Lee Yi is the founder of Drund, where he spends his time researching and creating ways for web technologies to improve our personal and professional lives.
Connected TV is being touted as a customizable and interactive experience. However, three key issues stand in the way of achieving that promise.
Those obstacles are content provider bundle packages, a lacking interface standard and network infrastructure. These issues will have to be addressed by content creators, cable companies, consumer electronics (CE) manufacturers and network providers before consumers will even get a whiff of interactive content.
Here’s a closer look at what the industry is up against.
1. Flawed Content Pricing System
For decades, consumers have been relegated to paying for cable or satellite services in bundled packages. This model rose from content creators forcing cable companies to take on new or less popular channels in order to have access to more popular stations. This often leads consumers to question why they have channel options that do not interest them in the slightest. It’s an antiquated approach that flies in the face of current consumer behavior. Viewers want to customize and access content on their own terms.
Evolving beyond the bundling model will help content creators and cable companies create a financial outlet that maintains profits while providing consumers with a more relevant product. An opt-in targeted advertising model would allow consumers to either pay a premium to bypass commercials or agree to view targeted ads and receive a lower service rate.
Advertisers would also benefit by receiving assurances that their spots are reaching targeted, relevant audiences. This is simply not possible in the bundling model or with Nielsen boxes. Gleaning this level of user data would finally put the entertainment industry on par with the Facebooks and Googles of the world. Consumers will then benefit from access to custom content.
Right now, connected TV is lagging because there is no standard interface. While consumers were looking for new ways to interact with their TVs, CE manufacturers were investing in 3D technology. Avatar may have looked great in theaters, but consumers do not want to purchase and maintain glasses and sets for their home viewing. Entertainment should not create more work for viewers.
Unfortunately, reaching for 3D put connected TV’s social interface on the backburner and created another barrier for adoption. Poor user interfaces (UI) are standing in the way of high level, social interaction on TV. Simply put, television was not originally created to be connected. Even the most advanced remotes still base interaction on left, right, up, down and enter buttons. Smart TVs utilizing a browser forget that websites were created for a keyboard and mouse, not a TV remote control. Pushing content using a device that was never designed for text or complex UI elements is counterintuitive and clumsy.
Interestingly, Microsoft may have found an answer to the UI problem with Kinect, a hands-free gaming interface. The Xbox add-on could end up having users control their TVs the way Tony Stark interacts with his super-powered lab. By using Kinect’s multiple cameras and voice activation, users do not need a remote.
Apple fans can attest that great user experience and good information architecture are the hallmarks of brand loyalty. Microsoft may have created the ultimate entertainment UI device with Kinect, and paved the way for TV to become as social as the web.
3. Current Broadband Networks Cannot Handle Cord Cutters
Consumer response to bundled services has been simply to cut the cable cord and rely on the Internet to stream video content, and the U.S. broadband network could not support an all digital TV push.
Coming out of Netflix’s Q3 2010 earnings report, a Sandvine research study found that Netflix’s 16.9 million subscribers accounted for 20% of the peak downstream Internet traffic in October 2010. If Netflix alone is accounting for 20% of congestion, an HD stream of the Super Bowl and its 111 million viewers would shut the network down.
Connected TV is best served by having dual delivery methods. In this model, content can be delivered via a traditional coaxial connection while interactive features can stream through an IP connection. The network can handle sending the bulk of video through cable and the IP can handle the cool stuff like sharing theories on your favorite shows or discovering the history behind Game of Thrones.
When these issues are addressed, TVs will become yet another connected screen where a consumer’s data can be accessed and used to improve the user experience. Then TV will join the connected interactive experiences that are already being enjoyed on smartphones, tablets and PCs.
Image courtesy of Flickr, Chloester