its own pay TV service.

“Such a venture has the potential to turn today’s business of television advertising and distribution upside down,” wrote White.

Let’s not forget that Google also owns YouTube. You can already rent feature length movies via YouTube, and it makes sense that Google would use the video site to create a form of a la carte cable. White sees huge potential for Google to become a major player when it comes to providing television content.

“Google’s negotiations with content creators could also give Google TV an advantage it has never enjoyed before…If it puts itself on equal footing with the other pay TV providers, it might be in a better position to offer its Google TV service as a hub for video, no matter where it comes from.”

Dish Network & Blockbuster

Bankrupt Blockbuster could get some revenge on Netflix after all is said and done!

Dish Network bought out Blockbuster back in April, and now The New York Post reports that Dish may use the brand to launch its own online cable TV service.

A service like that could allow Dish to work around cable TV restrictions like bundling and be yet another way a la carte cable could become a reality. That move could lead to other cable and satellite TV providers creating similar services in order to remain competitive.

Dan Radovsky of Motley Fool says Dish Network is starting to look at itself as more of an internet service provider as opposed to just a satellite TV company.

“DISH is being aggressive in its attempts to change from a satellite-video content-delivery company to a streaming-video company…The company knows it won’t be too much longer before cable customers will finally rise up and ask themselves why they are paying for two services coming through the same pipe while one of those services can deliver everything they need.”

 Sony

One of the most recent media giants to cause a stir is Sony. Reports say it is ready to get into the race with the rest and offer yet alternative to cable and satellite TV.  It’s believed the Japanese electronics giant has been in talks with media companies about offering content over the internet through various Sony devices.

Think about this…Sony has sold around 18-million PlayStation 3 consoles in the U.S. alone. Trevor Mogg of Digital Trends compared that to the largest cable TV provider in the country, Comcast, which has 22.5 million video subscribers.

Plus, you also have people using Sony TVs, Bluray players, tablets and smartphones that could also deliver a Sony streaming media service.

Sony has reportedly been in talks with NBCUniversal and NewsCorp, which owns FOX and related networks.

Amazon

Amazon offers the Netflix rival Amazon Prime. At $80 a year, it is cheaper than Netflix streaming by about $16 per year.

You can use it on Kindle Fire tablets and as a bonus you get free e-books. Currently, subscribers get one e-book a month (buying an e-book usually costs around $9.99). Plus, Amazon Prime members also get free two-day shipping on almost everything.

The problem with Amazon Prime is its lack of content. There isn’t nearly as much as Netflix, and according to a review by Rick Broida from CNet.com, the collection of e-books is limited to 5,000 titles and the movie and TV collection also leaves something to be desired – although it continues to grow.

How it All Boils Down

In the end, the companies that win the race to provide the future of television will focus on these three things:

  1. Quality and Quantity of Content
  2. Ease of Use for Average Consumers
  3. Competitive Pricing

We’ll have to wait for the dust to settle and see what the future of TV will really look like. But one thing is certain, all this competition can only be a good thing for consumers like you and me.

Who do you think will win the race for the future of television? Leave a comment and let us know!

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Image: Ohmega1982 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

+Kasey Steinbrinck is the lead blogger on personal finance and the economy for Check Advantage. When you order checks from Check Advantage, you’ll find hundreds of unique photographs featured on Wildlife Checks as well as cute Cat and Dog Checks and much more!

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