As you move your viewing online, two groups are fighting to define how you watch television. What is at stake for you, the viewer, is nothing less than how and what you watch on TV.
The two sides in the ongoing battle for TV are:
- TV platforms like Amazon Fire TV, Roku
- TV content providers like HBO, Disney, Acorn TV
The TV providers have the content you want, and the TV platforms provide the devices you use to get it.
So, how different are these two approaches?
Chapter 1: The TV platform experience (1:21)
Platform providers provide an app through which we can subscribe to other content. For example, we can subscribe to HBO content inside the Amazon Prime TV app or The Roku Channel. To watch HBO content, we need the Fire TV or The Roku Channel app on all our devices.
You can search for a show like Game of Thrones in the integrated search app. When you pick the show from the list returned from the search, it will start to play inside the Fire TV or The Roku Channel experience. If you have billing or problem with any of the subscribed services, you must contact Amazon or Roku to fix them.
Amazon and Roku take up to half the money you pay for the services you subscribe through their app.
Chapter 2: The TV content provider experience (3:13)
The TV content provider puts an app on the TV platform, and you can usually subscribe to the service directly through the app. To watch, you need the app on all of your viewing devices. For example, if you subscribe to Netflix, you need the Netflix app on the TV platform device, smartphone, and tablet that you use. There are many TV content providers, including HBO Now/MAX, Disney+, CuriosityStream, Hulu, and BritBox.
Searching for a show like Game of Thrones is much the same as with the TV platform experience. However, when you pick the show from the search list, the HBO app is launched, and you watch the show there. As well, if you have a billing or service problems, you must contact the TV content provider to resolve them.
In this model, the content provider keeps most, maybe all, of your monthly subscription.
Chapter 3: Why it matters (4:46)
You will decide who wins the battle for TV.
If you choose a platform provider like Roku and Amazon Fire TV, the experience is simple, and managing services is easy. However, it could be risky. If enough people go that route, eventually Roku and Amazon will have the power to decide who they integrate with, and what content you can see on your television.
To understand how dominant such a position can be, consider that Google has this power in search today. If what you are searching for is not found by Google search, does it even exist? Amazon already has the power in retail. How many people only bother to shop at Amazon for many of their needs?
Choosing the TV content provider approaches has its risks too. Managing many different apps and subscriptions can be problematic, and each app has a different experience, which can also be confusing. As well, it is not as easy to find the content and services that might interest you.
So, which approach do you prefer, and which do you think is the better vision for the future of television?