Connected TVs: Still Unplugged?

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A study released by YouGov shows buying habits around internet-connected televisions (also known as smart TVs) may have less to do with the connected part and more to do with the TV's features themselves. A survey of Britons who either have purchased a smart TV in the past few months or—more importantly—are planning to buy one in the near term, indicates that the primary reason for buying a smart TV is the availability of these sets. Internet connectivity, including content deals, were cited by less than one-third of survey respondents.

"The most common reason for intending to buy a Smart TV," said Dan Brilot, media consulting director for YouGov, "is simply having a more up-to-date TV–cited by 50% of potential purchasers."

Brilot likens the surge in smart TVs to the surge in iPad ownership, noting that YouGov feels some early smart TV adopters just want the latest and greatest.

"In terms of tech adoption," notes Brilot, we see the profile between iPad and smart TV owners as very similar at the moment. These are the kind of people who are willing to make a big ticket purchase without quite realising what they’ve bought.”

So what exactly does this trend say for those of us who espouse content as king in the streaming media space?

Actually the news isn't all that bad. First, the explosion in popularity of smart TVs—over 14% of households surveyed by YouGov have a smart TV in house—means that the potential availability of devices for content consumption is growing. However, while one might think that education is all that needed to get consumers to connect their televisions and begin watching available over-the-top content, the bigger question on this front is whether the smart TV of today will be able to handle the content delivery specifications of the future.

Which leads to the second interesting finding in the report: the number of smart TV owners that will also buy an external device  is also growing.

"Since the main reason people are buying smart TV is more about future-proofing their TV set, in the same way that lots of people bought HD TVs even before HD channels were available," said Brilot, " it is not surprising that one in four smart TV owners have never connected their device to the internet."

Brilot doesn't mention the Apple TV set-top box directly, alluding to other types of internet-connected devices, but the YouGov study provides fascinating insight into future product market share should Apple chose to launch a television that integrates the Apple TV set-top box directly into the flat panel.

"Over one quarter (26%) say they plan to buy an Apple TV," said Brilot, "even though the manufacturer has not yet launched one. Apple is also seen as the most stylish and innovative Smart TV brand."

One of the reasons that Apple wins so much mind share is its focus on the user interface, including consumer ease of use. In fact, the YouGov survey notes that users interfaces on existing smart TVs have been universally panned.

"One thing all manufacturers need to focus on is the user interface," said Brilot. "This feature has the biggest disparity between importance and performance, so manufacturers need to understand the current [consumer interface] need or creating one – as Apple do so well – rather than bundling together different technologies without the necessary thought as to how they might be used together."

An area still in limbo for Apple, though, is whether it can get its content mix correct, as noted both in the YouGov survey and recent rumblings about the rising influence of premium content owners, such as Epix.

More people are viewing content on demand, the YouGov survey notes, especially in the key 18-24 year old demographic, where over half of respondents view more on-demand content on their smart TVs than they do linear television.

[Image courtesy of Shutterstock]

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