We’ve been hearing a lot about the convergence of television and the web this year and it’s predicted that about 350 million connected TVs will be on the market by 2014. The formation last month of the Connected TV Marketing Association a trade group focused on digital advertising on Internet-enabled television sets and devices, underlines marketers’ belief that this will be game changing.
TV apps, unlike mobile apps, are not yet very popular. This is because smart TVs are still emerging while smart phones have already become all the rage. Apple and Google have had enormous success in publishing mobile apps. While Apple’s App Store has over 500,000 iOS mobile apps, Google Android Market has over 300,000 mobile apps. Apple TV, DirecTV, TiVo, Samsung Smart TV and Google TV (with about 50 TV apps) on Sony Internet TV & Logitech Revue are a few recent solutions for introducing TV apps to early adopters. Samsung has been wooing developers to create TV Apps through competition and has over 900 TV apps on its marketplace, which is still a very small number when compared to mobile apps currently available to smart phone users.
In the Indian market of over 1.2 billion people, mobile phone penetration has been quite strong and has reached over 500 million users. Unlike mobile phones which are used for two-way communication, TV reaches masses like no other media. Over 90% of the population spends at least few minutes a day in front of the television.
Due to huge differences between smart phones and smart TV, TV apps would have to be designed differently .While smart phones have a small display form factor, smart TVs have big screens with a better viewing experience. Smart phones are mobile and carried on the person while smart TVs are typically used in homes, offices and public places in fixed locations.
TV apps would appeal to larger population than mobile apps and would fill many different needs. However, they have to be designed to reach existing users having both analog and digital, Standard Definition (SD) as well as High Definition (HD) TVs. Further, they need to support different broadcast media such as terrestrial, cable, satellite/direct-to-home (DTH), IPTV and mobile (Satellite & Terrestrial).
To make TV apps reach such wide spectrum of TVs, broadcast media and communication links, inexpensive or free set top boxes (STB) have to be offered by the service providers. Prices have to be reduced through standardization, commoditization and mass production. The cost of the STB could also be absorbed in to service subscription charges. The STB should support many different broadcast media as above for TV reception and integrate phone and Internet communication links such as land-line dial-up, broadband (Cable & DSL), Optical Fiber, WiFi, WiMax, 2G, 3G and 4G. STB could be separate physical device to support existing TVs or it could be integrated in newer smart TVs.
Due to the mass appeal and nature of audience, TV apps would perhaps be best supported as Cloud hosted applications or services with only static content downloaded to STB for better performance. TV apps could be standardized through HTML5 so they work across STBs from different vendors.
There would be innumerable use cases for TV apps spanning many tagged categories and sub-categories such as Ads, Adventure, Albums, Air, Alerts, Art, Banking, Books, Bus, Business, Cookery, Commerce, Communication, Cricket, Directories, Education, Emergency, Entertainment, Fashion, Fitness, Games, Government, Grocery, Health, Holiday, Insurance, Kids, Library, Lifestyle, Market, Movies, Music, Nature, News, Passport, Rail, Realty, Recipes, Science, Shopping, Social, Sports, Spiritual, Taxes, Temples, Travel, TV, Video Conference, Visas, Yellow pages, Yoga, White pages, Wildlife and so on.
TV apps are also a potential marketing tool for product vendors and service providers to launch their new products and services as viewing experience would be much better on TV than on small mobile devices. In a connected and well-informed world, consumers would like to research and learn more about a product or service before buying the same. Using TV apps as a medium that vendors and service providers would be able to customize to regions or even personalize information about their products and services to reach the right audience, at right time, at fraction of cost typically incurred in exorbitant TV ads aired at prime time on leading TV channels.
(I have updated the Original post by Ram Dixit, Principal Architect with Technology, Media & Entertainment Group at Mahindra Satyam with my views)