Television Still Trumps Online Streams

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Despite the best efforts of top tech companies from Apple to Google, cable companies are only increasing their control over American living rooms.

Indeed, a New York Times/CBS News poll this month found that 88% of respondents paid for traditional TV service, while, just 15% of those subscribers had even considered replacing it with Internet video services like Hulu and YouTube.

“In the battle for the living room, 2010 seems to be the year that the incumbent is strengthening its foothold,” writes The New York Times.

“The proliferation of Internet video has led to much talk of ‘cord-cutting’ — a term that has come to mean canceling traditional pay TV and replacing it with programming from a grab bag of online sources,” The Times writes. “But so far Americans are not doing this in any meaningful numbers.”

Why? For one, the Web-connected set-top boxes offered by Apple and others are still not as easy as to sign up for as cable or a satellite service. Meanwhile, as The Times notes, the television business has gone out its way to avoid the same fate as the music and publishing industries. “Heavyweight distributors and producers have protected their business models by ensuring that some must-see shows and live sporting events cannot legally be seen online.”

“Unlike the newspapers, books and music, the cable companies have been able to fend off the challenge from the Internet,” writes Business Insider.

Still, “There’s plenty of web video sites, and plenty of devices trying to put that web video on your TV,” Business Insider adds. “The problem is none of them offer live, high quality content, and it’s rare that you’ll find live sports available for viewing, too.”

“This is what makes Google and Apple’s attempts to crack the market this fall interesting. Apple has already failed once in the TV market. Google is meeting a brick wall when it tries to get partners for Google TV. Even Microsoft has tried to break the cable model with Xbox, but it hasn’t left much of an impact.”

At the end of the day, “The cable vs. television war is not about price … but more about ease of use,” insists one newsgroup subscriber. “Though someone could argue that there is a usability curve that can be overlaid across ease of use (we pay more for simpler, pay less for complex). Cable is mature and has worked through the majority of the usability kinks in its product; thus, consumers find it easy to use. We pay a premium for this.”

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