Blog: Chromecast, the next great living room gadget?

MediaCom's Robin Hassan and Michael Neale on why the new launch could be the device that changes the TV industry.

Last Wednesday, Google launched Chromecast, a two-inch device that allows consumers to convert any standard HDMI TV into a smart TV. For $35, this device uses home Wi-Fi to evolve their Chrome-enabled second device (smartphone, tablet or laptop – iOS and Android) into a remote control for web content viewable on the TV screen. Apple TV (at $99) and Microsoft’s new Xbox One ($499) also stream content to TVs but with significant technical limitations.

MediaCom’s SVP of digital strategy Robin Hassan and chief investment officer Michael Neale teamed up to weigh in on why the launch of the device could change the way people view TV.

Chromecast quickly sold out on Amazon and Best Buy online when it was released last week, yet had well over (mostly positive) 100 amazon reviews in under 48 hours. Streaming content available on the device is limited initially (Netflix, Google Play, YouTube and web-based streaming is allowed) but is expected to grow substantially. Already, content partners from across the spectrum of pure digital (AOL) to concert (Clear Channel) to streaming music (Pandora and Songza) players are working to support the platform.

With its low barriers in terms of cost and technical complexity for consumers, and SDK support for developers, Chromecast is expected to have wide adoption (despite current sell-out state) in ways that Apple TV has not.

All of this has fuelled much excitement that Google’s new launch will break open the TV ecosystem. Chromecast appears to be the first device that speaks to consumers’ long documented but unaddressed multi-device usage (via smartphone/tablet) behaviour in the living room. It also rolls out a platform that will allow publishers to create apps, or websites (in Chrome) with consistent functionality. Even more interesting is the so-called “Cast” button. Similar to websites that incorporate Facebook’s “Like” button, the Cast button enables users to stream content from websites or mobile apps directly to a TV via Chromecast.

So, what does this mean in Canada?

Realistically, the content and user experience still have a ways to go before Chromecast makes a significant change in the Canadian marketplace (including being available in Canada). That said, it raises some interesting considerations for our industry.

1) Delivering on “TV my way”:  With the roll-out of the “TV everywhere” strategy by some of our Canadian broadcasters, we are getting consistently closer to a tipping point where more TV programming is available through web-based streaming (vs. traditional sources). The limitation (until now) has been a lack of ways for consumers to get the personalization they want in a simple and affordable way. Consider the fact that Netflix is addressing this consumer demand and has seen substantial growth: from zero to two million subscribers in only three years and time spent per viewer at 10 hours per month (comparable with Shaw conventional TV). As Chrome’s content library includes Netflix as well as YouTube, Google Play and any Chrome-built viewers it certainly delivers on this consumer demand.

2) Reaching younger demos: Broadcasters need to continue to find new ways to embrace emerging technologies in Canada. While the industry is still fairly protected today, the TV revenue cake will be nibbled at if not at this point sliced up. Younger demos will be harder to reach via linear TV alone as the potential to “cord shave” is further enabled through devices like Chromecast.

3) Real time data:  One of the biggest advantages that Netflix has applied to their content creation process has been access to their subscriber data, to the point of ordering entire series with no need for the traditional broadcast process. The Chromecast device will bring that advantage to Google and apply pressure on traditional research metrics as the real time data “becomes” the research.

The big opportunity is if Google, in partnership with content producers/broadcasters, can determine ways to enhance the Chromecast experience with a radical content strategy – then this could indeed be a true game-changer for television.