Jeremy Toeman provided a view through the "Way Back Machine" as he provided an overview of interactivity through the decades at today’s STB 2010 conference in San Jose. He brings the credibility as the founder and developer of middleware software to enable the connected home in the waning years of the twentieth century. He was Vice President of Sling Media and defined the product that became synonymous with the concept of place shifting. His latest venture Stage Two Consulting, Inc. is an out-source product marketing firm helping companies design and market high-tech products and services.
With his background, he brought a great deal of credibility when he suggested that interactive television has largely failed in the 2000s (think CableCARD as an example). There has been some success, such as Sling Box, TiVo and Roku. The biggest challenge is that TV works. Households have TVs on 8 hours a day, it rarely reboots, it turns on instantly and there is a great deal of content.
With this as a baseline, he provided some predictions for the interactive television efforts of various players. Here were some of his predictions as to what types of companies might have success:
- PC + TV – no reason to think it will finally take off
- GoogleTV 3.0 will probably find success – 1.0 will still be too techie
- Mainstream CE device makers – maybe successful, but lots of user experience and interface issues. Who does a user call when a widget application fails; the widget provider, the TV mfg, or the operating system? Toeman called this, “the streaming TV dilemma.”
- He called Game Consoles, "The Best Convergence Devices in the market today." He pointed out that non-gamers won't buy them for them for streaming features, so they won't be for everyone.
- DVD players work, but people will typically not upgrade them just to get streaming and interactive features.
- Start-ups – maybe. Companies that he felt might have a chance of continued success in delivering OTT video include Roku, Boxee and PopBox.
- Existing MVPD (Multichannel Video Program Distributors). The satellite, cable and telcos will continue to integrate OTT into their existing offering in various ways and, like market leaders in other industries, will use consumer inertia, the ability to create “whole products” and brand power to their advantage. This reminds me of the argument made in some marketing book I once read that suggested that market leaders in a given industry often let smaller competitors innovate and prove the market for a particular feature, which they then adopt and bring to the mainstream. If they get the timing right, they remain market leaders for years (think McDonalds).
- AppleTV – the king of the electronic fashion industry. Toeman pointed out that Apple’s strength is its distribution network of stores; Best Buy is now more of a competitor to Apple than Microsoft is. With their new model and device, AppleTV is poised to sell millions of devices and bring their magic to the television.
- Content aggregators Hulu, Amazon (Looking at a subscription model) and Netflix will continue to be a success.
He recommended that product planners look to the young people to determine the types of features that will be important for next generation television. There will be winners and some new players, but, in the end, it is the existing service providers’ market to lose.
*Image courtesy of Wikipedia