USA TODAY US Edition
Don’t hit rewind on TV revolution
USA TODAY regularly writes about how online video is transforming the TV experience, allowing consumers if they wish to “cut the cord.” The marketplace has attracted lots of innovative and well-heeled companies to the video business. Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, Apple TV and Roku are now firmly established video offerings. The result is invigorated competition and expanding choices for consumers.
What screen we watch TV on also is changing dramatically. Tablets, streaming devices, game consoles and smartphones capable of displaying the hottest TV shows have sprung up everywhere.
In response, content companies are finding creative ways to deliver video on the devices consumers want. Pay TV companies are also making their services available by creating apps that can run on any device, eliminating the need for set-top boxes. Already, these apps are available on 460 million connected devices. Just last week, Apple CEO Tim Cook declared, “The future of TV is apps.” And several cable providers offer Netflix on the same box with cable content.
The video world is rapidly evolving, and big things are ahead. That is why a government effort to power up a cable set-top box market is backward looking and puts undue faith in industrial planning over naturally occurring innovation.
Nothing prevents any company from making and selling a cable box. A glance at TiVo’s website, which proclaims that “the world’s best cable DVR just got better,” is proof. Buying a cable box is just not that compelling for most consumers.
I bought and used a TiVo as my set-top box. While I liked it, I had to go to Best Buy to purchase it. It cost several hundred dollars, and that didn’t include TiVo’s monthly subscription fee. And to get the newest features, I had to buy a brand-new one every few years. Adding up the cost and inconvenience, one can see why many consumers reasonably choose to lease rather than buy.
With all the excitement happening in TV, it is misguided to have the government design set-top boxes to seed a market that has moved on to find fresh ways to consumers’ hearts.