You can’t walk through a Best Buy these days without tripping over another new TV add-on box that lets you watch TV shows and movies from Netflix or Amazon Video On Demand, access apps like Pandora, or even (in the case of Google TV) browse much of the Web. ActiveVideo Networks, though, has a different idea: Create and distribute content from the cloud, avoiding the need to write apps and run them on myriad devices.
So I’m watching ActiveVideo CEO Jeff Miller at GigaOm’s NewTeeVee Live, a conference in San Francisco on the future of television in the Internet era. (I’m unexpectedly housebound this morning, so instead of blogging from the show as I had hoped, I’m blogging from the cloud via Livestream‘s stream of the show.) Here’s what Miller had to say:
We’ve really been talking about the Web and TV for more than 10 years. You have to ask yourself, Why is it taking so long? It certainly hasn’t been for lack of trying. There are a lot of companies innovating in the television space. You end up with a very chaotic ecosystem. Lots of boxes, etc. There are times when too much choice is not a good thing. If you’re a developer and you’re trying to come up with the next great thing on television, where do you go? (Update: Later, Bryan Perez, senior VP and GM of NBA Digital, said he had literally 100 different apps on various platforms, such as apps for each team, that it has collapsed to one. But when asked how he decides which platform to develop for, he replied, “It’s the single biggest challenge we have these days.”) So a cloud-based platform that works could be very appealing to content providers.
From a consumer perspective, it’s probably even worse. All the gear–TV, Blu-ray machines, iPads–they’re all siloed. A good example is Netflix. It has done an outstanding job getting out there. But they took a brute-force approach, creating separate applications for every platform.
We have stagnated the ecosystem with too many choices. CloudTV from ActiveVideo is one platform, an application platform in the cloud. All the intelligence, the brains, are in the cloud. The advantage is that we can get true multi-screen this way. We’re in almost 5 million homes, and will be in 20 million homes next year.
We as an industry have to do better at reducing the complexity while retaining the choice. Only way to do that is to put as much as possible in the cloud… rather than trying to figure out how to hook everything up.
I actually wanted to hear more on the details, but it’s an interesting idea. There’s more on a Wikipedia listing on the company, which notes that the company, a product of a merger in 2008, has been at this for some time. Like a lot of ideas in television, don’t be surprised if it takes awhile longer to catch on big.