Unless you’ve had your head buried in the sand for the past 18 months you’ll realise that Television, that old bastion of media, is undergoing something of a revolution, a connected revolution.
I had the dubious pleasure of spending a few days in Las Vegas at CES (Consumer Electronics Show) in January. I got to see what the big, established hardware vendors were pushing. And the battleground was clear; Smart TV.
It was difficult to avoid the monstrous stands demonstrating the 60-inch screens, each displaying their own operating systems, user interfaces, web browsers, app stores, gesture recognition and media streaming services.
The buzzword was ‘Ecosystems’ and the focus was firmly on the battle between these technology giants and their proprietary software and services.
Forget the simplicity of mobile Apps, developing for iOS, Android and maybe Blackberry. With Smart TV it’s Sony and Google TV, Panasonic’s Viera Cast, Samsung’s Smart Hub, LG’s NetCast, Philip’s NetTV and the list goes on.
Then there’s the “external boxes”, whether it’s smart TV functionality through Boxee, your xBox or your Smart Blueray player.
But while big business battles it out, throwing huge investment at trying to own the Smart TV experience to get consumers to plug their Internet connection into the back of their TV, there’s a whole different side to Connected TV that is stealing a march on the big corporations, companion Apps.
While Smart TVs are selling in numbers, the problem is that the audience has yet to catch up with the technology. Many estimate that less than 20% of Smart TVs are actually “plugged in” to the Internet. Why? Because people don’t understand why they should plug in and even if they do they may simply not find it compelling.
Samsung reckon that 20million TV Apps have been downloaded to their TVs. But that’s a global number for the biggest Smart TV manufacturer out there. And when you compare it to the 25 Billion App downloads that Apple have just surpassed, well, there’s a long, long way to go.
So while the consumer electronic behemoths are slowly taking their technology led approach there are faster, smaller, nimbler innovators creating apps that run on your small screens but are designed to work alongside your big screen experience. These are the people who are leading the Connected TV revolution.
They are the kind of people who are in permanent beta, who understand the concept of “Minimum Viable Product”, who move fast and above all, base their developments on real consumer insight.
Apps like the rapidly growing Zeebox are not alone. Umami, Into_Now, Viggle, they all offer slightly different takes on the second screen experience. But they are largely based on the well-understood insight that many people like to share the experience of watching TV.
According to a YouGov poll an amazing 87% of Facebook users in the UK have posted comments while watching TV. That’s more than the number of people who have eaten their supper in front of the TV. Second screening is already a well-recognised phenomenon.
What these businesses are doing is combining behaviours we already display with technology we already use. And they are combining them in ways we can easily understand and augmenting them with functionality and services that make it worth our while.
So while the Smart TV manufacturers are still trying to work out how to sell us their technologically advanced TVs while battling for dominance, the young pretenders are already getting their Apps into the hands of consumers.
The battle is far from over and there may be room for many different approaches but the old boys could learn a thing or two from the new kids on the block.
To find out more about our Connected TV offer contact Toby Gunton – @t08yg