2012 is the year that Connected TV platforms have come of age – the point at which they start providing the sheer processing power to fulfil the promise they have always shown in terms of changing the user experience. That is the view of Stacey Seltzer, Head of Smart TV at LG, who thinks we are going through the same development cycle seen with mobile Internet, where the market evolved from WAP phones to the smartphones that made the experience truly compelling. And expanding on the analogy, he points out that while the early smartphones had some good apps, nobody could have predicted the power of apps like Twitter and Foursquare a further 4-5 years down the road.
“All these incredible apps have been developed on mobile platforms and I think we are at the starting point with television now. Smart TV apps are a different proposition to mobile and there is a bunch of very good apps on the LG Smart TV platform today, but now we also have a platform that is robust enough to make it attractive to developers who want to make exciting new experiences.”
Perhaps just as importantly, LG is promising some stabilisation in the platform, something that will be welcomed across the content and Pay TV industries where a common complaint about connected TVs generally is that you have to develop apps individually to suit each manufacturer but also develop apps again as the platforms are upgraded, something that has happened regularly in this immature and dynamic marketplace.
“We are already seeing improvements for apps developers,” Seltzer says. “There is a robust ecosystem of developers that has sprung up and the cost of developing apps across a number of platforms has already fallen considerably, and there are efforts among CE vendors including ourselves to converge SDKs [Philips, LG and Sharp are working on common technical requirements for their Smart TV offerings based upon open standards like HTML5, CE-HTML and HbbTV]. We heard that feedback and when I look at the power of the 2012 platform I am comforted by the fact that it will be a sustainable platform for a number of years, and will take away some of the concerns.”
According to Seltzer, the 2012 Smart TV platform from LG, and indeed the new ranges from other major CE manufacturers, are game changers. For his company, one of the benefits of additional power is the ability to provide a slicker user interface. A major focus for LG this year is the speed and simplicity of navigation. “The aim of Smart TV is to deliver more content choice but providing more content is not very useful if it overwhelms consumers, so our focus is on making sure that the navigation and the way the content choices are presented is very compelling and user friendly,” he explains.
LG views the user experience as an important way to differentiate its offer from other Smart TV platform providers. “Broadly speaking, I think the content proposition will be similar across each of the platforms because that makes sense for a content owner. Each of the CE manufacturers will continue to look for exclusivity where it makes sense; this week we announced 3D World [which builds on LG’s original 3D Zone Smart TV app launched last] with new content and a major partnership with PERFORM, the sports rights holder, to bring a very good selection of sports content to the platform across Europe. But broadly speaking, the content propositions will be similar. So the experience of how the user navigates that content becomes very important.”
Seltzer believes LG is in a strong position when it comes to the user experience, having taken onboard the learnings from previous iterations of the platform. The company’s Magic Remote remote control (which uses gesture control and mouse-type scrolling) can also exploit the increased power of the 2012 platform. Having demonstrated this pairing to broadcasters and studio executives, Seltzer says they are ‘wowed’ by it and start to wonder about the new possibilities this kind of input control presents when it comes to viewer interaction and content discovery.
Magic Remote helps to overcome difficulties traditionally associated with text input on televisions and the LG companion apps for smartphones and tablets take this a stage further. “I think we are right at the forefront of delivering an easily navigable experience for the consumer,” Seltzer declares.
But despite the greater sophistication in its 2012 models, LG is taking things slowly with consumer marketing, which is still built upon the content partnerships like with BBC iPlayer, LOVEFiLM and Netflix. “We are still in the early stages of educating consumers about the power of the devices so the message is still about the content partners,” he confirms. “Our job as an industry is to help educate people about the power of Smart TV but we need to make it a simple message – like accessing those services within one click of turning on your TV. For me, when thinking about marketing Smart TVs, the power of the devices means more content that you can find quickly and easily.”
The big message from Seltzer is that 2012 will be seen as the year when Smart TV platforms began to really deliver on their promise and made the whole consumer experience around television more exciting.
Stacey Seltzer will be speaking on the panel, ‘Next steps for Connected TV’ at the Connected TV Summit in London, May 2-3, where he will be joined by (among others): Metin Salt, General Manager, VESTEL; Dan Saunders, Director, Content Services, Samsung; Suveer Kothari, Head of Global Distribution Partnerships, Google TV; and Thomas Teckentrup, General Manager, Software & Services Division, Toshiba EMEA. You can find out more about the Connected TV Summit here.