Connected TVs are looking like they will be big business next year and I have just read a report on the subject from Colin Donald of FutureScape. I was struck by the following stat:
A September 2010 survey conducted in the UK for Intel found almost half (45%) of individuals use social networking services such as Twitter and Facebook to discuss a programme while it is being shown.
I didn’t take part in the survey, but I am one of the 45% – my ‘tweeting whilst watching’ activity is restricted to Chelsea football games, but it is now an integral part of my viewing experience when I’m watching alone.
The obvious question to ask is: ‘if people are already using social media whilst watching TV then what do they gain from having their TVs connected?’
It is probably always going to be easier to use a ‘second screen device’ to connect to social media than the TV, which might have other people watching it, has to deal with screen-in-screen or pop-up display options and has limited input via a necessarily inexpensive remote control. The implementation of Twitter on my Sony Bravia via Yahoo’s connected TV software is almost impossible to use – the set up process was so painful that my first and only tweet through my TV was to say that it would be my last.
The other use cases for connected TVs beyond access to long tail content are researching the shows being watched and shopping online. I think both of these are also better done via a smartphone or laptop.
So that leaves access to long tail content as the only really strong use case for connected TVs, which in turn implies that an open approach has to make sense because walled gardens mean restricted content catalogues. Open web access might limit cable company’s and TV manufacturers ability to monetise the content we consume on their devices and over their services, but to me that is the natural order of things.
Finally, I’m of the opinion that building connected TVs for people who don’t have second screens already doesn’t make much sense as people who are digitally savvy enough to be wanting to use Twitter or Facebook, research programmes or shop whilst they watch will have smartphones or laptops already.