The future of television may well include holographic, multisensory experiences worthy of science fiction. But many other visionary predictions are closer to the horizon, if not already upon us. These are creating exciting opportunities, while forcing all players in the television value chain to adapt quickly.

Recently, I met via Cisco® TelePresence® with more than 50 journalists from 11 countries—all in Central and Eastern Europe—to discuss the future of television and its impact on these mostly emerging markets. I participated with two of my colleagues: Kate Griffin, from the Cisco Internet Business Solutions Group (IBSG) service provider practice; and Guillaume de Saint Marc, from Cisco’s service provider video technology group (SPVTG). The roundtable took place over two days and used a Cisco IBSG study, “The Future of Television: Sweeping Change at Breakneck Speed,” as a springboard for discussions that were lively and free-spirited.

Here are some of the core themes that emerged:

For starters, this is a hot topic in all of these markets; there was great interest in Cisco’s vision along with our concrete strategies, architectures, and solutions. Indeed, traditional television is already being upended by a new model that is multiscreen, interactive, and data-driven, and there was concern for how these challenges will impact the markets represented by the journalists (Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Turkey).

Given the interest in Cisco IBSG’s vision for the future of TV, it was great to see the synergy developing with SPVTG’s forward-reaching technology. One of the predictions from IBSG’s Future of TV study was subtitled “TVs Will Give Way to Screens Everywhere.” It envisioned any number of surfaces—from bathroom mirrors to living-room walls—becoming ultra-high-definition video screens, and it was brought to life in an existing prototype that Guillaume demonstrated. Called Fresco, the demo reveals a new concept of television that allows an entire living room to become an interactive video display that is flexible and multipurpose, and as unobtrusive or immersive as one desires. For instance, a major viewing event—say, the Super Bowl—can fill the whole wall. Or, for everyday use, a person can dynamically size small sections of the wall to be devoted to weather or news updates, while another section displays a favorite show. When not being used, the whole surface blends into the wallpaper. In the future, even those who choose not to own a TV will still enjoy flexible, immersive TV experiences.

Mirror Screen

Some participants asked about the role that service providers would play in this future vision, especially considering the increasing dominance of over-the-top (OTT) video providers. As we see it, in the future, the role of service providers will grow more important. They must, however, learn to be experience aggregators. This will require them to leverage data on customer preferences and past behaviors—while providing access to content that is both sweeping and personalized—to create a user experience unique to each customer. The future does not demand an upgrade from 200 channels to 3,000; instead, it will offer a handful of personalized channels, each offering exactly what a customer wants. So, instead of getting more complicated, the experience will become simpler.

Cisco’s cloud-based Videoscape Unity platform is one way to make this a reality. It offers multiscreen, personalized services that are synchronized with users’ social media connections, offering service providers the opportunity to tailor and create experiences that are most relevant to customers.

Another core area of discussion focused on business models as a missing ingredient in service provider success. As we stressed, technology isn’t always the leader in changing customer behavior. Just because a new feature or product is available doesn’t mean that consumers will flock to it. The key is often company actions that increase awareness and lower barriers to adoption. In many cases, new business models will be essential. It will be up to service providers to take the lead in educating the market.

Advertising is a key element. As our recently published white paper “Future of TV Advertising” explains, advertising will leverage data to become more targeted and personalized—reflecting our true wants, needs, and interests—and there will be new, more granular methods for measuring its impact. Content and advertising will merge in fascinating new ways, as well. If your favorite television hero is driving a car, for example, it might just turn out to be the vehicle you were researching for a possible purchase.

In short, television is going where we are going. We will take it with us on our smart devices, we will be immersed in it at home, and we will interact with it in unprecedented ways. It will “know” what we like to watch and predict what we will buy.

The future of television? Get ready, it’s coming fast.


Scott Puopolo

Vice President, Global Service Provider Practice

Cisco Internet Business Solutions Group