Turn your Connected TV into a Smart TV

Turn your Connected TV into a Smart TVGoing through the rise of Collaborative Innovation we discovered how Intelligent Things embrace open innovation paths and collaborative design approach: actually Intelligent Things become clever by operating socially. Last mile in our journey brings us to Smart TV.  If TV becomes smart, does it metamorphose into an Intelligent Thing? And how can it leverage on collaborative innovation and harness the intelligence of the many?

What is Smart TV?

Smart TV is bringing the Internet over TV through devices such as connected TV, latest generation set top boxes, and connected game consoles: Smart TV connects your TV to the Internet. By analogy with Smart Phone and the way demonstrated by the iPhone and Android phones, you can imagine your TV will not look what it used to be, just like your mobile phone is just not for voice calls anymore. Internet on your TV opens the door to Web browsing, and to an infinite range of applications, content and services. Already there, TV applications delivering video content like Hulu Plus, Netflix and Wal-Mart’s Vudu streaming service, among others, are built into Internet-enabled televisions, as described by the NY Times.

Microsoft’s Xbox 360 and the streaming video player Roku let viewers watch apps that mimic channels. New sets by Samsung, LG, Sony powered by Google TV software come with built-in apps loaded with television shows, movies and sports. Apple has a video player called Apple TV with apps to Netflix, Major League Baseball and other content.

Turn your Connected TV into a Smart TV

Not limited to video content, applications are versatile and touch many domains:

  • Content as mentioned above
  • Internet services like checking the weather, traffic or stock market
  • Gaming, which might be a similar impressive success as gaming apps on Smart Phones
  • Communication services
  • E-shopping
  • Home automation
  • Health care
  • Security services
  • Education
  • Energy…

Considering the many devices TV could communicate with, Connected TV might act like a hub in the Connected Home, an “augmented home” full of connected objects. Some envisage that the future Smart TV designed by Apple, “the iTV, might well be a Hub”, a fifth screen playing the central role in the connected life of the household.

TV Apps ecosystem impacting business model

Considering the rise of TV Apps, a first question is whether television viewing will consist of a single app that substitutes the pay TV bundle or of a series of different apps that together form a content experience: will the viewer subscribe to a bundle of content services like nowadays he subscribes to a channel bouquet, or are we moving to an A la carte model? Currently NBC Olympics Live Extra app complements traditional TV viewing and is available only on tablets and mobile devices, and NBC Sports allow subscribers to stream every Olympic event from London this summer only on iPads, tablets and other mobile devices.

But “HBO Go app does allow subscribers to have access to the pay channel’s library of almost every series, movie, documentary and heavyweight fight directly on the TV screen, via the Xbox. The HBO Go app is seen as a doorway into the entire world of HBO programming.” TV applications can go far beyond content distribution. If technology makes possible a myriad of apps on the Smart TV, the economic model drives in the same direction. Thanks to iTunes, the App Store, and to the Android market place, this is now common sense: the leading innovator has to come with an extended and consistent offering to the end-user: content + service + device; it involves an ecosystem that is fed by third party editors and developers. The power to negotiate premium content deals, and the commitment of developer’s community, are essential. You have to build an attractive leadership platform, both for end-users and partners, and create a virtuous cycle, driving end-users to your offering thanks to the help of third party assets, the latter will then be attracted by your market place audience. We are back to the challenge faced by Intelligent Things, design a great customer experience, and shape a purposeful platform for developers.

Turn your Connected TV into a Smart TV

Your TV might well turn out to be “an unknown object“, not a TV anymore, not a bounded Internet enabled device, but an enhanced device, powered by multiple apps, benefiting from both TV and Internet worlds.

Smart TV and Social TV Companion Apps

Social TV illustrates TV apps potential: Social TV connects viewers to both content and to each other. The claim “while we watch, we Tweet” turns increasingly truer, as the penetration rate of TV viewers using Twitter to comment a TV show is drawing up to 8%. “Listening” to the social conversation adds value notices Strategy Analytics: for one “transmitter”, there is between ½ or 1 “listener”.  Social TV is actually not mainly developing on the TV screen, but takes advantage of the emergence of Smart Phone & Tablets, to feature a Companion App. Tablet device in particular brings many benefits: it is convenient (“big picture on TV, Facebook on second screen”), intuitive, frictionless, personal, it is directly paid by the consumer, and can be monetized! Tablet can extend TV viewing brightly on content discovery, participation, control, and give access to broadcast TV, VoD, catch up, and streaming media as well: Tablet is the next remote control!

