Connected TV Experience: A plug and play experience?

14 Oct 2011  |  Liz Jaques 
Chris Bird

Only a small percentage of people are actively seeking connected functionality when purchasing a new TV set, according to the panel at MediaTel Group's Connected TV Experience.

"Consumers look at screen size, how good the TV looks and price when buying a new set, not necessarily the ability to connect to the internet," LoveFilm's Chris Bird (pictured) told delegates on day two of the event at RBS in London.

HMDG's Greg Grimmer claims that 12% of consumers purchased a internet-enabled television simply because they were buying a new TV and that is the latest on the market, rather than for connectivity. But whatever the purchase motivation, connected televisions are reaching households - according to Ofcom, 4.6% of homes now have an internet-enabled TV. And, of the 10 million televisions sold in the UK in 2010, one million were internet-enabled.

But the question is, how many of those are connected? "Even people who have the devices don't understand the capabilities," Bird said. "We have an awful long way to go to educate viewers".

Rhys McLachlan, Mediacom, believes this will take time, but says that the industry has come a long way so far. "There has been a size-able change - lots of people already have the products and all TV sets will be web-enabled in the next 12 months, but connectivity will come later," he said.

Samsung's Dan Saunders agreed, reminding delegates that connected TVs "only launched in the UK in 2010 - and Samsung only started marketing this year. It is still early days for getting consumers to understand the value proposition of connected TV".

Saunders also pointed out that each manufacturer's offering differs greatly - with "maturity of each service at different levels", which, if anything, makes it more difficult to educate consumers.

Bill Scott from easeltv, a connected TV design and application development company, says that to change consumer behaviour, we need to see more apps delivering a TV experience. "The real challenge for us is to make the app experience a non-threatening one for consumers. The television sits in a family environment, it is not the same as a PC. We need to exploit the true context of TV in the home - it should be a lean-back experience. At the moment, connected TV apps and services are not consistent with the way people use TV today."

From the audience, Bob Auger, CUE Entertainment, asked whether retailers should educate consumers at the point of purchase, which follows on from a comment on the previous day that Currys doesn't have an internet connection to be able to demo connected TVs.

In response, McLachlan said only a small amount of education is needed from people selling the sets because, on the whole, "we're a digitally-enabled country - people pick these things up". Although he added that it would help if sets were automatically-enabled - "it is about simplicity, which would remove the requirement for manufacturers to educate".

"There are certainly issues around user experience... if we can find a way to get apps and services up and running at the press of a button, we'll overcome these hurdles (of getting people to discover themselves)," Bird added. "We've been advertising what people can get via their LoveFilm app for a year and we've spent a lot of money. We'll continue to do this to ensure the experience is as easy as possible for consumer."

Meanwhile, Saunders explained that the user experience is better in top models, though he recognises that manufacturers generally need to improve usability. He pointed out that the functionality offered in high end products tends to trickle down to low end models very quickly, without directly confirming what features the new Samsung range will offer.

Saunders understands that manufacturers need to work with and support retailers to get people to both buy and connect devices, although he says there is also a need to manage the out of box experience (when people get the device home). In future, a "new funnel of connection will mean that viewers will realise that they're not getting the full value out of their TV, even while they are watching linear TV", he added, noting that the ideal process of setting up your new TV should be a plug and play experience.

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