Sasha Kamenetska | Contributor
August 01, 2013

The Future of TV and APIs


The future of TV has been a very popular topic recently.  With Netflix putting out original content that is getting Emmy recognition, Aereo winning legal battles against the major networks, Google releasing Chromecast and Intel jumping in with its own TV service, there is more and more discussion about the end of television, as we know it. 

Traditional television viewing is changing.  Over 80% of people now do something else while watching TV: top activities include browsing the web, checking email, texting and checking social media.  Media providers are catching on – the 2nd screen trend is growing, with the likes of Kia, Toyota, Lexus and Jaguar sponsoring 2nd screen experiences for some of USA Network’s original shows.

The growth in 2nd screen apps and advertising shows that users are still tuning in – an Accenture study from earlier this year found that 25-34 year olds watch 140 hours of traditional television a month.  That is more than 20 times the amount of time the same age group spends watching video online.  And the actual number of  “cord-cutters,” or those who have abandoned television for Internet streamed content, is sometimes over-stated.  A recent TiVo study found that of almost the 10,000 users surveyed there was no difference in traditional television consumption between those who subscribed to Netflix and those who didn’t. 

This shouldn’t make traditional TV content providers feel comfortable – the way viewers engage with TV content, is changing.  For the first time ever, the amount of time the average American spends online or with other digital media has surpassed the amount of time he/she spends watching TV on a daily basis.  And the daily time spent watching TV has decreased by 7 minutes since 2012, while the time in front of “digital screens” has gone up by 38 minutes. 

Users like variety, and they like to get content when and where they want it, but they also like big screens (have you seen the sizes of the TVs that are out there?).  That means that “traditional TV” has to catch up.  The structure that TV content is going to be presented to viewers is what is going to change.  Chromecast, Xbox One, Netflix, etc. all have the right idea.  What everyone wants is the flexibility to watch whatever he or she want, whenever they want, from any device, including their TV. 

More and more devices and apps will be coming out that can be used with or on TV.  This means, that more TV content providers will need APIs in the near future.  The number of platforms and devices that people will be using to watch TV will keep growing, so in order to keep up, TV content and service providers will need APIs to ensure that they can easily be on any platform (along the lines of how Netflix used its API to spread its service to many devices quickly).  APIs have also helped ESPN bring its content to Xbox 360 and will continue to help bring new content to connected TVs everywhere. 

TV isn’t really going away – viewers will just have a new mechanism for accessing content and providers will have a new way to distribute it.  The future of TV will be powered by APIs.  It will be here before you know it.