April’s proving to be an interesting month for those following the net-neutrality debate. Within the first week we’ve already seen the US Court of Appeals swing into action and dismiss Verizon and MetroPCS’ anti-net neutrality lawsuits filed against the FCC. Thrown out on a legal technicality, many expect these lawsuits to be re-filed shortly. However, while most eyes where following the legal wranglings on Capitol Hill, a new battleground in the neutrality debate has emerged and this time it’s focused on devices.
Since its launch, the iPad has been a disruptive tool. One need only look at publishing to see how the iPad has led an entire industry to question how it operates and, more importantly, how the public wants to consume books and magazines. The same can be said for other media too. In fact, it’s the very issue of consuming film and TV on the iPad that has raised a heated discussion on the topic of device neutrality and the rights consumers have to access video content on mobile devices.
Central to this debate is what Jeff Lawrence, CEO of PlayOn, calls device neutrality. Lawrence believes the net neutrality discussion needs to be extended to ensure users are able to watch TV and video content on any device they wish, most notably phones and tablets. In a recent article, Lawrence argued that mobile devices have forever changed how we consume TV and video. Lawrence contends that the days of watching TV solely on a television set are over and it’s critical that the industry responds accordingly. I’m sure the growing number of cord cutters out there would agree.
In essence, what Lawrence is asking seems fair. If a user pays for content, does it make any difference on which device the user watches it? Should the user be able to decide whether they watch it on a television set, laptop, tablet or phone? And if the user does watch it on more than one device, should there be additional costs? This is the very question now being debated by channel owners and distributors.
Late last week this debate spilled over into the press and then the courts with Time Warner Cable (TWC) and Viacom filing law suits against each other. This legal action stems from a TWC iPad app that features Viacom content. Viacom believe that TWC should not be able to offer its content to users on devices other than a television set without paying additional costs. TWC contend that it doesn’t make any difference what device customers use to access content they’ve already paid for.
As the legal proceedings continue, it’s clear that there’s a great deal at stake here, both for the TV industry and the development of mobile devices. The iPhone and the iPad have forever changed the way we engage with media. As these devices continue to evolve and offer new ways to interact and absorb content, it’s critical that content and service providers keep apace. This not only means exploring new pricing models but also ensuring the networking infrastructure can support the growing bandwidth demand.
How do you engage with media? Are you watching more TV on your mobile devices? Do you have access to the necessary bandwidth to support TV and video streaming? What does the future hold for the TV industry and mobile devices? I’d be interested to know your thoughts on this one.