Leading content owners and platform operators have been giving some interesting insights into what is wrong and what is right with using CE connected TV as part of their distribution strategies. Development efforts and lack of reach are obvious failings but that has not deterred companies like Orange, SF Anytime and Viewster from pushing ahead, and SF Anytime, the Nordic VOD service, is positive about the rewards so far.
Speaking at Connected TV Summit last month, Olivier Dhotel, Director New TV Services, Content Division at Orange, made it clear that CE connected TV devices are viewed as a way to get onto second televisions in existing homes but also a route into the free-to-air market. He is interested in reaching the French DTT homes that have a connected TV device where he could target them via an app, which is currently around 600-700,000 homes, he reckons. But Orange knows it will not be easy getting them interested in pay content.
â€œThe figures [number of FTA homes with connected Smart TVs) are picking up but it takes time. DTT customers are outside the reach of cable and IPTV or they do not want to pay for satellite, so they might not be the best customers to sell your content to, because these are the customers who will pick and choose what they watch. The content must be well targeted for this audience, otherwise it is a tough experience.â€
Dhotel said it is expensive to get onto every screen. â€œIn France we have three million homes equipped with tablets and the same number with Smart TVs, but 100% of the tablets are connected and only about 20% of Smart TVs. So in terms of numbers, it is not mature enough.â€ But he added: â€œIt [Smart TV] is not a waste of money but you have to spend a lot of money for something that is not reaching all the public.â€
While Orange looks to extend its reach to television screens that are outside its control, the company is also opening up its own STB platform to more third-party web content, through apps. â€œWe are looking to aggregate what content is of interest to our customers,â€ Dhotel confirmed.
He also revealed that catch-up viewing on the PC has fallen significantly since the availability of catch-up services via set-top boxes. â€œThat is just natural. People want to consume their favourite shows in the best conditions possible, which is on the TV set,â€ he argued.
Peter Ohman, Head of Content at SF Anytime, which launched its first Smart TV apps with Samsung and LG two years ago, agreed that Smart TV platforms are still very immature. But he added: â€œIt took nine months to build the turnover on Smart TV that it took us 10 years to build on the PC. Right now we have six different Samsung apps live for different models but people find it and use it and the turnover is there.â€
Kai Henniges, MD at Viewster, the multi-market VOD store where you can watch movies free with advertising, emphasized that Connected TV is the smallest but also still the youngest of the multiscreen platforms. Because of this, people still have to learn how to connect the TV. â€œConnected TV has to be part of the mix but it would be foolish to rely on it,â€ he said.
He highlighted the cost burden of striking deals for every manufacturer SDK and explained that it is hard to promote your connected TV device app, other than trying to persuade manufacturers to give you a good on-screen placement. â€œEvery app is an island, whereas on the web we drive traffic from Facebook and YouTube and everywhere else,â€ he pointed out.
Charles Balchin, Head of Programmes at IMG Sports Media, one of the UKâ€™s leading independent production companies (probably best know for its sports production), thinks content owners are missing out on opportunities to exploit their assets more fully in this marketplace. He asked why a major football tournament sponsor should not place its brand against alternative review shows, like a more informal discussion of a major final, once the main television coverage is off-air. This kind of content is well suited to connected TV devices, he thinks.