After playing around with YouTube leanback that Google launched last week I believe that the concept has a lot of potential to disrupt the way we watch TV. If you look at it the general concept of YouTube leanback is a “TV watching web app”
I already was very enthusiastic about media players like Boxee because you can very easily watch videos from the Internet on your TV, see what you your friends are watching, subscribe to video feeds, when you are browsing you can add videos to your play queue so you can watch them later etc. etc.. All very cool features. However there is a disadvantage: you need to have hardware on which Boxee is running.
With YouTube leanback you just need to find a device that has a browser (and flash in the case of YouTube leanback but I’m sure you can also build something similar in HTML5). Since modern TVs and mobile phones have browsers you can basically take your TV with you if you use a “TV watching web app”
I expect more sites will come with a “TV watching web app”. Probably also an open source application will be made such that everybody can easily setup such a web app. Traditional cable (and satellite) operators will need to move into this because otherwise their customers will just need them for a bit pipe. Many of them will fail because a “TV watching app” just does not fit them, because they don’t have the expertise and the business model should be such that it also fits the traditional business model they have which will lead to internal friction.
While changing cable operator is a hassle on the Internet it is trivial to use another web app. Because of its openness on the Internet in the end there will be just a few big TV watching web apps . At least far less than there are cable operators. It’ll be interesting to see how this all will work out.