CES 2013: The Innovators of Television

V. Michael Bove Jr.
Co-director
Center for Future Storytelling; principal research scientist; director, Consumer Electronics Laboratory
MIT Media Lab

Holographic TVs sound like the stuff of science fiction, but for Bove they’re one of many very real possibilities for the near future. As principal research scientist and director of MIT’s Consumer Electronics Lab, Bove is leading the charge in exploring the possible future of television. And among the things the group is studying are live holographic TV — both over the Internet and in living room sets. “Holographic TV will improve realism, immersiveness, and comfort for the viewer,” he says.
It’s not as far out as many might think, either. Bove says he expects desktop holographic TV (in the 20-inch range) could hit within five to seven years. (Larger sets are still further out, he notes.) One major consumer electronics manufacturer (who is a corporate member of the MIT Media Labs) has already started internal development on a display device.

Tom Carson
President and CEO
Rovi
Carson’s Rovi already dominates the guides virtually every cable and satellite user depends on to find favorite shows. For most companies, that would be enough, but Carson has expansion in mind. Roughly 18 months ago, Rovi bought Sonic Solutions — and in 2013, it plans to use the assets of that company (which include the Divx streaming compression technology) to further entrench itself in the entertainment world.
Among its plans are UltraViolet support through its Rovi Entertainment store (whose customers includeFlixster and Best Buy), with a goal of introducing cross-operability of DRM, allowing customers to watch their purchased content on a variety of devices. Rovi is also introducing Divx Stash — a digital locker letting people save content from sites like YouTube, Vimeo and Hulu. And Divx Plus aims to improve the quality of over-the-top streaming content, improving buffer rates and smoothing out fast-forward and rewind options, as well as adding multilanguage audio tracks — meaning that streaming audiences will finally be able to listen to director’s commentary.

Joe ClaytonPresident and CEO
Dish Network

When Clayton took the stage at Dish Network’s CES press conference in 2012, he made it clear that the company’s old way of doing business was about to change. “Today is a new dawn for Dish,” he says. “We are basically relaunching our company and reenergizing our brand and we are well on our way to transforming our company.” He wasn’t kidding. The introduction of the Hopper DVR (with its massive 2-terabyte hard drive) and Primetime Anytime started the ball rolling, ensuring that subscribers would never miss a network show again — even one they didn’t know they wanted to watch until the next day.
The company’s line in the sand, though, was the introduction of Autohop — an advanced commercial-skipping feature, letting viewers completely skip commercials with the press of a button. Networks hated the feature and Fox tried to stop it in U.S. District Court, but the judge sided with Dish. And the Consumer Electronics Assn. gave the company a nod in its Innovations 2013 Design and Engineering Awards.

Tim Cook
CEO
Apple

Apple didn’t do much in the television world in 2012, but every time it cleared its throat, manufacturers jumped nervously. Apple is the shadow that hangs over the TV industry. Even without doing anything, execs are influencing it. And CEO Cook seems to be having fun with that. “When I go into my living room and turn on the TV, I feel like I have gone backwards in time by 20 to 30 years,” Cook told NBC’s Brian Williams in December. “It’s an area of intense interest. I can’t say more than that.”
The company’s current product – the Apple TV set-top box — sold 5 million units in fiscal 2012 — double the number from the year before. But it’s the specter of an Apple-made TV set that has people on edge. Morgan Stanley estimates the company could sell 13 million sets in the U.S. alone, based on a survey of heads of household. And that’s without anyone having even the slightest clue about what the company has in mind.

Andy Forssell
Senior VP of content
Hulu

In just five years, Hulu’s senior veep of content Andy Forssell has ramped up the company’s content partners from only two to 410, and counting. His latest coup was a multi-year licensing deal with CBS to bring its TV library, including classics like “Star Trek,” “I Love Lucy” and “The Twilight Zone” to the Hulu Plus subscription service starting this month.
Like rival Netflix — and identical to Amazon’s new monthly Prime pricing — Hulu Plus offers unlimited streaming of TV shows and movies for $7.99 a month. And like Amazon and Netflix, Hulu is diving into original content, with Forssell spearheading the quest for original programming including “Larry King Now,” Kevin Smith’s “Spoilers,” Richard Linklater’s travel show “Up to Speed” and the upcoming Seth Meyers animated superhero series “The Awesomes.” He’s also brought to Hulu exclusives from abroad like Israel’s “Prisoners of War,” upon which “Homeland” is based, along with the U.K.’s “Rev” and “The Thick of It.” Forssell recently expanded Hulu’s partnership with Viacom by wrapping a deal for Nickelodeon’s current programming on Hulu Plus without advertising, 21 days after air and broadened the year-old Hulu Latino to include content from Viacom’s Tr3s.

