It’s both and 2013 will be the year it happens.
If you’re interested at all in TV you can’t miss rumors of the (real) Apple TV or the rising sales of the actual Apple TV as the most popular “accessory” for iPhones and iPads (10 million sold). We also hear that Intel’s announced its working on its own TV killer. And the one less talked about, which I think is much more likely, is the possibility of a Kindle TV by Amazon–they continue to rack up content deals (e.g. CBS, NBCUniversal) for their streaming service, have hired countless folks from the TV industry, and have a proven track record of building consumer products with billing relationships tied to them (Kindle).
If you’re new to thinking about the TV space then I recommend a primer on the business done by Kit Digital which outlines the players, how they make money, and their general strategy. As someone operating in the business, I’d say its fairly accurate:
The 7 key players, circa 2013: The Networks, The MVPDs, The Premium Networks, The OTT Networks, Smart TVs, Third Party devices and Social TV. —Alan Wolk
The primer addresses many of the common questions I tend to hear in discussions like “When will HBO sell HBO GO a la carte?” and “Why are there a bunch of channels I don’t want bundled into ‘Basic Cable’?”
As you might expect, I disagree that all MVPDs are standing still or against innovation (see 5 things you didn’t know Comcast offered). As we innovate in the TV space though we’d be wise to better understand why people pay for TV in the first place. Perhaps the best piece on this was recently shared by Jeremy Toeman (CEO of TV startup Dijit Media) on GigaOm:
As the primary way of watching TV shifts from a traditional broadcast, linear, scheduled, single-device mode to one that is all on-demand, on all devices, available at any time, anywhere, the consumer’s TV watching world is suddenly filled with a curse of choices. If everything we watch requires us to navigate menus, pick from lists, and choose, choose, choose — TV watching is in danger of losing its primary function: escapism. – Jeremy Toeman
In many ways the TV Industry is on the verge of great change in a similar way the mobile phone market was 6 years ago and music industry 12 years ago. Technology is enabling greater innovation, customers are interested in trying alternatives, and there are millions of dollars being invested in developing new products at companies big and small.
In the end I think the winner will need a good combination of understanding the user, great design, saavy business development, and the ability to achieve broad distribution.