When Tim Cook announced the new Apple TV last fall, he said that "the future of TV is apps." This week, I got a preview of that future. And I'm impressed.
I'll get to that in a minute.
First, let's think about what it's currently like to watch TV or Netflix through an app on a connected device, like a Roku, game console, or Apple TV. It probably goes something like this: You open the app, select whatever you want to watch, and then sit back and watch it.
In that sense, it's not that much different than watching something on-demand on a traditional cable box, except it's easier to navigate and find what you want to watch, the remote control isn't awful, and it's an all around better user experience.
That's great. That totally works for apps like HBO Now and Netflix—apps you use to stream TV shows and movies. But that experience could be so much better for other types of programs you watch on TV, like sports, reality show competitions like "The Voice," or game shows.
That's the future I think Tim Cook envisions when he talks about the future of TV being apps.
I mentioned how I got a preview of this technology. Next week, the NHL will release NHL.TV, a new app that allows hockey fans to watch live, out-of-market hockey games, keep up with their favorite teams, and more.
NHL.TV was built by MLB Advanced Media (MLBAM), major league baseball's tech division. It's the same company that handles streaming video for HBO Now, the WWE, the MLB, and many others.
I checked out the app on Monday night. I'm not even a hockey fan, but what immediately piqued my interest was the new mosaic view, which allows you to watch as as many as six HD video feeds at a time. It only works on some games for now, but when it does work, it's an awesome way to watch a hockey game.
You can follow the puck on the main screen, or watch how the goalie made— or didn't make —a save. (The goalie cameras are actually on a slight delay, which gives the viewer time to move from one image to another.)
But you don't have to watch the game like that. If you'd like, you can just watch the normal, home team feed. Or the away team feed. Or highlights.
The point is that you have a choice in how you watch the game. And that's a completely different experience than watching a hockey game on TV, or even watching a hockey game in person.
All of it's in HD and at 60 frames per second, so it looks great. The app also has some other features that hockey fans will appreciate, like a dashboard that shows scores of current and recently played games.
This type of experience isn't limited to hockey. Major League Baseball is set to release an app this spring that will offer some of the same features, plus the ability to watch two games simultaneously.
Experiences like this are possible now because connected devices, like the new Apple TV and game consoles, have real processing power. They also allow for interactivity that wasn't possible with traditional TV.
It's by no means perfect, and for many sports fans apps like these may supplement their cable or satellite subscriptions. Contracts between TV networks and professional sports organizations limit what you're able to watch, especially when it comes to in-market games.
But the NHL.TV app, and soon, the MLB.TV app, offer a peek into how we're going to be watching, and interacting, with TV in the future.