MG Siegler wrote a must-read piece on TechCrunch this evening (The Full-On Assault of Cable is Underway) that has me thinking about the battleground for our living rooms on this final week of summer that is about to begin.
Apple is set to unveil its much-awaited Apple iTV device this Wednesday at an event in San Francisco—essentially a take-two on its painfully restrictive Apple TV brick that is now collecting dust under my Roku box. The big talk is all around content, specifically the reported 99-cent rentals of TV episodes.
Currently you can only buy TV shows on iTunes, which means a pretty steep price to pay to catch those few episodes of Mad Men you missed. So Apple never really faced off head to head with cable, which is essentially a rental service with an all-you-can-eat $120 bill. But now with a fresh new $99 device and an a-la-carte rental option, the face-off is officially here.
Siegler’s right, the battle for our living rooms isn’t just about convergence (or convenience), it’s about freeing us from an oppressive $120 monthly cable bill and abysmal customer service for a glut of content we don’t even watch.
On the film side, Netflix is slowly but surely compressing content windows for movies, adding more and more titles every day it seems. And a very palpable $9.99/month is a no brainer especially once you’ve discovered the joy that is its “Watch Instantly” streaming option.
And today came news that Google (YouTube) is planning a movie rental service of its own, which will apparently allow for streaming of movies at $5 a title. This really isn’t surprising since YouTube dabbled into rentals back in January with a few of the Sundance flicks.
Where does original web video fall in this battlefield? Everywhere. The savvy online-only networks like Revision3, My Damn Channel, Next New Networks and the like are all actively staking out ground in these new platforms—from Roku to Boxee to the to-be-launched Google TV. None of these networks are big enough yet to command any real market concessions out of the superpowers of Apple and Google, but they are along for the ride and willing to do what they can to help up the offerings.
In Siegler’s war analogy, I think the web series networks would be those small but determined armies in that “Coalition of the Willing” like Hungary, Iceland and Poland. How many “troops” these outfits actually provide for the fight, as opposed to say NBC or HBO, is up for debate. But either way, it’s a battle any web video fan must pay attention to—it’s our fight too folks.