Smart TV growth is about to explode.
That's the news out of MediaPost yesterday according to the article: Smart TV Growth Is Set To Explode. But, the bigger question is this: are consumers ready and knowledgeable enough to make this work? I believe that media can be both passive (I'm just watching it!) or active (I'm tweeting! Updating! Creating!). There is this notion that traditional passive media companies (TV, print, radio, etc...) must become active media if they want to compete in a world of iPads and social media. That may or may not be accurate.
Two stories to understand before embracing the power of Smart TV...
- Personal story #1: I do not think that I am that much different from the average media consumer (with the exception that I am an infovore and probably consume more copious amounts of the stuff). After a long, hard day (or on the weekend), I'm not inclined to sit on the couch with my MacBook Air and continually create, share or talk about content. I'm much more content to recline and just let a TV show or movie wash over me. When 10 pm hits, it's not about chatting or sharing, it's about closing the lid of the computer or putting the iPad away and just allowing some form of video content to wash over me. Let them do the heavy lifting.
- Personal story #2: I finally bought Apple TV. I know... I know... I can't explain what took me so long. I had a Roku streaming system, but it just didn't draw me in. Last weekend, I installed Apple TV. Here was the process: move the TV around to plug it in, turn on the unit, get the Apple puck to connect to my home network, install the updates to the firmware (close to 30 minutes of waiting), sign in to my iTunes, grab the remote app for my iPhone, realize that my iPhone and Apple TV were not on the same network, fix that problem, get my Netflix subscription going, plug that information into the Apple TV platform, log into my YouTube channel so that my history is there, understanding AirPlay and how to get my screens to share nicely, and more. All said and done: close to two hours of work. Still, I need to explain how everything works to everyone else in the household.
You have to be smart if you want Smart TV.
The profound power and growth of the iPhone, iPad and other tablets/smartphones is in how the technology has come to a point where the technology has removed the technology from the technology. There are few (if any) hurdles to getting these products up and running. As simple as Apple TV was to set-up in relation to installing Windows back in the day, it's still a multi-step process that forced me to incur many moments of frustration and hurdles. It's not seamless. Plus, the true power of Smart TV (which is, essentially, a TV that is connected to an Internet router that will allow you to stream content) is in the paid products. The fun of watching YouTube quickly wanes and getting movies, TV shows and more from iTunes or Netflix is an additional cost on top of the TV set, the DVR, the cable subscription and the home network installation. From the MediaPost news item mentioned above: "'Consumers are now increasingly buying big-screen TVs that include the Internet capabilities, even if they're specifically looking for [those capabilities] or not,' Veronica Thayer, TV systems analyst at IHS, tells Marketing Daily. While many television manufacturers are working on developing their own identifiable user interfaces for their smart TVs, the big growth could come from manufacturers striking partnerships with cable and satellite television providers, Thayer says. Currently, many of the television providers only exist on smart TV platforms via apps, but a partnership with television manufacturers would give these companies a greater presence on the device's user interface once it is set up in the home."
So, is Smart TV really just the old TV with some apps?
There is no doubt that we are quickly moving towards a one screen world, where the only screen that matters is the screen that is in front of me. There is also no doubt that while we will always have companion devices, the screens - as we have separately identified them (TV screen, movie screen, smartphone, tablet, car's dashboard, etc...) - are becoming strikingly similar in terms of looks and functionality. What we still haven't understood is the true intent and desire of the consumer. Are they that interested in TV becoming an active media over their current use of it as a passive media? What we do know: it's not a zero sum game. For every person that is active on Twitter, there are also individuals who are simply there to follow and read what the celebrities are up to. For every person who just wants to decompress, unplug and watch The Real Housewives of Atlanta, there are those who are tweeting and sharing on Facebook while watching the Superbowl. Without a doubt, TVs will continue to get smarter and smarter and more connected. The most interesting data points that we have yet to see are how many of these Smart TVs actually get connected to the Internet, and what is the usage like? How often are plugged in and Smart TV users actually using these services versus sitting back and watching repeats of Storage Wars?
Just trying to get my TV to be smart made me feel pretty dumb. How about you?