Television is broken and I do not see a hero on the horizon. This week I read about a broadband provider in the UK that ditched its set-top box in favor of Apple TV. I have both. Both have problems not easily fixed.
Easy vs. Quality vs. Quantity
To summarize the problem of television as I see it can be wrapped up in a single word. Fragmentation. One way or another, television is fragmented. For example, cable TV is easiest to use– even with stupidly complicated remote controls– but quality suffers to 1080p at best. Streaming television– think Netflix, Amazon, Apple’s iTunes and whatever comes next– offers higher quality, including 4K video, but that high quality suffers in the quantity category.
Lower quality video, thanks to YouTube and other streaming services which act like higher quality digital cable TV from 1999, have much more quantity from which to choose, but if you add it all up, streaming can cost as much as cable TV.
I know what you’re thinking. “So, Ms Brannan, what’s the real problem here?”
Well, fragmentation is obvious, but let’s move to something similar and easily compared. The cable TV company’s remote control– enter a channel number and click; the TV show appears– vs. Apple TV. Even the new Apple TV 4K. The interface of that slippery slab of plastic absolutely positively sucks and takes tap after tap after tap ad nauseam just to find something to watch that I can get on cable TV just by entering the channel.
Wait. What about selection? Yes, streaming TV, including Apple TV has greater selection of current and recent TV shows and movies and many in 4K HDR. On Demand is a thing and it thrives more on streaming TV than on cable TV.
To counter that, cable TV operators provide a DVR. A digital video recorder which lets you choose various and sundry TV shows and movies so you can watch them later; when you want to. Many cable TV providers also have a dedicated channel which lets you search for TV shows and movies that are pre-recorded and can be played back as if they were on your DVR.
Also, Apple TV’s remote sucks. Seriously. And, seriously? Jony Ive was taking some kind of medicine to come up with that little sliver of nonsense. He must have designed that on the same day as the current Magic Mouse with the USB charger on the bottom so the mouse cannot be used while charging. Any first grader could have come up with a better design, Jony.
There you go. Apple and Apple TV cannot fix television. Cable TV cannot give you what you can find online with Netflix and other streaming services who have a growing 4K offering and nobody’s online user interface is better than a dumb-assed cable TV remote, which, for all the complexity, is faster to use.
Television is broken and needs to be fixed.