While Social TV meets high growth, competition is fierce: more than “50 apps currently socialize your TV“! Some players like Miso start-up CEO estimates that, leveraging on easy technology to craft apps, “there have been more than 100 second screen apps developed”. The game is not over as significant players like Facebook raise their nose: Social TV is a powerful use case for accessing a social network via a mobile device. Social TV uptake is challenging several business models:

  • Social is driving tune-in to a TV Show: Nielsen has analyzed the relationship between social media buzz and TV ratings. It has shown “significant relationship throughout a TV show’s season among all age groups, with the strongest correlation among younger demos.
  • Social media is a great measure of audience engagement and a marketing lever, as engaged viewers become content ambassadors on online media, before, during, and after the show is aired.
  • Social recommendations encourage interactivity, meaning stickiness to a program, and provide strong user behavior data, that can further processed for advertising purpose and specific offerings. Show me the money!
  • If second screen turns to be the natural media for Social TV applications, program guide will shift progressively from TV press magazines to electronic device.
  • Some predict an even stronger impact, amending the story telling: “Content will be created with social interaction in mind” states Anne-Marie Roussel, expert in Social TV at Sharp in Silicon Valley.

Social TV is a perfect combination of strong usage, easy technology and a game changer in the business model: will other trending TV applications follow the path?

Turning Connected TV into Smart TV

Smart TV as I dreamt it in Christmas 2010 definitely meets some characteristics of Intelligent Thing: enrichment of the interaction and of the service, multiplication of content available “anaytime”, streamlined worldwide deployment, emotion, and simplification of set-up and upgrade. Nevertheless, there is one thing Smart TV is missing to make it really “Intelligent” –  it is not enticing collborative innovation through data producing. We’ve seen that Intelligent Things become clever when they operate socially. It is all the more necessary here if we consider that TV Apps ecosystem is the main vector for innovation and value creation. To be an Intelligent Thing, Smart TV should capture data provided by our TV viewing and our interactions in the “augmented home”, make them available and let developers make value out of them.

Bringing collaborative design through TV data sharing would nurture creative TV applications, turning your Connected TV into a Smart TV. It would include second screen apps, providing value back to the viewers, and benefiting globally to the TV ecosystem of manufacturers, networks and advertisers, production companies, and operators. For example, Smart TV could share a history of channels watched by a household: crossed with TV listings, a third party would identify what are the preferred shows in the household, and suggests similar programs picked out from VoD catalogue. To achieve this recommendation app, data covering TV usage, TV listings, VoD programs have to be made available to developers. Designing a collaborative framework for Smart TV should cover an extended range of functional domains. Let’s focus a moment in the field of data syndication related to content:

  • Firstly is the domain of Content discovery where the EPG (Electronic Program Guide) is enhanced with Internet information web sites, and social recommendations through Twitter feed and Facebook. Social reviews nurture social curation, empowering viewers to filter and voice their opinions, and then to participate. APIs supplying data on content grid such as TV listings (TV Schedules, TX dates including re-runs, maybe on other channels, information showing if the content is part of a series), rich program metadata (Production info crew, cast &c, IMDB &co, subtitles +languages/translations, country of origin), Ratings (G, R …), Type of asset (film, cartoon, animé), Social networks presence (Hashtags official / unofficial, Facebook presence, GetGlue/4sq type, YouTube/Vimeo channel things), Individual or household usage and profile, would nurture this domain.
  • Secondly there is Participative TV where viewers interact with the program for voting, betting, polling, playing, converse with characters and TV presenter, Live Tweet or Facebook chat, and buy things related to the program. Miso CEO states “The networks have the ability to provide richer information such as behind-the-scenes content, commentary, or access to talent, driving viewer interaction. They can even go one-step further for episodic content where the second screen is used to deepen the storyline, and it can be a new format for storytelling”. Welcome to transmedia storytelling! Another way of participation could be Cocreation: “what if a media & entertainment firm with production capabilities crowd-sourced ideas for their next feature? What if they offered points—or some form of engagement—in exchange for crowd funding? How might we leverage what we have to engage new audiences?” asks innovation architect Doug Collins.”Media & entertainment executives may want to develop a culture of innovation based on speed and openness.” APIs providing real-time broadcast data, data enabling synchronization to a program, alerting, editing & curation features, adata enabling show interaction with the audience through social media would boost creative apps in this domain.
  • Finally the domain of Device and cloud control is where you enable channel flicking from a smart phone, flinging stored or bookmarked content around the home, or the world, one-click options to bookmark or save shows to cloud storage (universal queue). Device APIs are necessary to make it happen.

