Practical Technology

for practical people.

Is Over-the-Air TV Dying?


I’m underwhelmed by the new Apple TV, and I’m not the only one who finds the new Apple TV less than inspiring, but when you look into TV’s future, it looks like it’s going to be all Internet all the time from here on out.

Seriously, the new Apple TV is kind of cute, but that’s about all I can say for it. At the same time though almost any new device you get for your media-room, entertainment center, or what-have-you comes with at least Netflix streaming built in.

It used to be that you needed to be an audio/visual geek with snappy computer skills to get a connection up between the Internet and your TV. Now, on many new HDTVs and high-end DVD players, you just plug it in, set it up to use your 802.11n Wi-Fi, point at your Netflix account, and you’re ready to go. No fuss, no muss.

You don’t need an Apple TV to do this. I use a Sony BDP-S570 Blu-ray Disc Player, which includes Internet streaming support for Amazon Video on Demand, Netflix, and a host of more obscure Internet video services. It makes watching movies off the Internet easier than setting up then my Charter Communications provided DVR.

The only thing that’s missing from all this is a cheap and easy way to watch the current TV shows that I like such as Burn Notice, Community, and House and sports. Thanks to Hulu, I could watch these and other shows on a PC. But, come on, would you rather watch television on a monitor of a big-screen HDTV with your buddies?

That’s what I thought too. With Hulu introducing its new Hulu Plus new pay ‘all-you-can-watch’ TV service for $9.99 a month, I’ll soon be able to watch almost all the shows I like, when I want to watch them, with or without over-the-air or cable TV.

Better still, I’ll be able to watch all this with my existing Sony hardware. Think about it. In my case, I have to pay $89.99 a month for TV which includes such must-watch shows’ as Jewelry Television, GSN (Game Show Network), and the Home Shopping Network. Would I be willing to pay less than $25 for Hulu and Netflix instead? You betcha!

The only thing that’s really missing is sports. That’s where Roku comes through. It currently streams baseball, MLB.TV; pro basketball, NBA Game Time; and UFC fighting. It’s not perfect.

p> There’s no NFL, and if there’s an easy way to stream ESPN, ir even ESPN3 to a TV, I’d love to know what it is. But, if I’m right about where TV broadcasting is heading, it’s only a matter of time before someone will be streaming though to me as well.

The only real problem I see with this vision of the future is the network itself, and I’m not talking ABC, CBS, NBC, et. al. It’s takes a lot of bandwidth to stream video. It takes much more to stream HD video. The public Internet doesn’t have much speed to spare what with everyone Twittering, watching videos, and all the rest. My 20Mbps (Megabit per second) cable connection is just fine, but what about the pipelines behind it? How much capability do they have?

Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster recently said that Apple might be able to shake-up the TV market the same way it did music and make it its own. I say that we don’t need to wait for Apple. I think we have all the technologies in place to revolutionize TV with a la carte pricing and the end of the traditional local TV stations and cable.

A version of this story first appeared on ITWorld.

Leave a Reply