The disconnect with connected TV
I fear that madness may have descended upon the connected TV market. Why? Well, in two ways. Let’s step back to the days before so many devices “benefited” from internet connectivity.
From the early 90s – pioneered in the US by cable operators and set-top box manufacturers – two-way connectivity to allow on-demand content access and this has been a motivating goal for many in the industry. As internet use grew, so the desire to somehow allow access to it via the TV gained credence, investment dollars and…failure. I recall a colleague telling me in arm-waving, raised voice fashion about the uselessness of a device he’d been loaned for precisely this purpose, maybe 12 years ago now. It promised the world, but was next-to-useless. Teletext was a guiding beacon of light in comparison.
Putting the internet on TV failed then and it will fail now. And yet at IBC last year there were worrying signs that some people still don’t get that. Do I really want to access my gas bill on my 50-inch TV while whomever else in the room shouts at me for interrupting Dallas/Eastenders/Question Time and so on? No, is the obvious answer.
Late last year Deloitte’s TMT team wrote the following, “…despite the forecast boom in sales, only a modest proportion of connected TV sets sold in 2013 and beyond – 15 per cent at most – are likely to be purchased solely or primarily for their integrated two-way connectivity. In the vast majority of cases price, size, thinness or bezel width are likely to be the primary reasons for purchase. A key reason why connectivity per se is unlikely to be a key selling point for new TVs in 2013 is because hundreds of millions of households around the world already have one or more ways of connecting their TV sets. In at least ten countries around the world, over thirty per cent of households already have connected TV - even if in some cases they may not realise it. In a few markets – those with high broadband and PC penetration – the effective connected TV base may be double this, at 60 per cent of households. The effective base of connected TV households is so high because there are multiple ways by which a TV set can be connected.”
I could not agree more. The last five years have seen a land grab going on with TV set manufacturers developing their own portals while broadcasters and platform operators (mainly across Europe) are now adopting the HbbTV standard for connected services. I have four devices under my TV now with Ethernet ports. Five years ago I had none. However, only one of these is connected and that's an A/V receiver for internet radio access!
There’s no doubt that connected TV forms part of the landscape and will continue to do so; the question remains as to what device you view it on. TV is still about TV and the main TV set is very often about joint viewing, not social media activities unrelated to the broadcast/OTT service. If I want that then I tend to view OTT services like iPlayer on my iPad. Take a look at this from the BBC to add to what I'm talking about.
I don’t think that there’s a future for an Ethernet connection on a TV set – except as an alternative to a satellite or terrestrial feed. If you want to do things other than providing entertainment then you are going to be doing that on your tablet or smartphone. You don’t want to share web browsing while watching a programme or Facebooking your mates on your main screen. You want to be doing that in your own private world. The TV will be for linear and non-linear video services only. I don’t want to interact with my TV. Entertain me – that’s what TV is for.