You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Consumers cutting through the TV clutter

Buyers bewildered by app profusion

With roughly 17 million web-enabled HDTVs or smart TVs in U.S. homes and many more on the way, Americans have unprecedented access to entertainment content. However, only a fraction of these sets have actually been connected to the Internet thus far, leaving app developers hoping for a hookup.

About 20% of TVs shipped today are smart TVs, and data from research firm DisplaySearch suggests 123 million units will have shipped by 2014, up to 130 million in 2015.

As TV makers look to reverse slowing sales, they see smart TVs as a way to move more hardware out of retailers’ doors. The overall smart TV market was worth $86 billion in 2010 and should top $265 billion by 2016, analysts say.

Recognition for the hardware is likewise stepping out of the tech sector. The Television Academy of Arts and Sciences feted Yahoo Connected TV with an Engineering Plaque at the 63rd Primetime Emmy Engineering Awards.

But there’s just one rapidly growing problem: clutter.

Naturally app developers are eager to get in the game, with Netflix, Hulu Plus and HBO Go leading the pack followed by niche players like Angry Birds, which will receive its own channel of games and short films on Samsung’s 2012 TV models. LG announced this year’s hardware will include access to 1,300 apps, a potentially overwhelming number.

That might be a problem if they were actually overwhelming people who use them, but most smart TV users don’t, which is frustrating both hardware and app makers.

Avi Greengart of Current Analysis suggests the sets are often simply too difficult to set up.

“A lot of smart TVs are bought because consumers want that class of television and it just happens to come with connectivity that they never hook up,” said Greengart. Other buyers are able to connect their sets, but deem the process not worth it given the content available.

“When we survey consumers, they say the number one reason is they don’t see the benefit,” said Ross Rubin, executive director of NPD’s Connected Intelligence. Of apps available at launch on virtually all platforms, streaming apps like Netflix are the most accessed, and hardware manufacturers are embracing the brand awareness. Web-enabled set-top box Roku, for example, has branded buttons for Netflix, Pandora and Crackle apps built directly into the controller.

“All of this provides a great ‘out of the box’ experience for consumers,” said Eric Berger, exec veep of digital networks for Sony, which owns Crackle.

And such branded hardware tie-ins as well as unique, compelling content is exactly what the TV app developer needs to stand out from the crowd.

“If you’re looking for something more obscure, or you’re an app vendor trying to promote something that’s more obscure, how do you promote it given that searching for apps can be very difficult and there are literally hundreds, sometimes thousands, of apps to choose from?” said Greengart.

One element to even the playing field comes from the Bing voice search Microsoft recently integrated into its XBox 360, making app hunting easier for the platform.

How to help consumers cut through the clutter? Rubin pointed to techniques such as incentivizing buyers by offering credits toward movie rentals for hooking up to the web, or providing compelling features like video chat. Rubin also said connectivity will increase as more hardware manufacturers shift from wired connections to WiFi.

Greengart advised, “As consumers get content on mobile devices, the best connected televisions make it seamless to participate in those ecosystems, and make it better to own multiple devices from the same vendor.”

Thus the connected TVs most hooked up going forward will be the TVs that are themselves connected to popular brands and features.

Manufacturers are vigorously trying to make apps their own.

Panasonic opened up its Viera connected TV platform Monday, offering developers the chance to create apps specifically designed for Panasonic’s ecosystem. LG followed, touting its LG Apps TV platform of proprietary applications. And Samsung debuted a set-top box dubbed InTouch, offering the chance to add apps and smart features to any standard television.

More TV

  • Ariana Grande Olivia Munn Michael Che

    Celebrities vs. Critics: Why This Battle Has No Winners (Column)

    When actor Olivia Munn tweeted a “short essay on…ugly behaviors” late Wednesday night, she insisted that a blog had been unfairly maligning her for years. She wrote that she wanted to confront the idea that baseless critiques, particularly those aimed at women, are never okay no matter how famous the target may be. On the [...]

  • ‘Peaky Blinders’ Virtual Reality Game in

    ‘Peaky Blinders’ Virtual Reality Game Will Pitch Players Into the Action

    “Peaky Blinders” fans will be able to join the gang – virtually – in a new VR game that will allow players to interact with characters from the hit series. Start-up immersive studio Maze Theory teamed with the show’s producers and is making the game, which will launch in 2020. Artificial intelligence technology means characters [...]

  • TV News Roundup: HBO's 'Deadwood: The

    TV News Roundup: HBO Releases 'Deadwood: The Movie' Trailer

    In today’s TV news roundup, HBO released the trailer for the “Deadwood” film, and CNN announced a premiere date for “Apollo 11.”  DATES The documentary “Apollo 11” from director/producer Todd Douglas Miller will premiere on CNN Sunday, June 23 at 9 p.m. Using only archival sources, the film captures NASA’s 1969 Apollo 11 mission. FIRST [...]

  • shannon ryan

    Shannon Ryan Joins Disney TV, ABC as Marketing Chief

    Former Fox Television chief marketing officer Shannon Ryan has been tapped as the new president of marketing for ABC Entertainment and Disney Television Studios. The announcement was made by Karey Burke, president of ABC Entertainment, and Craig Hunegs, president of Disney Television Studios, to whom she will report. Rumours had been circling for a while [...]

  • Dan Lin's Rideback, MRC Announce Writers

    Dan Lin's Rideback, MRC Announce First Class of Writers and Mentors for TV Incubator

    Rideback, Dan Lin’s production company, and MRC have announced the inaugural class of writers and mentors for their TV incubator.  The new TV writers residency program, which was launched in February, offers a paid, eight-month residency program to a group of writers who have each previously been staffed on series and want to create their [...]

  • CBS Viacom

    CBS and Viacom Move Closer to Merger Talks

    The CBS Corp. board of directors is moving closer to initiating acquisition discussions with Viacom, according to multiple sources close to the situation. The move has been expected for months, although there may still be obstacles on the road to a reunion for the two sides of the Redstone media empire. Price could still be [...]

  • Santa Fe Studios Netflix

    Santa Fe Studios Competes With Other New Mexico Stages for Streaming Business

    Albuquerque Studios entered the spotlight last October when it was purchased by Netflix. While the complex is clearly the jewel in the crown of New Mexico’s production infrastructure, with eight soundstages totaling 132,000 square feet, 100,000 square feet of production offices, a large backlot and support space, it’s not the only modern studio facility in [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content