I was watching an ad the other day for Panasonic where it showed people watching YouTube on a big flat screen TV in the living room. Yet most people don't watch content from the web on TV, probably because it still takes a technical leap that's simply too difficult for mass consumption.
That got me thinking that many of us watch TV on our PC these days. My wife and I regularly watch shows on ABC.com. (I will sorely miss Life on Mars, but check out Better of Ted if you haven't seen it). Hulu, which has a hilarious series of ads called 'an evil plot to destroy the world,' provides easy access to tons of shows. And it seems after years of promise that TV has finally made the transition to PC. But what will it take for the PC to move to the TV?
Which Way is Which?
Several companies have tried to provide the hardware and software so that you can watch content from the Web on your TV, but so far mass adoption remains elusive. Examples include Apple TV, a box that lets you watch content you buy in the iTunes store (which includes TV shows and movies, don't forget) on your TV. It also lets you watch YouTube and other web content. A relative new comer, Boxee, a software solution with plans to release a set top box next year, has run into issues because it lets you stream Hulu onto your television and apparently the folks who own Hulu--NBC Universal, News Corp. and Providence Equity Partners--had an issue with Boxee streaming their content to the TV.
On February 18th the Boxee blog announced it would be removing the Hulu stream from the Boxee system:
"Two weeks ago Hulu called and told us their content partners were asking them to remove Hulu from Boxee. We tried (many times) to plead the case for keeping Hulu on Boxee, but on Friday of this week, in good faith, we will be removing it..."
The battle has continued, however as Boxee figured out a way to provide access to users through a simple RSS syndication feed. Users want access to online content repositories like Hulu and they want to see it on the big screen. If they can't, it has to hold back adoption.
What Will It Take?
TiVo is a fantastic service, but they couldn't create a mass market even when they dropped the price substantially on the box. It was only when the cable companies and satellite providers put DVR functionality inside the set top box that DVR use began to climb. It's going to take a similar dynamic to get web content on the TV. Companies like Comcast are going to need to provide it as part of their On Demand library and then it won't take any effort at all. It will be built into the process people are already comfortable using. What's more the service providers can make deals with Hulu and YouTube, perhaps giving them a small piece of the subscription action.
The technical elite will always find a way to get web content onto the TV, but the masses will always lag because it has to be super simple to gain mass adoption. Once the providers are on board, there is little doubt that it will take off, and chances are if Hulu and Google get a little piece of the action, they will be more likely to share with big cable than they were with little Boxee. For now, we have plenty of TV on our PCs, but until we find a simple way to stream web content to the TV, most people will need to wait for PC content on the TV.