Office Hours

WEDNESDAY, FEB. 2, 2011, 6:08 P.M.

The world of connected TVs: Are you sure you want to go there?

Thursday's Spokesman-Review will feature a story on "cord-cutting," the relatively small effort by consumers to find alternatives to paid-TV (through cable, satellite or telco systems). 

We gathered a few personal stories of folks using alternatives to the standard systems. We asked experts to explain how this would all shake out.

Bottom line: most experts conclude it's too early to decide if we're seeing a mass transformation in the home entertainment world.

Nate Kraft, director of product development for Los Angeles-based Belkin, pointed out a study our story didn't include. But it's relevant to the subject, which includes the assumption that newer stuff is better.

Kraft noted that a Boston ad company did an experiment to see how most Americans feel about cutting the cord and adopting some of the new technology that works to deliver shows, movies and music into our TVs.

We quote from a story on TechCrunch:

"Hill Holiday, a 'caffeine-fueled ad agency,' asked five Boston-area families to participate in a cord-cutting experiment. For one week each family was asked to forgo traditional cable TV in favor of one of the following devices: Apple TV, Google TV, Boxee Box, Xbox 360, and Roku. These devices, of course, are the premier devices for people looking to break free of their cable company while still being able to enjoy television. And how did it turn out for these five families?

"While our sample was by no means representative, the results of our experiment point us toward some real issues that one should consider when thinking about the future of  the “connected TV” technologies.

"One finding that is probably obvious in retrospect is that TV is invisible until it’s shut off. It’s a bit like walking: you are aware of the direction in which you are headed but you don’t really focus on the individual steps until you come across an unusual terrain. The exclusively on-demand nature of the devices we tested is just such an unusual terrain that makes you think not about 'where' but also about the specifics of 'how.'

"The devices demand a lean-forward involvement with what has been traditionally considered a lean-back medium, and this requirement proved disconcerting to many when it lasted longer than the usual bursts of involvement with their DVRs or video-on-demand channels.'

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Tom Sowa
Tom Sowa covers technology, retail and economic development and writes the Office Hours blog.