There’s a revolution going in the television industry these days and I think it’s much like the what internet and smartphones, preceded by the iPod phenomenon, did to AM and FM radio. Devastation. Then, change.
Way back in the day, back to before I was a child, AM radio and TV was about all a person had to get information and entertainment from media. Then FM came on the scene with higher quality. TV went to color. Then music went mobile with 8-tracks, cassettes, and later, CDs. In the early part of the century, iPods came along, and with iTunes Music Store, changed the face of music entertainment.
Now it’s TV’s turn to be ravaged, devastate, and changed, but in ways far different than AM and FM radio experienced in the past few decades. How we view television is changing, thanks to the internet, streaming media, Apple TV and apps as channels, PlayStation Vue, and now Google’s latest attempt to get TV viewers to drop their cable TV connection and go full on streaming with YouTube TV.
While I think competition is a good thing, and I applaud choice, most of the choices today have compromises.
Cable TV offers high quality and massive selection but is the most expensive of all options, and for many cable TV customers, there is no option to watch channels on their iPhones and iPads, so mobility can be a problem.
Options abound, but all with compromises, too. Sling TV has limited choices but apps run everywhere, including Apple TV– but no local TV station option; a deal breaker for some. AT&T’s DirecTV Now has similar options at a similar price. Ditto for PlayStation Vue, but the DVR feature is a good option but unlike the cable TV company’s DVR, you can’t fast forward through commercials.
That brings me to Google’s YouTube TV and an initial assessment of all these streaming media options. YouTube TV offers a skinny bundle of networks but no CNN or MSNBC to match Fox News. The price is about the same as other offerings for similar number of channels, and that tells me the TV industry has a pricing floor, so we shouldn’t expect anything different from Apple unless they just buy the whole industry.
YouTube TV’s DVR feature is great– except for one flaw. No fast forward. This isn’t a technology issue. It’s a business decision. Here in Chicago we have Spectrum TV (Time Warner Cable and Charter) and they have a good bundle of cable TV with 125 channels, telephone service, and internet access for about $30. Each. Even better, the Spectrum app for iPhone and iPad works very well and provides remote access to programming and DVR controls. I like that.
What’s happening throughout the industry is obvious. Fragmentation. More choices, more plans and bundles, but all at a similar price tag with similar offerings. It’s as if we have mobile cable TV from the 1980s. Even if you cut the cord you get much the same selection. Apple hasn’t helped the cutting revolution with Apple TV, either. Apps as channels is a navigation nightmare but Apple TV itself is a good way to stream media from various iOS apps.
Cutting the cord can be a challenge and doing so usually involves hoops to jump through to save money.