Most connected TV viewing of premium content takes place through a streaming media player, or game console today. In the U.S. in Q2 2017 there were 38 million homes with a streaming media device and 73% used them to stream online video. There were 28 million homes with a smart TV and 63% were used to stream OTT video. Could the smart TV ever evolve to remove the need for streaming media devices entirely?
At the Connected TV World Summit last week, I put this question to a panel of industry insiders. We had gathered to discuss all-things connected TV in a panel entitled Post OTT Era – Smart TV as a vision of the future. Here is what each had to say.
Bill Gash, Sales Director CSG International’s Ascendon, didn’t think there was much chance of the smart TV being the one device we need anytime soon:
“Unlikely. To say that there is a one size fits all solution just goes completely against the times we live in. It’s really about giving consumers ubiquitous access across as many of the preferred devices that they want to use as you possibly can.”
He did, however, feel that many smart TVs do come with built-in advantages.
“My next TV is going to have a voice-activated system.”
The popularity of voice systems for television is growing fast. The number of US consumers with access to a TV voice system increased from 20% in Q3 2017 to 24% in Q4. The number of people with access that use the system also increased, to 57% from 54%.
A smart TV with SVOD and OTA provides a rich experience
A unique factor to the UK market is a robust national over-the-air (OTA) broadcast network. Jonathan Thompson, CEO, Digital UK, pointed out that many UK smart TVs come with a standard method for content providers to combine broadcast and online video. Combining that with many built-in SVOD services makes for a rich content experience.
“The ability to aggregate your own TV package is something that is perhaps unique to the UK. The ability to get the best of free (OTA) TV and the SVOD services you want on smart TVs is a cheaper and just as good experience many spend £100 for.”
Though far fewer people use OTA in the US, many companies are working to combine it with online services to replicate the UK approach. ChannelMaster, AirTV, and TiVo all have products available blending OTA and OTT delivery.
Germany still reliant on set-top box to combine all linear channels
The German TV market is still heavily dependent on linear TV channels. Nicole Agudo Berbel, Chief Distribution Officer, ProSiebenSat.1 Media SE, says that the only to combine OTA with pay TV is with a set-top box.
“For the now, the separate box is very important in Germany. People are addicted to live events and meet in front of TV at special times to watch together and have the family experience.”
Mrs. Berbel did see smart TVs as having some distinct advantages. For example, she like “having my favorite 8 apps at the top of my first screen.”
Dongles for the young
Price is often an issue for young people. This is a point that Cindy Varga, MD Strategy at Liberty Global, zeroed in on when thinking about a single smart TV coming to dominate.
“The percentage of millennials that don’t own a TV, it’s really quite high. It’s a segmentation question. Are the young going to buy smart TVs? I doubt it. They (smart TVs) are expensive. The dongle in the back of the TV is a good solution. It’s not going to be one size fits all.”
A cheap $35 Chromecast and an older flat panel TV, possibly handed down from parents, will remain the cheapest way for the young to watch OTT on TV.
Ms. Varga also saw some advantages to connected TV viewing. She said that the breadth of content delivered by a connected television is a very attractive feature.
Why it matters
We remain a long way from a single smart TV managing all our connected viewing needs.
While some people can get by with a smart TV, most will end up using another TV connected device to watch.