The :30 second spot ain’t dead. It’s Googled.


Pity the poor tube. The average U.S. home has at least four televisions — more than the people who reside under the roof. Americans watch on average 5 hours and 9 minutes of live TV each day. And yet this big, broad, blue-light bathing glow that we can’t escape is never commented on as a revolution in communications.

Stand by. Google this week hinted it was dipping its toe in the Internet-to-TV waters with Smart TV, hoping to do with big screens what its Android OS is with mobile: capture a new market. Google is partnering with Sony, Intel and Logitech to launch open-source software that streams TV shows, YouTube or home videos to the big screen in your basement. Such integrated video hasn’t caught on yet because most TVs aren’t built to hook into the web, and “bridge” systems such as Apple TV have limited functionality (and require too many damn wires for the average user to contemplate). That’s about to change — now, more than 1 million TV sets in the U.S. are wired for the Internet, and about 10 million are expected to be in homes by 2011.

The battle for the future of television is getting interesting. Hardware makers such as Sony and Panasonic are also pushing out 3-D televisions, partly because the ginormous files required to render 3-D can’t be jammed easily through cable or Internet pipes — you’ll have to buy an expensive Sony or Panasonic box. (Bonus points: 3-D TVs work by projecting regular TV images, but simply flash the images back and forth from two alternating perspectives rapidly in sync with battery-powered glasses that shutter your left and right eyes in sequence; we’ve seen the illusion and it is startlingly holographic.) The irony is cable companies may get caught between two crushing forces, the ultra-high-def holographic 3-D of Avatar films and the ultra-fuzzy-low-res quality of Internet cat videos. Consumers seem drawn to the extremes; that doesn’t bode well for the ratings of mediocrity in the middle.

Image: Jorge Miente

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