What to Expect from Internet-Enabled Televisions

Sat, Oct 23, 2010

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I recently had the opportunity to attend the launch party for Sony’s new Internet TV (pictures are available on the TechThrob Facebook Page), which is powered by the Google Android operating system. While I was originally skeptical about the usefulness of an internet-enabled TV, being able to see and use the device convinced me that we’re about to see a radical shift in the way people use television.

While the Sony Internet TV is pretty cool right now, we’re still only in the first generation of the device. It’s clear that there’s a lot of unlocked potential here, and that there are revenue streams down the road which Google and content providers are going to be quick to grab. Here are some things you should expect to see coming to internet-enabled televisions in the near future:

  1. Extremely targeted advertizing
  2. Let’s get the obvious out of the way first: there’s nothing stopping Google from knowing that you’re watching the fashion channel, and serving you up an advertisement for the exact dress or suit that’s being modeled on the screen at that moment. When you’re watching a sporting event, you should expect that you’ll start seeing ads for your favorite team’s merchandise. Or, if you’re watching the food network, you might get a adwords-style link saying “click here for more recipes.” This doesn’t exist yet, but I have to imagine it will soon.

    Having an internet-connected, interactive television is one step toward doing away with the conventional shotgun approach of 15/30/60 second one-size-fits-all commercials, which has been the television advertising model for decades. There’s a reason that Google is entering this market place – it’s to serve you up extremely targeted ads, and to make money off those clicks and purchases.

  3. Games via the marketplace
  4. A Sony representitive I spoke to said that the Android Marketplace is scheduled to go live for the Sony Internet TV some time in 2011. When that happens, the TV will instantly become its own video game console. Since these televisions come with USB ports, it isn’t much of a stretch to get a video game controller working (right now it supports a regular keyboard and mouse).

    While I don’t think this poses any threat to the existing high-end console market, it certainly presents a great opportunity for developers. Until now, the television has been a popular gaming platform, but the cost of entry was too high to develop for the Xbox or PlayStation. Now that the television runs Android, it’s an entirely different ballgame.

  5. Rampant piracy from rooted devices
  6. It’s just a matter of time before people start rooting these devices. Once that happens, it opens up the possibility of installing a bittorrent (or another p2p network) client directly on your television. Since the program is running on the TV itself, and because it can integrate with the Android operating system, it should be possible to make pirated media as easy to access as legally-obtained content.

    One has to assume that this was considered by Sony, since they provide both the platform (the television) and the content. Perhaps it was decided that piracy is an inevitable factor that will have to be dealt with, and that they could not afford to delay their entry into the market. However, the cable companies and content providers, as the party with the most to lose, might not be so eager to take the jump (Indeed, this seems to be the case, as several major broadcast companies have blacklisted Google TV.)

  7. Immersively Interactive Television
  8. The past few years have seen a proliferation of mildly-interactive TV. Whether it’s a sports game asking you to go to a website to cast a vote for player of the game, or American Idol letting you text a vote for your favorite singer, television is aiming to captivate their audience through interactivity. An interactive audience is an engaged audience, and an engaged audience is a reliable consumer that will come back next week.

    Having an internet-connected television means that you can cast a vote for favorite singer or baseball player, directly from the TV. But it also means much more. Imagine the possibilities for off track betting or other gambling services – you don’t have to go to the race track anymore, when you can enter your credit card information directly to your TV. Game shows could bring the audience directly into the hot seat, and a show like Fear Factor could have the viewers pick what kind of torture to force on contestants next. The real interesting things, of course, will be the content that is created specifically for this new interactive medium, not the current shows that will be modified to use the new technology.

    There’s likely many more changes that internet-enabled television will bring about; these are only some of the obvious items I’d expect to see in the very near future. It’ll be interesting to see whether the media companies embrace this new technology, or follow their ways of the past of resisting the shift in consumer interest until it becomes obvious that there’s no choice but to accept it.

    What do you think? How might an internet TV affect the way you watch and interact with media? Do you have any plans on buying an internet-enabled television, or are you going to wait until the technology is more developed? Leave your responses and opinions in the comment section below!

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