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Apple and OTT: More of the Same? Maybe Not

Apple and OTT: More of the Same? Maybe Not

This week, Sling Media announced that Apple TV owners can now stream live TV content via the Slingbox app for the iPhone and iPad. This news arrives when the rumor mill activity surrounding a potential "traditional" Apple TV set is again heating up. What gives? Should we continue to get excited about the elusive hardware "Apple Television," or should we get behind additional OTT functionality for the existing Apple TV? Either way, content on-demand - whether pre-recorded, live or broadcast simulcast - as a consumer priority is here to stay.

The most recent news from Slingbox isn't necessarily significant from a technology point-of-view, as AirPlay has enabled this type of content consumption experience for quite a while. This announcement is important, though, because it emphasizes several trends that have been simmering in the digital media landscape for quite some time:

  • Apple TV (via AirPlay) and Chromecast both reinforce the notion of mobile first, delivering content to any "dumb" television. Televisions don't have to be "smart," they just have to "be," positioning mobile as the "first screen" handling all of the heavy lifting from a discovery and engagement perspective. If you take this view, TVs will be forever relegated to the second screen--and that's OK.
  • This development also points to an issue that is central to the broadcast industry: who owns the television (the primary "leanback" device) and consequently the living room, i.e., the consumer? With consumers gaining more access to live and VOD broadcast content as an OTT service via mobile apps and devices, consumers - to the chagrin of the traditional ecosystem of pay television - will begin to expect and demand - via their wallet - this model.

The industry will need to embrace and take advantage of the growing popularity of OTT as an opportunity for offering increased value to the consumer (and an opportunity for new/enhanced monetization). If pay TV doesn't take heed of this shift in consumption preferences, we'll continue to see a growing friction with consumers as the divide between broadcast and digital widens.