Screen wars: stealing TV’s ‘eyeball’ share
Television, the long-dominant medium, becomes just one of many video outlets.
Is this the summer that the Internet finally kills television as we once knew it?Skip to next paragraph
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Most industry observers are stopping short of that prediction, citing some significant hurdles still in the way. But the growing number of new deals and new devices being announced suggests that a profound change in the way people watch video – and what video they watch – is under way. The line between “television” and video via the Internet already has blurred and may disappear in coming years. At least one industry analyst has declared “TV is dead” and welcomes Americans to a new age of video everywhere.
Increasingly, Americans are watching video when they want to, and on the screen that suits them at the time. And more programming is from new sources that threaten to unlock Hollywood’s domination of content. Video is now delivered on displays and devices of every shape and size, from gigantic theater screens and ever-larger home projector screens, to flat-screen HDTVs, to desktop and laptop computer monitors, to tiny personal screens such as those found on iPods and mobile phones.
Meanwhile, NBC Universal is touting its coverage of the Summer Olympics in Beijing as “the single most ambitious digital event coverage ever.” Along with video coverage on several of its cable TV networks, NBC is streaming 2,200 hours of live competition in 25 sports on the NBCOlympics.com website.
“The Olympic viewer will be able to define his or her own Olympic experience like never before,” said Gary Zenkel, the president of NBC Olympics, announcing coverage plans last month. Press coverage has speculated that heavy viewing of Olympics on workplace computers may cause systems to bog down or crash.
“NBC is certainly taking the right approach by stepping back and trying to look at [the Olympics] as a holistic suite of [video] offerings and then trying to figure out what pieces best go where,” says Kendall Whitehouse, senior director of information technology at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
NBC concedes that this unprecedented blanket of coverage across TV, Internet, and mobile devices amounts to a giant experiment. “I have no idea how people are going to use this stuff,” said Alan Wurtzel, the company’s research chief, in an interview with the Associated Press.
This spring and summer, deals to make video more ubiquitous across screens have popped up with more and more frequency:
• Netflix, the video rent-by-mail company, has struck several new agreements to deliver its content online. A new $100 box from Roku the size of a paperback book lets users stream any of about 10,000 movies from Netflix to their TVs (though the vast majority of Netflix’s library will still be available only through DVDs by mail). South Korea’s LG Electronics announced it will offer a high-definition (HD) disc player that also will be able to access movies from Netflix via the Internet. And Microsoft will stream Netflix video to its Xbox 360 videogame consoles.