When is a TV not a TV? (Part Two)

For part two of “When is a TV not a TV”, we’ll be looking at what constitutes TV nowadays.

By the time I get home late at night (from working those 20 hour days *cough*), any of the shows I would have wanted to watch are long past their regular broadcast times. That’s the problem the PVR/DVR/TiVo solves, right?

Not always. I don’t have every channel, nor am I always near a TV set. What is more conveniently available is WiFi and a supple data plan for when a hotspot isn’t available.

I can get a lot of the same content directly from the providers themselves, when and where I want it. Big Bang Theory is only ever a short URL away. What if I want to watch the a live hockey game? NHL Center Ice is available right on my iPad.

The point I’m trying to make is that Video on Demand (VOD) is huge, and the universe of connected set box boxes, the rise of Netflix, smart TVs with more Over-The-Top (OTT) content, and again, content providers making their content available in this manner is the proof.

Traditional channels will have their place for a long time, supplying timely, pushed content and being a great leanback experience for when we don’t want to demand, but rather, be unexpectedly delighted.

So when I’m watching the LA Kings wipe the floor with the St. Louis Blues on my tablet, am I watching TV?

A whole lot of better knee-jerk descriptions seem to come to mind before “TV”. I’m watching the game, the feed, the show, the video…you get the idea. The same concept follows along if I’m streaming news from YouTube on my phone. Let’s not forget that all these internet “tubes” are in reference to the CRT tube TVs, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find many people who would describe watching mobile YouTube as “watching TV”. 

Take it from the other way around. Standing at Best Buy, no one has any problem navigating themselves to the TV department. There’s no issue with pointing at a television set and saying “Yeah, that thing there is a TV.” At least, this is at least what I’ve gathered from some informal polling.

It’s a sign that there’s some sense of division between what is TV and what isn’t. There’s a growing divide between gathering around a communal television set and individual viewing, which translates into usage of all these similar-but-different screens and services.

This isn’t just in one direction either. TVs are continuously becoming more like tablets or smartphones, with Android and HTML5 playing an increasing role on what shows up on your big screen. Most reports put smart TV growth in the triple digits.

What about the TV Everywhere initiative, spearheaded by Comcast and Time Warner? The idea here, poorly paraphrased, was to give their customers a way to get their TV service that they subscribed to from whatever screen they wanted.

Similarly, Sling Media’s SlingBox allows you to view your TV service from your myriad of different devices. The key words here are “TV service”. This ideal that there’s a service provider for televisions, that has been around for generations and still exists today, helps to serve as a guideline for what is actually TV.

If a device was meant to be primarily served by a television service provider, then the device is TV. If viewing the programming on a device that isn’t primarily served by a television service provider, then you’re viewing the TV service from a non-TV device. If you’re viewing videos from a content provider on any screen, it may simply be that: watching video.

Does this sound a little tedious and arbitrary to you? I don’t blame you. When the evolution of the connected TV and IPTV is at the pace it’s at, the lines blur. As long as the terms are agreed upon when you’re talking about them, you’re well on your way to clear linguistic bliss.

Let’s end off with this question:  Is TV becoming (dare I say it) a legacy product?

With the TV industry generating at over $350 billion on revenues, this is a probably a stretch. There’s tremendous growth in new technologies, new monetization models, and new players mixing up the TV value chain, so there’s some arguments to be made on either side.

- Colin Chong

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