As over-the-top (OTT) devices are emerging, the near monopolies that the big cable companies have are losing their hold. The FCC is proposing to penetrate the barrier to TV entry—the “locked” cable box that gives TV devices access to paid TV content— so TV will soon be anybody’s game.

A new age of digital media superpowers is on the rise and offering more choices to audiences and advertisers alike through connected TV devices, which are capable of distributing content as a solution. “Unlocking the box”, however, is just the beginning. Players like Amazon, Google, and Apple also bring certain “powers,” that give them stakes in TV—search, data, commerce, and content. Then, there are companies like Facebook, Netflix, Snapchat, and Twitter who may not have connected TV boxes, but have content, virality, and customer reach powers.

While these companies are planning their attacks, everyone else is left to question the benefits and drawbacks of a TV free-for-all and whether these superpowers will use their forces for good: to improve the customer experience, or evil: to erect walled gardens that limit choice and threaten to further fragment TV.

Dividing content and device

Should the FCC’s proposal progress, content that was once isolated to traditional TV screens will be accessible across all screens and subject to the far-less standardized world of digital.

Some superpowers, inspired by the telecom industry, will introduce a TV model that keeps the hardware separate from the service and content.

Others, like Google, that can offer a holistic, seamless TV experience through their own devices, a browser that reaches nearly all screens, search, data, and ad offerings are likely to approach bundling offerings more traditionally. This approach will allow Google to call the shots and offer less expensive, all-inclusive TV bundles to customers and advertisers alike. But if history is any indication, when alternatives are available, consumers tend to move away from this one-size-fits-all approach.

TV will get the digital transformation

The transition from traditional TV to new screens means exposing this once “unhampered” content to digital functionality and various advertising formats. This new age of superpowers will contribute to transforming TV content into a more functional and interactive platform for engaging and selling to consumers.

A portion of the FCC’s proposal is dedicated to making search available for content on paid TV. Google will naturally take the lead here and it’s likely that different hardware manufactures will most likely rely on Google’s search capabilities to make this new TV content searchable. Google will probably sweeten the deal for advertisers that double down on ad buys with Chromecast, and take a cut from the devices and services that are now dependent on their data.

Amazon already has a lot of information about you and your lifestyle. They also have Fire TV, Amazon Prime and a commerce engine. Collectively, this means that TV content will become just another platform for Amazon to serve up ads for things you might like and seamlessly enable purchasing opportunities without leaving your TV.

Breaking into the content world

Facebook, Snapchat Twitter and Pinterest are social media superpowers who are releasing new video features and also come with massive audiences—and tons of data on their needs and wants. The same goes for services like Amazon Prime and Netflix, which will deliver TV content to viewers independent of device. Apple, on the other hand, might not create content, but may strike exclusive deals to license content and get more skin in the game.

Some fear that connected TV advertising will become device/platform–specific as bigger superpowers fight to offer full-media bundles that keep others out. Ultimately though, advertisers will focus on  their audiences, and if content providers strike exclusive deals, things may become more complicated. The key for advertisers is to work with a technology provider that has no affiliation with a specific device or media entities, but has reach across all devices that allows engagement with audiences everywhere.

The real winners in this shift will be consumers, as they will finally have a say in which device they use to access TV content and in which content they get. The good news is that with TV’s new superpowers each bringing different capabilities, it is more likely that the TV world will see a lot more innovation, and it will be a lot less likely that a new monopoly will form. 

For more information on the how the TV landscape is shifting, check out our Transformation of TV Infographic