Expertise Zone

Report: Google Chromecast – is the future of TV in the palm of your hand?

Albert Lai,  CTO, Media & Broadcast Solutions,  Brightcove

Albert Lai,
CTO, Media & Broadcast Solutions,

Guest post by Albert Lai, CTO, Media & Broadcast Solutions at Brightcove. 

With a hotly anticipated U.K. launch on the horizon, Google’s media streaming dongle Chromecast is TV’s talk of the town. But will the inexpensive, 3-inch device, unlock a host of next-generation content experiences for the living room?

First launched in the U.S. last summer, Chromecast is Google’s latest bid to get online video and apps on the main screen. The highly portable device, which costs £21 in the U.S., plugs into an HDMI port, making any TV ‘smart’ by allowing the viewer to use a laptop or mobile device to stream content to the TV over a Wi-Fi connection.

Competing with over-the-top devices such as Apple TV and Roku, Chromecast offers an easy, affordable way to watch online video on your TV. The Chromecast enables users to send video or entire Chrome tabs in their browser to the TV screen. It’s not yet known which apps will launch in the U.K., but in the States, Chromecast already offers content from some of the most popular video-streaming apps including Netflix and Hulu.

So why is Chromecast capturing the imagination of media organisations and consumers alike?

Open platform, open opportunity

When it comes to popular broadcast-centric content, the television set still dominates as the way that 98.5 percent of people watch TV. Interestingly though, less than half of smart-TV owners have actually connected their TVs to the Internet, suggesting that many consumers are preferring to keep their TV sets ‘dumb’. But one thing is clear to content owners deciding where to invest their budgets: with viewers using multiple devices together to  augment their TV experiences, today’s plethora of connected screens have a true home in the living room.

Mobile has proven its suitability for personal, highly engaged interactions – with the likes of search and content discovery – but the TV will always represent the optimum viewing experience, thanks to its greater size and resolution. The scope for synchronising these devices to create the best possible TV experience is where Google and Apple, through AirPlay and its Apple TV box, are looking to ‘play.’

Putting mobile at the heart of TV, both Apple and Google are recognising the emergence of a new viewing model in which users orchestrate their experiences from their personal device, enjoying the content on the large screen.

But Google appears to be taking this model a step further. It recently opened up Chromecast to third-party developers, broadening the device’s scope to stream video from new sources. Now, any publisher can create an app using the Chromecast software development kit (SDK), and then take their content to the TV.

Why does this matter? Quite simply, because it provides content publishers with the opportunity to expand the distribution of their digital programming, and to capitalise on the growing ubiquity of the Chromecast dongle, which is surely set for a similarly enthusiastic reception in the U.K.

Not only is the portable device a fraction of the price of Apple TV, it’s also an open platform supporting iOS, Android and desktop Chrome functionality that meets content publishers’ desire to reach consumers on all devices – delivering a lean-back experience on the big screen (without the big cost). 

Paving the path to ‘Me TV’

In order to dramatically influence publishers in the long-term, though, Chromecast must align with monetisation efforts. Thankfully, technology (for example, the Brightcove Once service) already exists that’s capable of integrating with Chromecast to provide publishers with a means of delivering TV-quality, ad-supported content. Brightcove Once allows publishers to deliver a lean-back, linear experience that can be personalised and customised to deliver a ‘unique stream’ for every viewer.

And as we move to a world of ‘Me TV’ – of increasingly personalised, addressable TV experiences – for both live and on-demand video, this ability for publishers to deliver personalised streams, and to target consumers with content and advertising on a 1:1 level will be key.

Fundamental to this approach is the recognition that content experiences are about synchronisation, not about an either-or, TV-mobile scenario. Tomorrow’s TV will be about creating a unified user experience that maximises consumption, discovery, monetisation and engagement.

Opening up development for Chromecast is a major step in this direction, but to truly reap the long-term benefits of this opportunity, publishers must stay agile and receptive to evolving consumer behaviour. After all, it is consumer demands and expectations that will truly set the agenda for the future of the living room.

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