In the past few months we have seen an acceleration of activities from consumer electronics manufactures. By adding ever more services and apps to their smart TVs they seem to be taking the lead in the connected home.
Everyone with a smart TV in their home can testify the number of apps is growing every day, but it is still very early days. One thing that definitely needs improving is navigation: there is little consistency between the various apps.
While cable, DTH and IPTV subscribers are still waiting for their provider to offer connected TV services, owners of the latest generation of smart TVs are enjoying access to all their locally stored content – be it music, photos and videos – both of the home video and illegally acquired kind.
Also here, there is room for improvement, especially when it comes to video playback. Not all smart TVs take all kind of video encoding, but that seems to be just a matter of time before a software update can solve this problem.
With regards to on-demand offering, more and more broadcasters and premium content VOD portals are now bringing their catch-up TV services to the smart sets – viewers can now directly access these services without the need to go to the platform’s VOD service.
In my home, for instance, I not only have access to all the Dutch catch-up TV services from public and private broadcasters, but also to the ‘mediatheken’ of all the German public broadcasters and French broadcasters including France 24, Euronews, NRJ and France Televisions.
If I wish, I can also access content from numerous other countries, ranging from Spain to Russia. Unfortunately, I can only download the BBC iPlayer onto my TV set, but (at least until now) do not have access to any programmes.
Premium content providers are now also popping up, including the Dutch Videoland, Movie Max and Pathe Thuis services, as well as international content from Viewster and iConcerts.
Just recently a new chapter of smart TV was opened with the announcements that both LG and Samsung sets will have access to cloud gaming – offering high res gaming experiences without the need of a dedicated console.
Also coming up are new live streaming services: at the moment only CNBC offers a live stream of its channel, but during the summer months, Dutch public broadcaster NOS is offering multiple live streams of major sports events. And via various apps, live radio streaming is already available.
Now, in addition to these smart apps, most new TV sets sold in Europe now come with HbbTV included – allowing for access to even more services.
With regards to TV Everywhere, Samsung is already showing it is possible to stream live channels to the Galaxy tablets, while Philips will introduce a similar feature later this year with its smart TV sets.
All smart TV sets also offer the opportunity to pause live TV as well as record programmes using an external hard drive. At present sets have just a single tuner, but it will be only a matter of time before TVs will be equipped with multiple tuners.
All these features bring freedom to the user in the way they consume TV – regardless of the provider they subscribe to. But it signals danger to cable operators, IPTV providers and satellite DTH platforms if they don’t adjust to the new reality and start offering smart services.