Yesterday at the I/O developer conference, Google announced planned improvements for the future of Google TV. In addition to offering more second-screen support, Google plans to expand their Play marketplace to include an extended library of movies and television shows.
In other words, so far Google seems to be attacking TV with an approach similar to Vudu, Amazon, iTunes, and who knows who else. While it’s nice to know the entertainment library available to cord cutters is inevitably expanding, this fragmentation of availability should create an interesting dynamic moving forward.
After all, besides price, pure convenience and availability, there’s little (at least at this point) that will bind customers to one streaming service over another. This, to me, represents an opportunity for someone new (and perhaps not even television or video-related) to dive in and capture a quickly growing audience. This provider, liaison, or whatever you want to call them, will earn attention by pointing out availability across libraries and screens.
Think of it this way: I’m an owner of multiple devices, but I watch most of my TV and movies on whatever services are provided on X Box. If I’m looking for something to watch, first I try Netflix because it’s commercial-free and flat fee. If Netflix doesn’t have what I’m looking for I switch to Hulu because it’s also all you can eat (though ridden with repetitive commercials. When something isn’t on either of those, I try Vudu. Vudu’s paid library is most up to date of the three, but an hour of TV can cost anywhere from $1.99 to a few bucks. I don’t usually look at Amazon or iTunes because my setup forces me to project my computer to my TV with a physical cord.
So what happens when iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, and a few others enter the fray as convenient, viable entertainment options? This is where I see real opportunity. Imagine an app that aggregates all the content available to you in one fell swoop. You set up a profile, search “Mad Men,” and see an objective map of availability based on your user profile and preferences (e.g. preferred screen, existing subscriptions, lowest price, fastest transaction, viewing quality). This provider would save loads of time for the consumer, accumulate a vast amount of viewer data, and could very easily own the discovery process. As such, they could easily collect a fee for referring customers to libraries of content.
We’ve seen similar solutions pop up in the daily deals industry (Dealupa, anyone) and Google just started forcing merchants to pay for inclusion in the Google Shopping listings. The only problem is that inevitably yet another party will need to cut a deal and take a cut of an already over complicated industry that is on many fronts, still somewhat reluctant to adapt. Regardless, the future is coming, and someone needs to organize the fragmented marketplace entertainment is about to become.