LG TVs streaming online channels
Janko Roettgers / Variety

Owners of LG’s latest smart TVs will have something new to add to their channel surfing: The Korean consumer electronics giant is adding more than 50 internet streaming channels to its latest generation of high-end TVs, making it possible to seamlessly switch back and forth between cable networks and streamed content from publishers like Buzzfeed, GQ, Wired and Vogue. LG showed off the new integration at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week.

Streaming channels are available through a dedicated app, but also are integrated into the main TV guide, where they appear with an orange font to stand out from the traditional broadcast and cable fare. Internet channels can also be accessed by pressing the channel up or down button on the TV’s remote control.

LG added streaming channels to its latest smart TV generation through a collaboration with an Irvine, California-based startup called Xumo that specializes in integrating internet content into traditional TV environments. In addition to that, LG has also partnered with German internet video startup Watchmi to add an additional 300 international streaming channels to its new TVs.

Programming and distributing internet video in a way that feels more like a linear TV network may seem counter-productive at first. After all, what has made services like Netflix so popular is that viewers can pick and choose, and not have to wait for their favorite shows to air. This freedom isn’t really lost with LG’s approach: In addition to being streamed in a linear-like fashion, content from participating internet video publishers is also available on demand.

But a more traditional, channel-like approach could also help internet video to get more eyeballs. Consumers who want a lean-back experience will be able to just flip through a few channels and watch something without the need to specifically seek out videos, and the fact that these channels are listed right next to cable and broadcast channels will blur the lines between the two.

The model also effectively turns a TV manufacturer like LG into a kind of internet TV service provider, offering additional revenue opportunities.

The idea to present internet content in a linear-like fashion isn’t completely new: Google started to offer a very similar mix as part of its Android TV platform last year. Sources told Variety that Samsung was looking to launch a similar integrated service as part of its new 2016 generation of TVs at CES this year, but the company didn’t follow through on those plans.

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