With all the new Internet TV boxes and services sprouting this holiday season—from Google TV and Apple TV to the Boxee Box, Shufflr, and beyond—there is a lot talk about people cutting their cable cords and just getting all of their TV from the Internet. That is not going to happen anytime soon until the best TV shows and movies become available online at the same time as on TV, but the direction is clear. Today at the SAI Ignition conference in New York City, Boxee CEO Avner Ronen declared, “Resistance is futile.”
Ronen was responding to the question of when will there be something worthwhile to watch on the Web. Getting Web video to your TV is becoming increasingly easy, but there are so many restrictions on the best video (network TV shows and Hollywood movies) that it is still not worth watching on the Web for anybody but geeks. Ronen himself admits that his modest goal is to get “from geeks to early adopters.”
Clicker CEO Jim Lanzone, who was also on the same panel, argued that quality isn’t really the issue. “At some point, 80 percent of major network TV content was online.” The problem is that “it doesn’t stay there.” As a viewer, you have to know when to catch the shows, because unlike all other content on the Internet, TV shows and movies don’t stay online. They get placed online and then plucked off based on the different licensing windows the media companies adhere to in order to squeeze more profits from their shows and movies by making them available at different times through different distribution channels (theaters, DVDs, pay-per-view, cable, and now online).
Internet TV, however, doesn’t really fit into this distribution model because the generation of viewers who are growing up now on Youtube and Hulu want t watch TV or videos whenever they want to, not when the media companies tell them they can.
“The Internet is just a distribution model, it does not dictate business models,” argues Ronen. The existing media companies may not like the new competition that the Internet is bringing, but if consumers move there they won’t have a choice but to follow suit. He predicts that 50 percent of households in the U.S. will have Internet-connected TVs in five years and that “Netflix is going to have more paid video subscribers in two years than Comcast.” People will pay for broadband from one provider and pay for content from others (perhaps Netflix or Hulu or Boxee). Resistance is futile because over time, the Internet will prevail.
Below is a video interview I did with Avner a couple weeks ago on the same topic: