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A closer look at Smart TVs

Gerrit Nagel

A regular television set is not a very intelligent device, in the sense that it’s just a reflective display of an input. This input started as a TV signal from an antenna – later replaced by a cable – but it hasn’t gone much further since then. Plug-in devices have enhanced this output over time: video, DVD and game consoles for example, but in essence it remains the straightforward display of input.

The recent step change in the technology has been the Smart TV: a TV set equipped with a processor (or via a connected device such as Google Chromecast) that transmits online content quickly and seamlessly. This has turned the TV into a computer, which has accelerated the convergence between TV and PC, enabling us to play content through browsers and apps.

Smart TV in one of three households
In the Netherlands, 810,000 Smart TVs were sold last year, that’s 74% of the total number of TV sets sold. Three years ago, this share was just 59%. According to the latest figures from the Media Standard Survey (H1 2016), 37% of Dutch households now have access to the internet through a television and 12% of Dutch households have a dongle and/or media centre. Young, higher social class households purchase more Smart TVs than others and the core target audience is 20-49 year old males.

Interestingly, Smart TV sets are not always utilised to their full capacities. Trends in Digital Media research state that 22% of owners of Smart TVs never use the apps on that device and 39% do so less than one day a week. Only 30% uses apps on Smart TV several times a week and more.

Information about actually using the applications on Smart TV is not easily available. An indication of the use of apps is in the ‘other use of the screen’, as reported by SKO. This industry standard measurement tool for the entire Dutch TV market also reports that but this is quite a broad definition of all kinds of activities like looking at your own pictures and videos or when an app is used for YouTube, Netflix or another video service.

Smart TV: friend or foe?
The fact is that the existing linear stations have a strong competitor. They were, until recently, ‘ruling’ TV, but Smart TVs have ensured that the use of the TV screen has increased in diversity. Though this was already partly the case with VCR and game consoles, the variety of apps on Smart TVs makes the non-linear viewing offer even more diverse. Plus, Smart TV is still on the rise. Futuresource research predicts that in 2018 about 70% of all households in developed markets will own a Smart TV. Perhaps HBB TV (Hybrid Broadcast Broadband TV) will be further developed by that time and it can piggyback on the success of Smart TV.

The good thing about this is that both forms of television provide additional features to video content such as interactivity, watching non-linear through an app or through an additional layer of information. This creates opportunities for broadcasters and for advertisers who are looking for more interaction with their customers. These additional features allow for more conversion via messages driven by more than ‘just’ linear TV. In our opinion, Smart TV is definitely a ‘friend’.