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Report from CES: How Will You Watch TV?

January 11th, 2011 by Joel Gurin - Chief of the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau

I’m back from the Consumer Electronics Show, the once-a-year showcase for the latest, most innovative consumer technology. With over 130,000 attendees, a show floor the size of six New York City blocks, and IMAX-sized arrays of flat-screen TVs everywhere, the CES can be hard to get your head around. But each year some strong themes emerge.

This year, a major development is what you could call the Emerging Entertainment Ecosystem. We’re moving rapidly into a world where movies, live TV, music, and more will be available on all devices, anywhere and at any time.

The idea of “TV everywhere” has been around for a while. For instance, Slingbox began six years ago by marketing devices that send your TV signal to your smartphone or laptop, wherever you are.  At the Slingbox booth, a rep told me how he’d recently used their product to watch his local TV station via Wi Fi on a plane over the Middle East.  What’s different now is that major manufacturers, software companies, and carriers are partnering to develop fully integrated systems to provide entertainment across devices.

The Consumer Electronics Association, which puts on CES, chose several keynoters to talk about their visions for integrated entertainment. Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg described how his company is developing strategies, infrastructure, and devices that will allow you to view TV or movies in HD with higher download and streaming speeds on your smartphone or tablet. The new XOOM tablet, designed in a partnership between Motorola, Google, and Verizon, is made for this use, and was a popular stop on the CES show floor. The XOOM, expected out early this year on Verizon’s 3G network, will use a new version of Google’s Android platform, called Honeycomb, that’s developed specifically for tablet use and will be upgradeable to Verizon’s new high-speed LTE network by mid-year.

In a similar vein, keynoter Boo-Keun (“BK”) Yoon, President and General Manager of Samsung’s Visual Display Business, presented a vision for integrated entertainment from a product manufacturer’s point of view. The world’s leading manufacturer of 3D televisions, Samsung produces everything from smart TVs, which are large Internet-enabled home units, to smartphones and Galaxy tablets. In partnership with Comcast, Hulu, and others, Samsung is “breaking down the wall between devices.” As Yoon demonstrated, you’ll be able to start watching a movie on your tablet, pause, and resume from the same place on your TV; watch the same live TV on your tablet as in your living room; and use your Galaxy to run your DVR, search for programming, and control your home TV set without using a conventional remote.

Many other major exhibitors on the show floor had demos of their own versions of integrated entertainment. The technology relies on broadband, with programming stored and managed through the Internet cloud and accessible by all kinds of devices. As this new entertainment ecosystem becomes the industry standard, we’ll need to develop faster speeds and greater capacity for both fixed and wireless networks. The Consumer Electronics Association estimates that 70 percent of all consumer electronic devices will be connected to the Internet by 2014. With half of all Internet traffic now used for video, and more video use to come, the demands on our infrastructure will ratchet up by the year. The National Broadband Plan makes several recommendations for managing the new demand, and the FCC’s spectrum policy has made the expansion of wireless broadband a priority.

The ultimate goal of all this new technology is a better experience and more opportunities for consumers. Please add a comment to share your thoughts and experiences on TV, the Web, and the entertainment experience you’d like to have in the future.

11 Responses to “Report from CES: How Will You Watch TV?”

  1. Guest says:

    I'd like to know if the FCC is aware that there is an effort to control what devices are permitted to consume online media. Hulu is blocking Boxee and Google TV access. The major networks are blocking Google TV users from accessing online content. Google TV vendors are misrepresenting this situation, causing people like me to make purchase decisions based on misleading sales information.

    I know that Google TV is being blocked via browser user agent strings. It's probably the same for Boxee access to Hulu. One can change the UA string, but that breaks access to other things, and is pretty inconvenient, as a reboot is required.

    Would this kind of activity violate the recent net neutrality act? From my vantage, it appears that very large companies are fighting for market share at the expense of the consumer.

  2. Guest says:

    I would like to thank the FCC for it’s diligence in letting Comcast and NBC merge. I am now unable to stream shows that I was accessing on USA Network which I believe is a subsidiary of NBC. Now instead of commercials, I have to pay 2.99 per episode to watch a show. This costs keeps me from watching shows online (legally and with commercials) and would make Comcast the likely alternative. Who would of thought something like this would happen. There are many implications and accusatory comments I could make and I am sure one of them would be accurate. As an American, I feel let down once again by agencies of the United States government which are there to protect the consumer.

  3. J. Williams says:

    What about the family that can't afford the huge expense of cable or basic TV service? Many people can't even afford BASIC TV service anymore. Are you paying attention to this, or only focused on the people who CAN afford to pay huge TV expenses? Even going to basic antenna is daunting now, say, for people who can't put one up on the roof or who live in wooded areas where they can't get reception. The whole switch-over to HDTV was a ripoff, in my opinion. What ever happened to: you buy a TV, you plug it in, and it works?

  4. Guest says:

    Will Alacarte cable ever be required for cable companies to provide to consumers?

    Alacarte cable puts the consumer in control by allowing the consumer to pick and choose which channels they receive and pay for. No more paying for channels you don't want or watch.
    Alacarte cable would also likely have an effect of reducing or eliminating the retransmit fees, as channels drop/lower them to attract more viewers. If a channel doesn't drop or lower their fee, then the consumer can choose to pay it or drop the channel.
    Once the consumer can pick and choose which channels they want, the cable provider is just a utility, acting as a middle man for the networks. The consumer has the power and the channels have to compete.

  5. Jerome says:

    It is great that TV is coming to so many devices. What's more important is what TV is going to cost. Already content providers are restricting access from certain devices. The article is great but it makes it sound like everyone is going to play nice. Companies invariably maneuver to maximize profits. Remember when TV was free?

  6. Song Surgeon says:

    There are lots of new technology right now that has restrictions like TV. Another example could be having a lot of new software to slow down music but with a lot of misleading information you will tend to buy what has been always advertise. The best thing before buying could be getting some free fully working demo or something for a test drive and not just by theory. Mostly big companies doesn't think this way as long is they got this six digit profit or more that's it not thinking of their consumers.

  7. Guest says:

    Does anybody care that there is nothing to watch on TV but comercials? And we have to pay for it.

  8. lubbie says:

    I am really disturbed about the "crawl ads" that are constantly running across the bottoms of television programming and are getting larger and larger. Even to the point that they make the actual programming hard to see -- blocking faces or lettering pertinent to the program! Aren't there limits as to how many "commercials" were allowed in a specified amount of time?

  9. Guest says:

    I'd like the FCC to halt the merger of Comcast and NBC.

    I'd like to have Keith Olbermann and the rest of the MSNBC news and commentary programming left alone instead of being scrapped by Comcast.

    It's obvious to everyone who actually watches the shows that it's a dumb decision to let one huge media conglomerate control what channels get to stay on the air and what channels or programs get the axe.

  10. Lorenzo Orlando Caum says:

    I like Netflix and Hulu for catching up on programming that I missed.

  11. Guest says:

    It's all about the big corporations profit and the "Consumer Protection Agency" really does allow them to screw the Amercan consumer. Consumer Protection is really an illusion....

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