Internet TV/movies on your living room TV set- Coming fast

08 Feb 2009|Leigh Marinner

The living room of the future is taking shape a lot faster than most people think. Almost half of US broadband users watch TV shows online , and 40% of them would like to watch those TV shows on their living room TV, according to the Diffusion Group. For years technology and communication companies have tried to bring entertainment content from the PC or Internet into the living room. But most of those products have been clunky, difficult to install and use, slow, and have limited content available – think WebTV in 1996 and the Apple TV set-top box now.
But there are many new products coming onto the market.

There are four main groups of players fighting to win this battle – 1) service provider set-top boxes (cable, telco) seeking to differentiate their basic packages (e.g. AT&T’s U-verse service), 2) consumer electronics-centric devices such as TVs, DVRs, DVD Players/Recorders and standalone STBs such as Apple TV, TiVo, and Vudu, 3) videogame consoles (PS3 and Xbox 360 already have this capability), and 4) PC/home server-based solutions that rely on media center PCs and media adapters. Netflix is actively setting up partnerships with a wide variety of companies to offer movies and TV shows on the TV set. Boxee is a is a free, open-source software platform that streams mainstream web content from sites like YouTube, Hulu, Comedy Central, CNN.com, ABC.com to a TV-like interface on a computer. And Boxee has announced they will deliver their software in a set-top box in 2009 for viewing on the TV set.
The players to watch right now are the videogame consoles and the set-top boxes. Videogame consoles can do a decent job right now, and 38 million US households own a current generation console. Consumers who bought a console to play games are finding the whole family can use it to watch TV shows and movies, without buying another box. But the user experience is not yet clear and simple enough for mainstream users and there is not enough content available. Set-top boxes are a strong contender because some of them (like TiVo) know how to nail the consumer experience and service providers will install STBs for the consumer, solving a big part of the complexity problem. However most current STB solutions also suffer from limited content and consumers are becoming used to getting TV/movie content free online.
Pundits have talked about the battle for the living room between the PC and consumer electronics manufacturers for a decade. But at this point it doesn’t look like a PC-based solution is going to be the winner.
Things are moving rapidly. We believe that within two years winning solutions will evolve that allow consumers to easily and cheaply watch TV shows and movies from the internet/PC on their TV set.

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