It's crazy to think that today, if I want to watch a live NBA game, I basically have two options. NBA League Pass, or Cable TV. The former costs over $100 and has a number of restrictions (like blocking coverage when your local team plays home games). And Cable TV, put simply is a rip-off. Time Warner Cable "standard TV" package starts at $39.99 a month. Add in taxes, fees, and you could be paying $40+ a month for basic Cable TV. And your cost is likely to increase 5-20% each year.
Even as a NBA fan I can't justify paying for cable or league pass so that I can watch a game or two a week. But I would happily pay a la carte style for individual games, or a more reasonable monthly fee that I could cancel at anytime. And I recently discovered that such a solution exists.
It's called Sling Television. For only $20/month I get 20+ channels (including: ESPN 1 & 2, TNT) with no long-term contracts, set-up, or hardware fees. And I can join and cancel at anytime. I have not tried the service, but if it works as well as described, it will be a game-changer for me. Cable television companies have hopefully realized that the younger generations are not buying cable packages. They are buying Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime. They are watching videos on YouTube and documentaries on Vimeo. Sports have been one of the last forms of entertainment keeping the cable industry alive. And Sling is delivering cable content at a fair price, through a medium my generation understands: an app.
Vizio, the Irvine California based consumer electronics company is also taking a stab at the future of TV. They are launching their new P-Series TVs this month. Vizio reimagined TV through the P-Series. I'll sum it up as a TV screen with built in Google Cast technology, and is controlled by a 6-inch Android tablet.
Google got it right with Google Cast. They made us realize that our TV is just a large screen. The remote is our devices. Our phone, tablet, laptop, these smart devices are our remotes. Vizio is taking this to another level with the P-Series integration with Google Cast. To quote Nilay Patel from his excellent Verge article:
Google actually controls the Cast software on the P-Series, which is kept separate from the rest of Vizio’s software. "It will stay completely up to date with all the Chromecast dongles in the field," says McRae. "Google has the ability to update the Cast library at will." "All of the innovation we’re putting into Google Cast will be fed into the Vizio TVs, just as it is with the Chromecast. Their product will get better and better over time," says Queiroz.
The idea of the product getting better and better over time is not a new concept for software. But it is a new concept for hardware.
Tesla is infamous for this, with their over the air software updates that introduce new features such as "Autosteer" to the Model S. Prior to Tesla this was unheard of in the auto-industry. You would have buy next years model in order to get the latest features. Today, your car "updates" while you sleep.
Vizio is taking the same approach with the P-Series. As Google updates Google Cast technology, your TV improves.
The other smart thing Vizio did was not build their own operating system in the TV. Had they gone this route, they would need custom apps (e.g ESPN, AMC, Hulu, etc.) to be built for their platform. This isn't practical, and would limit the content they could offer. So:
By dropping any desire to put apps on the TV itself, Vizio completely sidesteps the platform war entirely. Every app in the Android and the iOS app stores that supports Google Cast is a P-Series app.
The beauty of Google Cast is that it takes your existing Android or iOS apps, and through some tweaks turns them into apps that are Google Cast enabled. And since so many apps have already been Cast enabled, the Vizio TV at launch will have a slew of apps that are compatible with the television.
I'm curious to see how the television market will appear a year from now. My prediction is that we will be heading in the direction that Sling TV (a la carte style content at a low no-hassle cost) and Vizio (TV's controlled by our BYODs) are taking us in.
It will be exciting to watch, and things are looking up for consumers in the realm of TV!