@jasonwstein - Fixing the Living Room
April 11, 2012
Fixing the Living Room

                                                                                                                                         

[Screenshot of @jasonhirschhorn's iPad via Twitter.]

The content distributed by cable is incredible. I watch everything: live sports, movies, and a lot of scripted and unscripted shows. But in the way that it distributes all of this programming to its audience, cable is broken. 

The cable box is ugly and over-sized. All content should be streamed. The box should disappear — it already has with Barry Diller’s exciting, controversial Aereo — and eventually it will. But there’s a much bigger issue…

Think about every screen you interact with and what that experience is like. Now think about interacting with cable on your television. The interface and experience are five years behind. The guide and menu are unattractive, slow and have limited functionality. They are not customizable or intuitive. The average person watches 20 channels. Max. Yet there are hundreds and hundreds on the cable guide. You should be able to create your guide — your channels arranged to your liking — and watch and control it from your mobile, tablet, and computer anywhere in the world.

As foreshadowed by the picture above, hopefully soon every network and cable channel will have an app for your mobile and tablet. In this ideal world, the app lets you stream directly to your television using Airplay, provided you pay cable for the channel. But Apple is not alone in creating an advanced interface. Xbox has begun rolling out a promising content discovery experience powered by voice control. And in YouTube, Google has an absolutely enormous internet-based cable content system that is also a social network and the second largest search engine in the world. 

Right now, content deals — to bring traditional programming to modern interfaces — remain a hurdle. But it’s hard to imagine that the current stalemates won’t be resolved as new platforms offer a better experience, attract consumers, increase viewership and social engagement. Not to mention: Apple has enough money to afford any content it wants, or an entire cable company (see: Cablevision).

Maybe Big Cable, led by Comcast, can pull off a huge overhaul and own the living room. But it is far behind, tangled in old business models, and sitting at the bottom of industry customer satisfaction ratingsI’m not convinced cable companies are capable of creating a great user interface and experience. Apple and Xbox and Google/YouTube have already proven that they can do it. 

I think that everyone can smell change coming. I just hope it happens soon. I hate hating cable.

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