The main use case for connected TVs has to be open access to content

By November 28, 2010IPTV

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.

Enhanced by Zemanta
  • In the longer run TV channels are going to disappear. If you think about it they are pointless. The whole concept of prime time scheduling is based on the assumption of appointment TV. Cable companies already have the technical ability to record every channel and chop all of the programs up into a remote DVR that contains everything. But the laws won’t let them do this; instead we have to individually do it on millions of personal DVRs. These connected devices are the first wave of that new world. Netflix is the pioneer.

  • Couldn’t agree more. At some point in the not too distant future television programme discovery beyond advertising promoted shows will come from intelligent recommendation engines and playlists from friends and celebs – and it will be much better than today’s lowest common denominator scheduled listings.

  • Ben Hookway – Vidiactive

    Some good observations here. I’d add a few comments though:

    1. You rightly point out that social activity is best done on a second screen. Very few people in the industry get this. This difference between shared experienced (often on TV) and personal experiences (on a laptop/tablet/smartphone) is important. Putting personal experience on a shared screen rarely turns out well. My wife is never thrilled when I search for other programmes using the EPG while we are watching here favourite show……

    2. Open access to web content is going to win in the long run. There however, short to medium term challenges to over come. The first is hardware accelerated flash 10.1 support for the TVs at a reasonable cost. The second is providing a usability model that allows input of a URL to a browser without the consumer having a keyboard on their knees. Nobody wants to do much more than use a simple remote. The third is turning the web page experience into a TV experience with no manipulation of the website. Content needs to look like TV when its on the TV…..

  • Great comment Ben. Thanks. Some points in 2 that I hadn’t thought about.

  • Thanks Ben. We’ll take a look