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Sunday, February 25, 2024

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Clicker Launches iPhone App, Against Backdrop Of TV Changes, Disruption

Social TV guide Clicker, also sometimes called “TV Guide for the internet,” launched its iPhone app this morning. An iPad app is on the way.

It’s cool and useful and it contains some, but not all content, available on the Clicker.com site. Here’s the list of the app’s content and features per the Clicker Blog:

  • Search Clicker’s massive database of online programming
  • Check-in to your favorite TV shows, movies, and Web series
  • Follow your friends on Clicker and see what they’re watching
  • Rate and discuss shows and movies
  • Earn show awards and badges
  • Manage your Clicker Playlist
  • Filter searches by, and play, iPhone-friendly videos
  • Purchase movies and TV shows through iTunes after finding them via Clicker (easier than searching iTunes itself!)

A novel addition to the iPhone app is the ability to check in to TV or video that you’re watching. Before you groan, this is consistent with Clicker’s mission to build social interaction and discovery around programs and video content. Check-ins will yield rankings and popularity lists that will be helpful for content discovery later.

But to put Clicker into the larger context of what’s going on with cable and video, we’re in the relatively early stages of what may be a major shift away from traditional content sources toward alternative channels (so to speak). We’re not seeing the end of television per se, rather we may be seeing the beginning of the end of the control of access to TV by cable companies.

When Google announced Google TV,  part of the presentation was an acknowledgment of the screen supremacy of television. And Nielsen data seem to confirm that people are indeed watching as much or more TV than ever, despite the proliferation of screens.

Whenever the “future of television” discussion arises the question equally comes up: when are people going to stop paying for cable and just get video from the internet? There’s a good deal of frustration, even resentment at paying $100 or more for cable and other services. A long New York Times story explains that Americans talk about “cutting the cord” but so far aren’t really doing much about it:

A New York Times/CBS News poll this month found that 88 percent of respondents paid for traditional TV service. Just 15 percent of those subscribers had considered replacing it with Internet video services like Hulu and YouTube.

Younger people, though, are more intrigued by the possibility: respondents under the age of 45 were significantly more likely than older ones to say they had considered replacing their pay TV service. The poll was conducted Aug. 3-5 with 847 respondents and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points.

As the second part of this excerpt suggests, younger people are more inclined to declare their independence from cable and rely on services like Hulu and Netflix:

[P]eople under the age of 45 were about four times as likely as those 45 and over to say Internet video services could effectively replace cable.

So it may only be a matter of time before cable really feels the heat of alternative content channels.

Today there are many set-top boxes (Boxee, Xbox, Wii) that can deliver video content, movies and the internet. In addition there’s a new version of Apple TV coming that is supposedly going to offer $.99 movie and TV rentals and offer a range of improved features. And within three years most TV sets will be internet-enabled. People will then equally be able to get traditional programming and video and other internet content directly from the “big screen.”

While there may be limited evidence of a mass exodus from cable, SNL Kagan reported data that did show a crack in the cable edifice. According to a discussion of the data on GigaOM:

[C]able companies lost 711,000 subscribers, which represents the biggest quarterly loss in cable TV’s history. Six out of eight cable TV operators also reported their worst subscriber losses ever last quarter.


It’s difficult to know whether this subscriber loss is a function of the economy and unemployment or some sort of “secular” move away from cable TV. It’s a bit of both I’d say.

Cable companies are defending against potential subscriber defections by bundling phone, TV and internet together as well as launching their own “TV everywhere” initiatives and convincing content creators to keep their programming off the internet (at least where it’s free).

It could continue at length, but you get the picture. I’ll summarize:

We’re seeing a movement of content off the single TV screen and onto smaller screens: PC, iPad, smartphones. And there’s an equal and opposite reaction by the content gatekeepers to try and maintain the pay walls wherever that content may roam. So far the pay walls seem to be holding and perhaps even growing (witness Hulu Plus). But the world of TV and its audiences are fragmenting. It’s evolution and entropy (if I’m using that correctly) all at once.

First there were the big three broadcast networks, then cable. That was followed by TiVo and DVRs then On Demand and internet (and mobile) distribution of content. We’ve seen a movement from appointment viewing on TV (the old days) and tight control at the top toward decentralization and more user control and choice.

Then there’s the parallel universe of online video, which is exploding. On YouTube alone people consume “2 billion videos a day.” Astonishingly, “every minute, 24 hours of video is uploaded to YouTube,” according to stats on the site.

Clicker’s ambitious project is to capture and structure all of this information — not simply index it — and make it accessible and socially discoverable. Clicker is run by former Ask CEO Jim Lanzone. But don’t call Clicker a “video search engine” — at least not to Lanzone’s face.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

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