One device to rule them all: smart TV

20 Feb 2012  |  Dan Brilot 

Dan Brilot, media consulting director at YouGov, reveals key insights about the connected TV market, which signal a significant change over the course of 2012...

Almost in the blink of an eye (or the time it takes to type 140 characters) it seems that we are very close to reaching a tipping point in the convergence of media and technology with the growing global adoption of smart TV.

At the back end of 2011, adoption was still relatively low, with only 12% of the UK population owning a smart TV and similarly low numbers across many developed markets such as the USA, Germany and the Nordics. Intention to purchase was also very low but there are there are now some very positive factors, which could signal a significant change over the course of 2012.

Smart TV ownership

Television is the last of all of the mass media to get the online treatment. What is different about television, however, is that despite the huge growth of online services offering access to video content sites such as You Tube and the BBC iPlayer, broadcast television audiences have remained stable (contrasted against plunging newspaper sales) for the simple reason that when it comes to video content, size matters. Whilst most books are well presented on a Kindle, newspapers on an iPad and music on a smartphone, television and film content is really best enjoyed on a 40" plasma screen.

There are also significant market trends that could boost Smart TV adoption this year - the availability of many services on smart TVs including YouTube, MSN, Twitter, Skype, and Google; the UK launch of big players - Netflix and YouView; and major sporting events, such as the European Football Cup and the London Olympics.

There are four distinct trends which now appear to be combining to increase global smart TV adoption:

The first is device fatigue. Consumers do not want multiple devices which essentially do the same things. Neither do they really want numerous plug in boxes and endless cable trails, if they can have one device that does everything required in a 'smart' way. The smart TV is the device that could cover the work of the landline, TV, DVD player, home entertainment system, game station or even a home climate control system all in one device.

The second is the continued move from the old broadcast model to on-demand. As more and more on demand services become available, the broadcast model will start to look even more outmoded (39% of the UK population now watch the BBC iPlayer at least once a week). Smart channel owners must start to get wise to the fact that consumers want to watch what they want, when they want, wherever they want.

The third is the ability to use social networking services in conjunction with television services, so called 'social TV' that could be the 'killer app' for the smart TV. This next evolution of our TV sets enables viewers to share and comment on media content using Facebook and Twitter, or even set up 'virtual living rooms' where programmes are watched at the same time between friends but at different locations with social networks enabling a shared viewing experience.

Finally, smart TV could be a 'leapfrogging' technology. As we witnessed with emerging markets (particularly in Africa) many consumers went straight to the mobile internet via smartphones without waiting to afford a PC/Laptop and a good broadband connection.

As smart TV becomes a reality at an affordable price point, could many consumers in emerging markets skip PC/Laptops and go straight to smart TV?s? Already the first smart TVs designed and made in China has hit the market and others will invariably follow suit. Intuitively the data from a recent multi-country study shows intention to purchase much higher from markets with lower internet penetration and device ownership levels.

Whilst no-one would dispute that mobiles and tablets very much still have their place, specifically whilst on the move or in those places where you wouldn't necessarily think to install a 40" plasma screen (25% of tablet users use their tablet in the bedroom), smart TV could really be the next 'game changer' for media content providers.

The proposition, however, still needs to be made clear to consumers. We've finally observed an upturn in take-up following a disappointing Christmas and January in terms of retails sales. The latest data released last week states that now 15% of the UK population own a smart TV. In fact just over one in five (21%) of 35 to 44 year olds now own such a device. The challenge to the industry is to now capitalise on that momentum and make the uniqueness and completeness of the smart TV proposition clear to the wider general public.

YouGov smart TV research

After all, who wouldn't want free video phone calls via Skype in their living room or access to all the films (or songs) ever made at the touch of a button? The future of media and technology may lie then in the convergence of the things we love the most; Television, Film, Music and Social Networking, maybe even shopping all from within the comfort of our own sofas... one device to rule them all... smart TV.

MediaTel ConnectedTV subscribers can access more data from the latest wave of YouGov and MediaTel Smart & Connected TV research (done on a quarterly basis amongst 2000 nationally representative UK consumers).
If you would like to find out more about trialling the ConnectedTV product, contact

Your Comments

Tuesday, 21 February 2012, 11:11 GMT

The 80-20 rule

In Consumer Electronics vis à vis the General Public all the 'Tech Specialists' of the world assume that everyone understands technology the way they do. The world is naturally more sophisticated, people are more tech savvy and there is definitely a trend towards a better understanding of a very complex TV world but fundamentally we must not believe all the hype. Most people do not understand television technology (80%)! Even High Definition is confusing to people. In fact a recent report in the Telegraph regarding real transmission quality amongst the UK HD broadcasters only highlighted that the average consumer is being duped…by the very industry that is selling the new technology dream.

Most people (80%) do not use but a minuscule part of their 'smart device' no matter what the technologists believe. Forbid that it goes wrong and an error message pops up…then what? We do not automatically all understand and fix the problem and then carry on…we often see that the device loses that functionality and we have a reduced service or usage. Due to the complexity there will be an increase in the need to support devices, people and the whole convergence issue brings many, many of those requirements which have been left un-budgeted.

The demise of Internet TV (the 1st time around) was due to the fact that it cost too much to support (After Sales) that it was financially a burden to those that tried to deploy it (Microsoft at the time). The complexity of device, software updates and driver updates cannot be underestimated. An iPhone on average requests over 150MegaBytes of data each week to keep Apps 'up to date'…Something that the TV has been able to avoid so far.

Putting all devices in one is also a cyclic affair…HiFi went as a unit and then back to separates and back to single device, Fax-Scanner-Printer same story - Lose one piece and you lose it all.

Smart TV is only another story in the long history of consumer electronics and its need to Converge, Diverge, Converge…20 % of us really understand.

Anthony Smith-Chaigneau
SVP Business Development
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