One of the big dreams of the tech set is the idea of internet television. Once your TV is connected to the internet, you’ll be able to get all your internet and TV content in one place. And, like the internet usually does, internet TV will cut out all those meddlesome middlemen like TV networks and cable companies, and life will be grand.
There’s only one problem though: consumers don’t want it. (Actually there are many more problems, but that’s the big one.)
To geeks, the need is obvious: a TV is a big rectangle with flashing pictures. So it should be a computer. But consumers just don’t see it that way. They love TV, and they love the internet, and they love TV as TV and they love the internet as the internet. And we agree with them: TV is a fundamentally lean-back experience, while the internet is fundamentally lean-forward. They may be bright rectangles, but they perform different functions.
So efforts to put the internet on TV have foundered, and Google TV and Apple TV don’t seem to be doing better.
But here’s what could change the game: Facebook TV.
Consumers just don’t see the value proposition of having the internet on their TV. But they might see the value proposition of having their friends on their TV.
TV can be a very social experience after all. Think about live events, or must-watch (i.e. must-chat-about) TV shows. We enjoy talking with our friends about great stuff on TV. That’s something consumers already do.
So if we ever do get connected TVs, they might not be Google TVs, or Apple TVs. They might be Facebook TVs.
Does that mean Facebook is going to come out with its own box, like Apple or Boxee? Almost certainly not. That’s not what Facebook does. Just like if Facebook builds a “Facebook phone” it won’t build a phone or even an OS but integrate its brand and services tightly into a phone.
A better blueprint for Facebook TV could be Xbox Live, the online gaming and digital media service which is tightly integrated with Facebook (one of the many ways in which Microsoft’s Facebook investment has paid off hugely). If and when connected TV services will get traction, we predict that those who integrate the best with Facebook will get the most traction. And as those services get a slice of the huge TV advertising pie and the huge payments to cable companies, Facebook will charge a tax for its special social sauce, like it already does on its app platform, credits and advertising platform.
Forget Google TV and Apple TV. We can’t wait for Facebook TV.