Web TV

Posted in Op-Ed -

Back in the mid nineties Steve Perlman founded Web TV Networks a service for accessing the web on TV via a dedicated box. Acquired by Microsoft 20 months later and rebranded as MSN TV in 2001, the service was never a big success with consumers but it had its loyal customers, and was only shut down at the end of 2013.

The web was a very different place back in 1995 and there is no question that Web TV was way too early. Fast forward to today, most will agree that at least some web content is a perfect fit for the big screen and that bringing together the best of the web with the best of TV is more relevant than ever.

In fact accessing web content on the big screen is, for the most part, much easier and more intuitive these days except when it is not.. One can easily access certain web content through TV Apps but those TV apps represent a very small portion of what the web has to offer. There is a very long tail of content that may have an audience on the big screen but remains very hard to access without hooking up a computer to the TV set.

In an ideal world, there would be a TV optimized version of every web site that has an audience on the big screen, this is similar to what we have today on mobile devices. However before this can happen someone would need to invent a new interaction paradigm for TV. This is not unlike the way multi-touch interfaces made mobile devices usable as general purpose computers. Some say that this is the holly grail of the killer living room device, and many attempts have been made to find this new paradigm (e.g. voice, gestures, 3D mice and so on). others think that the TV does not need the web, just the video on the web and therefore the existing remote control is good enough.

We at TVersity, are big believers in the future of TV as an app and believe that eventually all web videos will become easily accessible on TV via some app. However we also realize that it will take time and so in the meantime those who wish to access some web video on the big screen and cannot find an app for that, need a solution. For that reason we created the TVersity Screen Server.

By mirroring the PC screen on TV, the TVersity Screen Server makes it dead simple to play on the big screen any content that plays on a computer. This is of-course not a new concept, however existing solutions for screen mirroring put emphasis on low latency and hence require dedicated hardware on the TV side. While low latency is a must for playing games and for other highly interactive applications, there is a lot of content that one wishes to view passively on TV (personal media, web videos and even game viewing fall under this category) and in such a case low latency is not critical. What is critical is the ability to do all this without additional hardware and so the TVersity Screen server leverages your Smart TV, Roku, game consoles, and other existing DLNA devices exactly for that.

Take for example twitch.tv, their content is not available on most OTT devices (not even on Roku).

Another example is break.com, they recently added 200 Lionsgate movies, which are all available for streaming free on their website and OTT platforms like Roku. If you wish to watch some of these movies (e.g. Winter’s Bone or Requiem for a Dream) and happen to own a device that has a break.com app you are good to go. Otherwise, you may be forced to watch it on your computer.

An entire category of web videos that are hard to access on TV is foreign content - the long tail of web videos is very long…

So, while it is hard to predict the future of Web on TV and whether there is more to it beyond TV apps, clearly a solution is needed today to make it dead easy to play the long tail of web videos on the big screen and the TVersity Screen Server was created exactly for that.

You can learn more about the story behind the TVersity Screen Server here.

Later article
DLNA Media Servers