In my view, this year’s CES is all about enabling pervasive content distribution. And the key to everyone’s strategy here, whether Microsoft (via XBox 360) or Apple (via Apple TV), is IPTV.
Let’s be clear. IPTV is disruptive technology. Seriously. There is no better example of what a disruptive technology would look like. This is VoIP multiplied by a million.
So what exactly is the big deal? Simply put: IPTV shakes video distribution to its core. It takes control away from the big cable companies. It makes entry into cable distribution much easier, increasing competition. It puts choice in the hands of consumers. It explodes constraints: limitless channels anyone?
At a basic level, IPTV is going to create a situation where consumers only pay for the channels they want to subscribe to. That means that the channels that survive will be the ones that people want.
Imagine this situation: ESPN is the dominant sports channel. Lots of guys currently pay $50 a month or more basically to get ESPN. Sure, lots of other channels come along with it, but who cares about those channels.
Ok. So with IPTV, if things go well, you’ll be able to choose ESPN and get rid of all the other channels you don’t want (Style?).
Well, let’s say that ESPN gets on its high-horses and starts pricing a monthly subscription to its channel for $35. That seems too high. IPTV makes it easy for a competitor sports channel to come along and charge $2/month or so, undercut ESPN and force ESPNs hand to lower their prices. This is quite different than the current cable situation, with limited channels, where entry into the market is EXTREMELY hard (witness the NFL Networks desperate attempts to get added this past season).
Just thinking about the possibilities makes me shiver with excitement. This is a whole new frontier and I’m glad that I’ll be able to witness it’s development.