A week ago, I took the plunge and leaped head first into the world of ‘SocialTV’ (or connected TVs as they are also known). They’ve been all the rage at this year’s CES. TV manufacturers have been keen to get in on the act, with a plethora of connectedTV’s from all the big names being showcased. Samsung, Sony and LG all previewed new TVs running on the latest GoogleTV platform. Even MySpace has joined in, refocusing (again) to get in on the act, announcing a partnership with Panasonic to bring MySpaceTV to Panasonic connected TVs.
I seem to know a fair few people with connectedTVs, they seem to be everywhere. Nevertheless, I have my doubts as to how many people actually use the connected functionality within them. I suspect most people are buying connected TVs to future-proof their investment as opposed to feeling a strong need for a connected screen at the heart of their living room. Recent research would indicate it’s the former, with some data suggesting that 25 million US households have internet connected TVs – but only around half are actually connected.
Having had a connectedTV for a week, I can definitely see what all the fuss is about. TV is transformed; apps undoubtedly bring a whole new dimension to traditional TV, interaction, connections and a shed load more content. It seems eons ago when all we had was four terrestrial channels.
With an increasing number of production companies focusing on integrating social platforms such as twitter and facebook into the fabric of their shows (much like Endemol’s excellent Million Pound Drop), the desire to ‘check-in’ to our entertainment preferences, engage and share over thoughts over a program using #hashtags will only grow and grow.
However, the internet experience via a TV is very different when compared to a desktop or tablet. Firstly, actually typing on a TV remote is ridiculously difficult, even for the most nimble of texters. My TV allows viewers to watch a show and have their twitter feed appear on the right hand side of the screen, simultaneously - perfect for all those media stacker’s out there. However, by the time I’d managed to tweet in relation to something happening in the show, the conversation had moved on significantly.
Improving the user interface and data input into connected TVs will be a challenge, but with rumours of a voice controlled Apple TV on the way, it looks like connected TVs are here to stay. Social TV & associated 2Screen apps like getGlue and Zeebox (in whom Sky has just bought a 10% share – shrewd move) have the ability to significantly disrupt the TV market – and most likely the ad market too.