The Smart TV Summit, held recently in the Regent’s Park area of London and sponsored by Intel, was designed to show the changing face of entertainment. Digital2Disc was on hand to learn what the latest buzz is on the connected TV experience.
The Smart TV Summit may have been designed to show the changing face of entertainment, but it also showed the changing face of industry conferences, with one panel session set on its head by having the audience be the panellists. Moderator Andy Eardley of TV App Agency walked among the delegates, throwing out questions and getting everyone involved in the discussion, which gravitated towards the topic of second screening. The phenomenon was, many agreed, a real opportunity for advertising, bringing connected TV viewing into two categories - one where viewers are just transferred online and the other, which can use apps and two-way interactivity to open up a whole new world.
Mike Edwards of Audible Magic (“we’re playing around in second screening”) pointed out that consumers are already down the road of driving change in TV viewing. “There is 30% usage of tablets with people in front of a TV,” he pointed out. [Latest figures from Futuresource Consulting indicate it is closer to 50%.] “Second screening is there and already important - it is key to an immersive experience.” However, he pointed out, “85% of people who sit in front of a TV don’t know what they want to watch” - a point that presaged a recurring theme of the event.
That theme was, while it is the consumer who will ultimately drive the transformation to second screening, the experience has to be an easy one. Because people don’t know what they want to watch when they sit in front of a TV, the process of content discovery has to be both painless and productive.
Another recurring theme: educating the consumer is important, given the relatively few numbers (depending on who you ask) of people who actually connect their connected TV, and then make use of the connection. [In October, market watcher Strategy Analytics estimated that across the US and Europe 42 million homes are already accessing internet services through their TVs.]
SECOND SCREENING AND SOCIABILITY
The importance of second screening was stressed in the first presentation by the irrepressible and much-quoted Anthony Rose, formerly of BBC iPlayer and YouView, and now CTO and founder of zeebox who declared: “The news of the death of TV has been much exaggerated, but coming at you isn’t enough any more. Viewers are not served well with connected TV today, but thanks to the rise of tablets, people can innovate.”
In the midst of the rise of the second screen, and the change in the way people consume entertainment, it is increasingly important to find out what people want from TV viewing, Rose pointed out, and address those desires with the second screen concept. Although the main thrust of the presentation was to emphasize how zeebox (“an amazing product that lets you watch TV with friends, find out more about what’s on TV second by second, buy stuff you see on TV, and more”) ticked all the boxes, his take on second screening was informative and entertaining.
“Viewers are frustrated with the lack of innovation in TV compared with other areas, and UK viewers are doing it for themselves. There is no longer such a thing as an ad break,” he declared - “It’s now a tweet break.” Connecting realtime with social networks for shared viewing is thus an important part of any second screen technology or application, as is the need to sync with TV content to provide additional content and information immediately, triggered by that content. For example, on the popular TV show Top Gear, when Tom Cruise was a guest, the second screen app will allow for additional information on the actor.
In addition to the social element and the information gathering elements, Rose pointed out, content discovery is key - helping people find and choose what to watch. People also want the ability to interact - voting on talent shows, for instance. And the big part of second screening that throws out opportunities for everyone - shopping. “Advertising is interesting and disruptive and it creates purchase opportunities.” Opportunities for broadcasters to sell second screen ads as well as opportunities for a variety of companies involved in different aspects.
There were two questions in the Q&A session to challenge Rose, which he fielded airily. The first was: “Do people really want all the work involved in such an immersive experience?” It was, Rose agreed, a new language to learn, “But it will work itself out.” The second was: “These realtime and interactive features are all very well but more and more people view time-shifted content - what then?” PVR and VOD, he countered, were going to be supported by zeebox as though they were realtime viewing. And in any case, he added, around 80% of TV viewing is live. “Our secret sauce and USP is the analysis of live TV. Just as Google spiders the internet we spider live TV,” was his parting shot.
Business opportunities for Smart TV and content owners were further explored in a presentation by Karla Geci of Facebook, who discussed some of the social network’s developments, particularly those that enabled businesses to connect with viewers.
“Businesses will be better in a more connected world,” she said. “Facebook connects people and their friends to the things they care about.” The recently launched Timeline, which allows people to add profile information back to the time they were born, she said, “Can create deeper connections and unlocks potential for companies. We see it as a destination you want to visit again and again and it gives developers the opportunity to develop apps.”
Facebook, she added, “facilitates the process of curating” and can create a deeper engagement with TV programmes by allowing viewers to interact with the show and tell their friends in realtime with social media. “For instance, app integration can allow film fans to have a persistent connection with your studio and publish stories any time they watch any of your trailers or films.”
