Wednesday, January 11, 2012

CES Tidbits (two)

After reviewing the new plasmas introduced by Samsung and Panasonic, it became clear to me that, unfortunately, these new sets aren't about image quality. They're about revenue stream.

That is, by far, the defining trend of the new displays this year. Everyone is desperately trying to co-opt the content on-demand revenue stream, with a bazillion integrated apps, all of which lead to places where you can pay for shit.

In Samsung's press release, their first three bullet points are:
--smart interaction
--Smart content
--smart evolution (kits you can install to "upgrade" your set each year, and I guarantee the "upgrade" will consist of additional apps leading you to places where you can buy even more shit.)

Image quality? It's down there toward the end of the press release. Way down there. In the twentieth paragraph.

Panasonic? Second paragraph of their press release:
Also new for 2012 is a cloud-based architecture to increase the VIERA Connect IPTV platform to an unlimited number of apps, thereby cementing its reputation for creating innovative and cutting edge products and focusing on providing the consumer with the ultimate in home entertainment.

AKA "so you can buy more shit now." At least Panasonic mentions image quality in the third paragraph instead of the twentieth.

So something important is happening, and no, it's not my sarcasm. All these television manufacturers want a piece of video on demand. They want to be the toll collectors from content providers, not cable companies. In some ways, this is war, with the television manufacturers cutting deals and trying to cut out traditional cable providers like Time Warner.

Seriously, if someone bought a new Samsung plasma this year, could they just get rid of cable or DirecTV entirely? For most of us, probably not, but I believe the market is inevitably headed toward 100% content on demand, except for live programming. No need for a DVR in a decade, really--everything will be available at any time.

If you weren't a sports fan, I think you could actually get rid of cable today. Every major network has episodes on demand, and there are plenty of online content providers like Netflix to stream almost any movie you want to see.

I do see one tremendous advantage to this, which is it would promote true competition among content. I wouldn't have to subscribe to six shitty ESPN sub-channels anymore, and ESPN eventually won't be able to hold cable companies hostage during renegotiations. So I wouldn't have to help pay for thirty horrible ESPN shows where hosts yell at each other for 30 minutes and call it "debate."

Consumers only paying for the content they want to watch. What a novel approach.

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