By: Eyal Ronen is the CEO & co-founder of Puls
My TV at home has a single cord attached to it– a power cord.
I still watch live TV, movies, and sports, I just no longer have tons of cords, black boxes and remotes all over the place. Fifty percent of the time, I’ll use my voice to control the TV instead of the remote hiding somewhere in my couch. Sounds like a dream come true.
And I’m not alone. Today, more than ever, people are finding other ways to watch TV.
Back in the day, the first wave of cord-cutters, the ‘early adopters’ were motivated by negative opinions of cable companies and the perceived high subscription fees. Wanting to ‘stick it to the man,’ a lot of these looked to standalone HD antennas as a solution. With a one-time installation and purchase cost, this solution lets the more Macgyver-inclined watch hundreds of channels and free TV. It’s a great solution if what you’re looking for is free access and you’re not overly enamored by frills such as on-demand services.
Most of us in the mainstream however, are a little more swayed by creature comforts. We may still resent the monthly cable bills but we are equally frustrated by service issues – waiting for the cable guy to arrive is not a good use of anyone’s time – and less than intuitive user interfaces or storage constraints can be wearing for those of us used to the cloud and on-demand. It’s this mainstream group, looking to declutter their living rooms of the nests of cords and wires while making the services they use more personalized and cost-effective, that will turn the tide away from pay TV once and for all.
And there’s good reason – the wealth of subscription-based, video on demand services such as Netflix, Amazon Video or Hulu, as well as significant improvements in live-streaming from services such as SlingTV or DirectTV, mean that it is easier than ever to make the switch. Combine that with the high-speed and reliable internet that is increasingly ubiquitous across the United States, and you have a match made in heaven.
But is it really that straightforward? Yes, and… not quite. There are a few factors to consider if we are going to ensure the levels of service our new wave of mainstreamers demand.
The right infrastructure
First, as with any service, the right kind of infrastructure is key. What started as a simple copper phone wire allowing slow data transfer speeds has grown into a fast-paced infrastructure capable of delivering tons of bytes at a fraction of the cost. Instead of millions invested in satellite dishes, satellite bandwidth or cable spread around town into our streets, the reliable solutions we have now, whether built on fiber or existing phone/cable infrastructure, allow stable fast networks to start delivering data. All of which means you can watch the big game without missing a touchdown because of stalled or jittery service.
Fiber is not the only option however – as mobile carriers increasingly move to offering unlimited data usage at a reasonable price, who really needs a cable? Most mobile carriers in the core markets now offer a very reliable data transfer speed with no disconnection, allowing us all to cut those cables, even for full HD transmission.
The right app
The correct implementation of the consumer end point is the key. It was always possible to cut cords, but you had to either use a mobile device with a dedicated app or find yourself chasing the right streaming link on your laptop.
The revolution will no longer be televised. It will be streamed.
Our significant use of smartphones and tablets make them a key part of our viewing habits. The small screen is now even smaller, but our options are endless. Every channel now owns a dedicated app such as YouTube and other streaming services, or Netflix, Hulu and Amazon video, all supported by a personal device, giving viewers the flexibility of really cutting the cord and watching anything, anywhere at any time. Not only do these apps introduce freedom of content selection, they have also introduced state of the art interfaces – making TV watching a much better experience.
Until recently, live TV remained the holy grail for cord-cutters but in the past year, we have seen dedicated apps coming from YouTube, Dish, Sling TV and others that have changed that. Those implementations showed us that you can easily watch live TV in a new yet very familiar way, navigating channels, pausing, replaying and recording – all without the old-fashioned set top box.
So, what’s next? Are we done with old fashioned black boxes under our TVs?
The answer is definitely yes. There is just no use for them anymore. As our internet and wireless bandwidth grow, there’s no need to transmit anything any other way. YouTube TV also shows us that we don’t need to record anything locally. With all content stored on their servers, all we have to do is select what we want to watch. The storage conundrum is solved once and for all.
We call them smart TVs but they are not really smart in the traditional sense. Smart TVs allow us to run apps in the same way we are use to doing on our smartphones. This category represents almost every TV sold in the United States this year, with most of them based on the Android platform (whether open or more dedicated to a specific brand).
This flexibility now allows viewers to not only stream content straight to the TV but to access a very sophisticated yet easy to use app to watch whatever you want. No cable needed!
In addition to the cable cords, these new TVs make most streaming devices obsolete too. Why have an extra Roku, Apple TV or Chromecast when your TV already has all of those built right in? And if something isn’t there, just download the app and you’re set.
Controlling the content
One of the newer developments being delivered by smart home technology is the shift in how we engage with the technology in our homes. Watch any toddler ask Alexa to play Frozen’s ‘Let It Go’ for the Nth time and you can see that there is no way that child will adopt a traditional remote control to control services and content as they grow up. It’s far too slow and unresponsive to be considered user-friendly or frictionless.
The proliferation of Alexa, Echo, Dot and their voice-activated speaker peers into our homes has already changed how we engage and how we shop. This shift is coming to content too. Why use an old fashioned remote to go to channel 225 if you can just tell your TV to show you the Warriors game?
What will make this work?
The key to this halcyon vision relies on the introduction of a simple, user-friendly interface. The mainstream customer doesn’t care about the infrastructure, or the bits and bytes that go into service delivery. They want a streamlined interface with a wide variety of content and unlimited storage space, and a lower monthly cost.
We are getting very close to achieving that, making watching a show the key rather than the equipment that made it happen. The same transformation we have seen with mobile carriers becoming an infrastructure supplier rather than owning our mobile content we now see with TV and cable. Whether it’s underground fiber, or living room cables, the infrastructure should take a back seat to let the content and experience take center stage.
As a secondary benefit, the dollars saved as a result of cord cutting can be invested in better screens and speakers – making the TV experience a true home theater experience. Now, where’s that popcorn?
Bio: Eyal Ronen is the CEO & co-founder of Puls, the rapid-response service for the ups and downs of digital life. Ronen is a seasoned executive and entrepreneur who founded Gotigo and CMate. He has extensive experience managing startups from inception to launch and growth.