Things are starting to change as shows last MIP TV which organized a TV Hack day giving teams of developers 48 hours to build “fresh, innovative digital products, something new for the TV industry”, working on a lot of data to make TV more sociable. One of the competitors, Grab Magic! by Aral Balkan, used Kinect technology to recognize your movements, and allow you to ’grab’ screenshots from a TV with hand and place them onto an iPhone screen.

Grab Magic on YouTube

Industrial players are starting to capture the potential derived from TV data:

  • At Connected TV summit last May, Stacey Seltzer, Head of Smart TV at LG drew a shift of traditional revenues: “New opportunities will come from having conversations directly between broadcasters or content owners and consumers, but also from the two-way data flow that underpins those relationships.” Seltzer explained. “Data is being thrown up by those conversations. You need to understand and interpret that data. You can use it for content discovery like recommendations, which represents a continuation of existing business models, but you can create new business like qualified leads for advertising. Television is an incredible piece of real-estate and adding real back-channel data to it will provide an important set of information for the industry.” Seltzer said LG has a partnership-focused model that allows broadcasters or content owners to create apps or services on the platform and then collect data within those apps. “It is then up to each of those individual groups what they do with that data.”
  • “Many cable/satellite/telephone providers have created APIs to communicate and/or control their set top boxes over either home networks and/or the Internet” observes Jeremy Toeman founder of Dijit Media, a startup who works on create the ultimate “hyperpersonalised social TV guide”. Rovi, a content metadata provider exposes a large range of APIs for developers in its Rovi Cloud Services.
  • At Yahoo!® Connected TV Developer Event in May, Yahoo! has launched a Connected TV App Development Kit for developers including Device Communication. Device Communication is a two-way protocol for connecting mobile devices to Yahoo! Connected TV. Using these Open Source libraries, developers can create second screen apps for games, social, sports, shopping and more. Sharing videos from a mobile device to the TV, sending web page URLs from the TV to a phone’s web browser, utilizing gestures and touch to accelerate discovery and navigation of TV apps are some of the features available.

Turn your Connected TV into a Smart TV Until there is a breakthrough startup that will become the “Facebook of the Smart TV”, or a manufacturer popping-up dominantly as the “Apple for the Smart Phone”, driving all companies standardize on a single solution, there is strong need for standardization in a fragmented Smart TV market. The newly created Smart TV Alliance designed to create a single platform making it easier for customers to share apps across multiple TVs and encourage more developers with a common framework (SDK), is a wise move.

A complementary strategy would be to build pipes that power the TV apps ecosystem with data. Though it is a natural strong focus, TV data are not limited to TV viewing behaviour, but enclose other activities e-shopping, automation, healthcare, home security…: industrials in these domains can be as much creative regarding the generation, exploit, and share the information flow Based on recent survey by connected TV monetization technologies provider MPP Global Solutions, James Eddleston, head of marketing, said: “This inconclusive result reflects the content of the discussion; that the connected TV market is still coming out of the early adopter phase, and even major players such as Apple, Google and Netflix are still trying to identify the best approach for success”.

At a time where Connected TV players seem in search of sense, building an open platform to share real-time data captured by Smart TV sensors, and enabling communities to create innovative TV apps for viewers, broadcasters, advertisers, would have a strong meaning.

Image Credits: hotcellularphone.com, dailymobile.se, businessinsider.com, technologyreview.com, acreo.se, yctvblog.com Follow @ixchat on twitter Don’t miss a post (4,400+) – Subscribe to our RSS feed and join our Innovation Excellence group!


future of TV - Leading by Innovating Nicolas is a senior VP at Orange Innovation Group. Forward thinker, he created international digital BU, with a focus on interactive, social and smart TV.  He graduated from Supélec and HEC Business School, completing a thesis on “Rapid Innovation” which he implemented successfully at Orange through “component innovation” path. He blogs at nbry.wordpress.com and tweets @nicobry.f

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4 Responses to Turn your Connected TV into a Smart TV

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