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How The iPhone Changed TV


randy-cookeOn TV And Video” is a column exploring opportunities and challenges in programmatic TV and video.

Today’s column is written by Randy Cooke, vice president of programmatic TV at SpotX.

June will mark the ninth year since the release of the iPhone. Almost a decade since its debut, the disruption ushered in by Apple’s visionary device continues to change the way we consume media – with TV now feeling the force of its revolution.

The expectations Apple set for access to content and instant gratification are helping shape the new TV experience. Video content, traditionally distributed via over-the-air broadcast or cable, is increasingly available via digital platforms, with many of them adopting operating systems akin to mobile devices.

Audiences that once congregated for prime-time programming are fragmenting across these new digital delivery points, as well as time. Content discovery, which a decade ago simply meant mastering the guide menu or remembering to set the DVR, is expanding across platforms.

And for media owners, it’s creating a new content paradigm that will impact monetization strategies.

Content Discovery In Your Pocket

The iPhone embodies evolutionary elegance in both form and function. Its intuitive interface reflects how we organize our thoughts, its touch response makes it feel personal and its navigation features make content discovery a breeze. Smart TVs, multimedia devices – in particular, Apple TV – and streaming-video-on-demand (SVOD) services are taking their cues from the iPhone’s operating system.

Bringing the simplicity and familiarity of the mobile user experience to TV lends content discovery the richness of Internet search. The new TiVo Bolt, for example, indexes thousands of TV and video distribution channels, to help the consumer find every source of desired content. Similarly, Comcast’s app-oriented X1 platform is poised to be an industry game-changer.

With the number of options available to consumers for accessing content rapidly expanding, the principles ushered in by the iPhone are about to enter a renaissance.

From SVOD platforms and direct-to-consumer apps, to TV Everywhere and live streaming mobile web, TV is now mobile, enabling the discovery and consumption of content on the go.


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However, it’s not the threat that people will start watching content on these four-inch screens that media owners should worry about. After all, an insignificant mass of cable subscribers actually use their TV Everywhere feature.

While that will change, and perhaps not to the benefit of the incumbent cable operator, the true value proposition of TV Everywhere isn’t that people can stream content on their phone, but that their entire video libraries are with them anywhere they go. The casting features enabling you to display your smartphone’s content on a TV through a wireless connection mean you have a media library in your pocket that can power a big-screen viewing experience.

Piecing The Audience Together

Like they always have, people form social communities around great content. Look no further than “The Walking Dead,” “Breaking Bad” or “Arrested Development” to understand modern water cooler talk. What has changed is the way each individual comprising an audience consumes the content. Some watch it when it airs, others on their DVRs, through Hulu, on a direct-to-consumer app or during a Netflix binge.

TV viewing is a socialized, but individual experience.

We no longer find how we consume content all that impressive. We are adopting platforms that are the most compatible with the expectations we have developed. The next time you click over to your favorite smart TV or multimedia device menu, pause for a second to think about how similar the experience is to your phone. Then imagine – in a matter of years, not decades –   having every movie, show and viral video ever created cast to that screen from the palm of your hand. The debate over where TV ends and video begins seems rather banal when cast in that light, doesn’t it?

While the consumer is oblivious to the distinction, the fragmentation of audience poses some challenges for media owners. TV will become an even more individualized experience, and the app-oriented world we’re moving toward means that media owners will require an ever-expanding array of tools to retain the holistic value of their most valuable product – audience.

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