It can also allow for socializing the EPG, so that viewers can discover shows they want to watch based on their friends’ recommendations and what they are watching in realtime. “This is a community that has no boundaries so opportunities for business are unlimited,” Geci stressed.
MAKING IT EASY FOR VIEWERS
The various other presentations and discussions over the course of the two-day event continued to stress the importance of the social aspect of the connected TV experience, and the fact that, while there are both a lean- forward and a sit-back TV viewing experience, even in the lean- forward, content discovery and access has to be as easy as possible for the viewer.
Sponsors Intel discussed ‘Making TV Think’ with Paul Tapp, Head of Consumer Electronics, stating that the company’s goal was to work closer with broadcasters. There were certain recipes behind a great TV experience, he said, and one of the ingredients was the DNLA (the European body Digital Living Network Alliance, which certified more than 1,000 TV models in Q1 this year).
“Our secret weapon is Dr Genevieve Bell,” Tapp declared. Bell is Director of User Experience within Intel’s Digital Home Group, and her view of Smart TV is: “Don’t turn the TV into a PC, with connected TV it’s the TV bit that people care about.” Smart TV means, said Tapp, providing viewers with “content that they want to watch whenever they want to watch it.”
There are three elements to the connected TV experience, he stressed: an intuitive, high quality interface, unrestricted access to the entire internet, and something that is extensible via apps and services. He used the Freebox Revolution as a case study to illustrate his points. The Intel-powered IPTV- based, STB with Blu-ray player to allow for HD 3D game play, provides phone, internet and digital TV capabilities and, he said, added 300,000 subscriptions to one particular service in the first six months, with more than one million games downloaded. The ingredients in this particular secret sauce, he added, were a powerful processor and an open development platform. “Performance and experience matter,” he concluded.
FACTS AND FIGURES
Kevin Nolan of Strategy Analytics provided some insight into the whole issue of how connected devices are changing TV viewing with research figures on some early adopters. Figures came from an ongoing research program of over 100 early adopters across six markets, logging over 500 hours annually. “It is a digital home observatory, so we actually watch them in their homes and they also provide us with viewing journals,” he said. One interesting point, which echoed Anthony Rose’s earlier statement, was that live TV broadcasts are still the primary viewing source, even among OTT lead adopters. Except for the most price-conscious consumer, OTT complements rather than replaces broadcast, while on demand and social TV add to linear consumption.
“Cord-cutting is low,” Nolan said, even in the US where it can be upwards of $120 per month. “People feel they have to have it and curation adds value.” Interestingly, however, the more people have, the more they watch live TV. “For instance, if they watch the first episode of a series and then miss some, they will ‘marathon catch up’ then start watching live again.” This phenomenon is largely driven by the social element - friends may be tweeting about a program, thus providing an incentive to watch it.
The most-used apps are Hulu and Hulu Plus, iPlayer, Netflix, Pandora, and YouTube; “People generally use apps that they have used on previous devices, and they are mainly media- based apps,” Nolan pointed out. Bearing out the second-screening social element, he added, apps such as Facebook and Twitter tend to be accessed on people’s smartphone rather than through the connected TV itself.
Nolan also revisited the ideas that it has to be easy for the consumer, and that people with a connected TV don’t always connect it. In a survey before and after people bought their connected TVs, pre-purchase priorities included things like picture quality, screen size, and high definition capability. “Some people didn’t even realize the TV they bought could be connected.” Post- purchase, and after six months of connectivity (over 1,500 people had to be polled before finding 100 who had connected their TVs), the priorities had shifted. “Connectivity had become so important that most people said they would no longer buy a TV that didn’t have it.”
The Smart TV will, Nolan argued, become a mass market phenomenon, provided some problems are overcome, such as: it has to be easier to connect the TV; there is a lack of technical support; and the quality of the technology is not as good as it should be.
A few more facts, and opinions, and leading questions were thrown out by Keith Johnson of brands2me who delighted and shocked the delegates by his candid take on connected TV and how it is marketed. “TV technology is smart and getting smarter,” he said, “but where are the smart marketers? Why aren’t 100% of connected devices connected?” He slammed some major names - Google TV for lacking insight into what would make a good user experience; and YouView (a joint venture between BBC, ITV, BT, Channel 4, TalkTalk, Arqiva and Channel 5). “Alan Sugar recently fired the entire marketing department of YouView,” he pointed out, saying later he was surprised that the broadcasters let Anthony Rose steal a march on a second screening which could have been their opportunity to control the personal experience.
Half of the TV industry is funded by ads, he pointed out, “But advertisers need to be persuaded of the value of Smart TV as an addressable market before they move their ad dollars. Smart TV needs to be developed as a new marketing medium characterized by consumer marketing focus, capability, and dynamism.”