Reed Hastings
Founder and CEO
Netflix

Netflix had some growing pains in 2012, but its shake-up of traditional television models continued — and it blazed new paths in content. Hastings’ decision to separate the company’s physical DVD rental arm and its streaming division cost customers, but he made up for that by striking fear into the hearts of both networks and pay cable channels.
The resurrection of “Arrested Development” (due to be available to streaming customers this year) shows that life can continue for critically acclaimed shows that fail to immediately find an audience. (And fans of CBS’ “Jericho,” which was canceled in 2008, are hopeful that series will be the next to be revived.) Meanwhile, Hastings’ decision to outbid Starz for the rights to Disney movies showed the company is anything but satisfied with its current place in the broadcast world. The deal could also be a thorn in the side of Apple’s TV plans.

Hyun-suk Kim
Executive VP, head of visual display business
Samsung

As the head of Samsung’s TV business, Kim is, by default, a leader in television technology. But while the company is the worldwide leader in TV sales, it’s what it has in store for the coming years that has people particularly interested. Top of list is its 55-inch Oled set, which was the talk of CES last year and is expected to launch in 2013. The ultra-thin television produces brighter and more vivid images than existing flat-screen sets, thanks to its next-generation screen.
The compa
ny’s Smart TV library of apps for Internet-enabled sets are also considered to be top of class. “Our ability to imagine what’s possible and bring it to the market is what has driven us to secure our strong market leadership in the global TV industry,” says Kim. Competition in the market is tough though, which makes Samsung’s tease that it has “something new” in store for this year’s CES particularly intriguing.

Chet Kanojia
Founder and CEO
Aereo

Aereo CEO and founder Kanojia might not be the most popular person in the television industry these days, but he’s certainly shaking up the status quo. His company lets people watch live over-the-air TV online — without the need for a cable subscription. It also hosts more than 20 other networks including, HSN and Telemundo. And its about to bring that capability to Smart TVs.
Major broadcast networks have disputed Aereo’s legality, but last July a New York court denied a preliminary injunction against the company. Since then, Kanojia and company have been busy expanding its footprint. “This isn’t just a win for Aereo, it’s also a significant win for consumers who are demanding more choice and flexibility in the way they watch television,” said Kanojia at the time of the verdict. That legal fight is far from over — Aereo is confined to New York City for now — but Kanojia has already expressed interest in adding game consoles and set-top boxes (like Roku) to its outlets. Can smartphones be far behind?

Robert Kyncl
VP, global head of content
Google/YouTube

When Robert Kyncl looks into the future, he sees Google’s YouTube being as big as TV, without being TV. As VP and global head of content for the Internet’s top video brand, Kyncl steered its strategy from the amateur to the professional with a massive initiative for 100 original channels produced by an array of creative partners — not only in the U.S, but in the U.K., Germany and France. “We want them to help them be as big as TV channels, and drive a lot of viewership and growth. And we want to make sure all of their attention goes to that,” he said in a recent interview.
YouTube is recouping its reported $300 million investment in new channels and marketing with ad sales. Taking a page from the TV network playbook and to further shape itself into a digital cable-like platform, the Web portal staged an extravagant upfront bash featuring Jay-Z in New York last May. Kyncl’s philosophy is that unlike traditional television, YouTube is not a programmer. He is open to doing deals with TV networks that want additional distribution via its plaform and is also working with every major studio to put their movies and TV shows into the Google Play store.

Nancy Tellem
Entertainment and digital media president
Microsoft

Microsoft’s Xbox 360 has been a trailblazer in incorporating non-gaming entertainment into its offerings — and it looks like it’s planning to shake things up again. Last September, the Redmond, Wash.-based company brought aboard Nancy Tellem, former president of CBS Television Studios, to lead its efforts to form an Xbox studio. As entertainment and digital media president, Tellem and her Los Angeles-based team are creating series that will be available exclusively through the Xbox platform. (The programming will reportedly be a mix of short- and long-form, with many shows having an interactive layer built on top of them.)
Sony’s early efforts at creating original online entertainment programming (a reality show called “The Tester”) fared relatively well, with the most recent season attracting 4 million viewers. Microsoft — and Tellem — is aiming higher, though. “We now have a tremendous opportunity to transform (the Xbox) into the center of all things entertainment — from games, music and fitness to news, sports, live events, television series and movies — so consumers have one destination for all their entertainment needs,” she says.

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