TV’s slow revolution: How APIs are helping TV innovate

There is a great debate going on about the state of television, and I don’t mean the quality of the programming being produced (we’ve seen some great/groundbreaking TV shows in the past 10 years, such as Mad Men, The Sopranos, The Wire, etc.). I’m referring to the state of technology surrounding the way we all receive television content, and APIs will play a key role in the TV revolution that has been slowly approaching since video first made its way onto the internet.
When networks first started to stream their shows online for free, I’m sure many thought that a major revolution was coming. But, in fact, very little has happened to traditional cable/satellite subscriptions. Subscriptions have remained fairly flat – some quarters decreasing slighting, and some (like Q4 ’12) increasing by .2%.

The main problem seems to be that no one has introduced an internet powered alternative that provides all the those TV shows, programs and live events that we want to watch in one place. In fact, a service like this could be more convenient than the subscription we are currently used to. It would allow us to choose what content we want to pay for and would allow us to watch it anytime, anywhere.
These changes are coming. It could be this year; it could be in another 2-3 years – that really depends on the willingness of networks to go around cable companies, broadband speeds, etc. The technology is available.

A small revolution in TV watching has been underway while we wait for the be all and end all to all internet TV solutions from Apple, Google or anyone else. The phenomenon of “second screen” viewing has been growing – Nielsen recently found that nearly half of smartphone and tablet users use their device while watching TV. Social TV apps like Viggle and Zeebox allow TV watchers to win points for watching and answering questions and give them the opportunity to interact with other fans directly. Numerous apps are available to turn your smartphone or tablet into an interactive TV guide and remote.
This world of social and interactive TV is possible because of APIs. API stands for application programming interface. APIs allow applications to share data with each other – think of that Google Map that appears when you look up a restaurant on Yelp.

The ease with which data can now be shared through APIs makes it easier to make the TV watching experience even more entertaining and relevant to exactly what you, as the viewer, want to see. APIs focused on TV data will enable more and more innovators to come into a space that has been relatively stagnant and create more and more mashups and apps that change the way we view television.
Perhaps social TV and interactive episode guides aren’t the major revolution in TV that we are waiting for, but all these interactive features will undoubtedly be somehow incorporated into our TV watching experience from now on. And APIs will be there to pave the way and make all our TV content more connected.



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