The future of TV is online according to our resident expert.
Words by Kent Fenwick

“Well, I did it, Kent… I cut the cord.”

This is what a friend told me recently. He didn’t mean the cord with his parents, or with work or anything like that—he meant with Rogers. He cut his cable cord. Literally.

My friend is part of a growing group of people who are sick of paying a monthly fee for TV when most of what they want to watch is available online for free. Rogers still gets paid of course, since it provides the bandwidth you use to consume this content. But could its grip on TV be fading?

For the answer, we can look to what Napster and Apple did to the music industry. By broadening access beyond traditional brick-and-mortar stores, they completely changed the way we buy and consume music.

But Apple didn’t stop with music; it also made deals with some of the biggest movie houses and allowed users to download movies with iTunes. Rogers, meanwhile, created On Demand, a service allowing digital cable subscribers to download movies directly from their televisions. Similarly, Netflix allows users to stream movies via video game consoles.

I believe that TV is poised for a similar disruption this year.

Exhibit A: Apple TV

Apple TV has been quietly changing the game for the past four years. In 2007, the first Apple TV—a digital media receiver hooked up to your HDTV—was released to terrible reviews. In 2010, Apple refreshed the design, made it 50 percent smaller and bundled it with content apps including Netflix, YouTube, MLB and NHL. If you watch a lot of movies, some TV Shows, baseball and hockey, you can buy an Apple TV and “cut the cord.” For $119, that’s a pretty good deal.

Exhibit B: Google TV

Coming soon to Canada, Google TV will provide what you want to watch when you want to watch it, with apps like YouTube, Netflix, Clickr, Fox, CNN, The Wall Street Journal, CNBC and many more to come. Google owns YouTube and has been trying to make deals for sports events, premium network content and films. The era of clicking through channels is quickly coming to an end.

The problem with Apple TV and Google TV is that they require the purchase of a hardware device or compatible TV. I believe you will see more TVs in 2012 shipping with Google TV or Apple TV, but those TVs will be expensive and likely only bought by early adopters. So for the time being, you’ll probably need a PVR to use Apple TV or Google TV.

Exhibit C: Channels as Apps

Imagine if TV stations started streaming their shows over the Internet rather than your cable box: you could watch shows on your TV, smartphone or tablet. That’s a great deal for users and also for the networks—they will be able to sell pricier, context-aware advertising to a more connected audience, and they will control the whole process! Sporting events could easily be packaged into apps, enabling advertisers big and small to pay handsomely to get in front of fans.

Exhibit D: More to Explore

Here are other television industry challengers to pay attention to:

? Hulu ( Not yet in Canada, but coming. This joint venture between NBC/Universal, Fox and Disney/ABC provides some ad-supported free content, and also allows subscribers access to an expanded library of movies, TV shows and webisodes.

? Boxee : A hardware device similiar to Google or Apple TV designed for hobbyists and people looking for true openness.

Closing Remarks 

I own a second-generation Apple TV and get most of my movies through iTunes and Netflix. I watch a few shows using Rogers On Demand. My wife and I still watch a lot of network TV and are avid sports fans; we are not going to be cutting the cord anytime soon. However, I stand by my conviction that 2012 will be the year that TV changes.

What do you think?
Tell me at: /2012/1/the-future-of-tv.