Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Internet-Enabled TV for $10

There is no question that the under-25 demographic does not watch TV. Go through any college dorm and you will see people watching shows on their computers, and very few TVs. For the rest of us, there are a quite a few solutions for watching Internet content on your TV, including Vudu, Roku, and AppleTV. But they all require spending $200+ for your own Internet set top box or adding software like Boxee or Playon to an existing device. These boxes have interfaces ranging from good to bad, but, with the exception of Boxee, none are have really nailed a great user experience.

People paid $200 for DVD players, TiVo's, and DirecTV receivers, but for whatever reason, a lot of people intuitively don't want to pay for an Internet set top box. So what can we do about this? It is really holding up the Internet TV market.

As discussed at itvt's TV of Tomorrow Show this week, one solution is for cable operators like Comcast and Time Warner to throw in an Internet set top box as part of a broadband + cable TV package. This would enable cable operators to continue to offer cable service, but supplement their on demand offerings with broadband on demand and also integrate premium subscriptions such as HBO.

Until then, a lot of households only need to spend $10 to get Internet content on their TV. If you have a flat panel TV and a laptop computer, all you need is a $10 VGA cable and a standard audio cable (make that $30 if you have a Mac since you will need to get a VGA adapter). Connect your laptop's VGA out to your TV's VGA in port and the headphone jack to the audio in on your TV and you are all set. You can then pull up whatever content you want (including Hulu) on your web browser, and then hit full screen.

To jump on the Internet TV bandwagon, you don't have to buy anything other than a cable, learn anything new, or have your content kicked off your device since it is connect to a TV like the recent Hulu/Boxee scuff. There is a ton more content available for free on demand on the web than there is on TV, including on-demand cable. Soon enough even subscription content like HBO will be available.

An exciting aspect of viewing shows on computers is that there is much more potential for interactivity, particularly social interactivity when people can easily rate, share, and opine on shows and scenes.

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