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Smart TV is just too much trouble for cable operators

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LG’s app store

There is a role for Smart TVs as a way for cable operators to get their services in front of customers but not until there is less fragmentation in the apps development environment. That was the message from two of Europe’s leading cable operators, Liberty Global and Kabel Deutschland, at Cable Congress on Wednesday. Balan Nair, CTO at Liberty Global predicted: “I think there will come a time when all the TV manufacturers decide to use the same browser so you do not have to build [an app] seven times and when they will work with us as an industry when they make changes. But today they are not motivated to do this.”

Nair related the negative experience that Liberty Global had when it did develop a Smart TV app for LG televisions, saying the set manufacturer changed the DRM and the browser on the following year’s model so the cable operator had to re-design everything. “The next year they moved us from the front page to the second page, and that is not a trivial thing,” he added. “TV manufacturers are interested in selling TV sets and we are in the business of collecting a cheque every month.”

Nair highlighted the complexity that you would create, as an operator, if you end up with 30-45 legacy Smart TV apps to manage on top of your legacy set-top box population. “You have to be very careful, so we put that whole Smart TV project on ice. For the latest generation of LG television we decided that we would not upgrade the UI for that.”

 Lorenz Glatz, CTO at Kabel Deutschland, told the Amsterdam audience that his company had finished a product development cycle for Smart TV and then decided to ditch the project. “The maintenance was not worth the hassle and the revenue you would get in return,” he revealed. “I hope there will be consolidation because Smart TV has a role to play but not while the landscape is so diverse and divided.”


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