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Why this could be the year TV and the internet fully converge

Why this could be the year TV and the internet fully converge

By Rupert Britton, strategy director of content, PHD

Although ‘connected TVs’ have been available for a few years now, accessing Internet content on a TV screen is still the preserve of early adopters. This year this is set to change through the launch of devices which promise to bring the internet to mainstream TVs. Meanwhile, for early adopters TV is going to become even more sophisticated and Web-like.

Connected TVs go mainstream

Formerly known as Project Canvas and backed by the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Five, BT, TalkTalk and Arqiva, connected TV service YouView has run into technical problems and won’t launch until next year.

However, there are plenty of subscription free TV services which already offer Catch Up TV and TV applications / Widgets. These functions are available on internet connected TV sets, Blu- Ray players and games consoles, becoming almost a standard feature of new products. YouView was set to be heavily heavily promoted by its powerful stakeholders and it is this backing from the broadcasters, as well as the funding of its development by the license fee, which has the pay TV operators complaining to Ofcom on the grounds of unfair competition.

To a large extent Sky and Virgin have a point. Vestel, Europe’s largest manufacturer of TVs, will shortly be shipping affordable connected TVs to the likes of Argos – and these sets are likely to have everything that YouView offers.

TV becomes smarter

For tech enthusiasts 2011 will see a number of new TV services addressing the perennial problem of what to watch when confronted by  so much choice. For those looking for a non-subscription service there is Google TV, which is set to launch early this year. Available as either a set top box or as an integrated TV set (Sony is Google TV’s launch partner) its standout feature is its integration of Google search into browsing for TV programmes. Keyword search can be used to find relevant programmes on not only broadcast channels, but also via internet delivered VOD services like iPlayer and YouTube.

Of great concern to Google is the fact that the main US broadcasters are unwilling to provide their internet content to the platform. Fearing that Google will take ad dollars from their content broadcasters must reach an agreement with Google before we see clever new advertising opportunities around this search based functionality. Probably the most exciting TV service to launch this year comes from Virgin Media’s partnership with pioneering PVR manufacturer TiVo. Currently on trial in a limited number of homes, Virgin Media’s TiVo box is very much about personalisation and facilitating how we choose what to view:

Thumbs up / thumbs down

Whenever you come across a show you like or dislike, you can press thumbs up or thumbs down on the remote. In this way the TiVo can learn what types of shows you like – it can go down to actors, directors and writers – and make recommendations to you.

Search and wishlists

In addition to search, which mines synopses within broadcast, ondemand and internet content, viewers can create WishLists around keywords. The TiVo will then automatically record every show which features that keyword, in a way not too dissimilar to RSS feeds on the Web. What’s interesting about TiVo is that itshows how future TV platforms will behave more like the Web in how they organise content and facilitate the viewing choices we make. So despite YouView’s delay, 2011 will continue to see TV and the internet converging.

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