Sharp_Roku-TV_home-screenThis has been coming for some time, but it should send chills down the spines of local TV execs everywhere:  a TV screen that when you turn it on doesn’t start on a channel, but gives you a listing of everything available.  If you’re local, you’ll probably be tucked inside a box that says “Local Channels” – if you’re lucky. Might be inside “Cable box” and then inside more menu items.  Instead of being an obvious choice, viewers will need to hunt for you.

The picture above will look familiar to anyone that uses a Roku streaming device.  But now it’s being baked right into TV sets.  That’s a game changer.  It’s not just Roku, though.  Google is doing it, Apple is working on it, and so are dozens of other players.  Getting into the TV operating system business is the main driver at Roku these days.

TVs should really just be monitors, because people keep their nice screens for 7 years. So it seemed to me that the best way for the TV business to evolve would be that a TV is just a monitor. And then you would get your little box (read – Roku) and you would replace that every few years.  But that just never happened. – Roku CEO Anthony Wood in Business Insider

To be fair, it did happen.  A lot of people bought Roku, FireTV, Google Chromecast, and Apple devices.  There are as many as 35 million homes with them right now.  But putting it right inside the TV, with no need for a separate box, dongle, or stick makes the most sense.

Once we decided that was going be the trend, that’s when we decided to start licensing. – Roku CEO Anthony Wood in Business Insider

Chromecast remote

Just about every TV set manufacturer is working with someone on building a better Smart TV experience.

GoogleCast/Chromecast is working with Polaroid, Magnavox, Philips, Westinghouse, and Vizio.  Android TV is working with Sony and RCA.  Roku has deals with Sharp, Haier, Hisense, Insignia, and TCL.  By the end of 2015, there were more than a million Roku TVs in homes in the US.

If you think it’s hard for people to find your programs now in a 300-cable universe, Roku alone has more than 3,000+ streaming channels.  

The advantage for the consumer is obvious.  I’ve bought three connected TVs over the past 5 years or so.  The interfaces are clunky and they’re not easy to navigate.  About every third time I use it, I have to reset my wireless connection or enter my password (again!) which is never fun using a TV remote control.  And, to my surprise the first time I tried it, many of the TV’s don’t allow you to update, upgrade or add additional apps to the “smart TV” list.

These new interfaces solve that.  Since they really are a gateway to the content engine, the content can be updated regularly, new items can be featured, and yes – ads can be sold.

For TV stations, it’s one more impediment to getting found.  The program guide for what’s on TV just expanded by hundreds of thousands of options.  As we’re learning in this golden age of content, discovery is perhaps the biggest obstacle.