Interactive TV Trends – How the TV Experience is Changing – Part II

Anthony Simon / November 17th, 2011

This is the second article in a three-part series discussing key trends in TV. The first article looked at how new interface technologies are enabling new ways to control our TVs. This article focuses on how the TV experience is changing as we begin to use multiple screens of our PC, phone and tablets together with our TV sets. The third and last article will discuss new trends in image processing and why major improvements in picture quality are still necessary.

Entertainment Multitasking – How our TV experience is changing
For years now we have had multiple screens in the home – at least two anyway, the PC and TV – though they never had much to do with each other. This is now changing. TVs are starting to connect – not just to a PC but more importantly to your smart phone and tablet. In fact, our hand-held systems used in conjunction with the interactive TV represents a major change in how we will digest entertainment going into the future.

Earlier this year Nielsen made a study of the use of tablets, smart phones and e-readers in the home. Nielsen’s survey found that the tablet and smart phones are more likely to be used while watching TV. (E-readers on the other hand were more likely to be used in bed –no surprise there.) In fact, 70 percent of tablet owners and 68 percent of smart phone owners said that they use their devices while watching TV. Moreover, using the tablet while watching TV constitutes the largest portion of time spent on the device – representing about 30% out of the total time spent. After TV, tablet owners spend about 21 percent of their time using the tablet in bed. The Nielsen report also surveyed what people are actually doing on their tablets and smart phones while watching TV. Most popular activities are checking email and searching for either related or unrelated content. Again not surprisingly, women are more likely to be connecting to social applications while men are more likely to be looking up sports scores.

The Nielsen report by itself shows clearly that we like to multi-task our tablet and smart phone use while watching TV. But is there something more compelling about the multi-screen phenomenon? In fact is it really a phenomenon at all? Whether or not there is truly a greater trend at work – TV networks, advertisers and technology companies are trying hard to put the multi-screen to better use.

Advertisers in particular are interested in managing ad campaigns that coordinate across the multiple screens in the home. ComScore recently published a report that measured advertizing effectiveness of ads that are coupled with synergistic multiple platform campaigns or “touch points”. The research shows that using synergistic touch points can actually reduce advertising cost in reaching TV audiences. A TV ad campaign that harnesses digital touch points can increase effective reach by 16% at the same overall budget. This is a compelling number – especially since we are still at the very early stages of this type of multi-front digital advertising activity.

Networks are increasingly looking for ways to increase engagement with their programs. And it is clear that the multi-screen environment accommodates social TV activities if for no other reason that it is easier to communicate over a smart phone or tablet rather than a TV remote. Additionally, who wants to overlay a bunch of Twitter chatter onto the beautiful HD display? Major networks are already making use of Twitter and Facebook to raise the level of dialog, recommendation and engagement of their programs. In fact, most networks these days publish Twitter hashtags associated with their programming – some shows even display hashtags on-screen during a program broadcast. This is especially true for reality entertainment and talent shows like Xfactor where audience participation voting for favorite performers is part of the program. All of this social activity works well when TVs are used in conjunction with multi-screen handhelds.

The trend is not lost on the TV OEMS. One practical use of a smart phone or a tablet is that they make for great TV remotes. Companies developing remote control software for tablets and smart phones enable users to customize the user interface and functionality. For example, your child’s remote UI can be designed to only have selections for children’s programming with animated design of the buttons. Adults in the family can design more complex remotes that provide access to a wide range of programming and applications.

TV companies in China have already started shipping tablets with their TV sets. Both Haier and Hisense have started shipping Android based tablets together with their higher end digital TV sets sold. In the USA Samsung together with Best Buy gave customers an Android based Galaxy Tab 10.1 for every 46 inch 3D Samsung HDTV they bought for a week back in August. Also, Sony offers a bundling discount for their Sony 16GB Tab for every Smart TV sold. It will be interesting to see how tablets with TVs will be promoted by the large OEMs at CES 2012.

Multiple technology start-ups are also proposing new ways to make use of a tablet or smart phone in conjunction with the TV. A good example of a multi-screen use case is the application called Into_Now – a company now owned by Yahoo. In the spirit of Shazam, a much-loved audio application that could record any song and identify the song title and artist, Into_Now can record a TV program or movie from your tablet or smart phone and in addition to identifying a show (down to the specific season and episode) display relevant information and metadata associated with the TV program. Into_Now also includes a social tagging and chatting capability which allows you to discuss shows that your are “Into….Now” with your friends. In fact, Into_Now’s preference engine algorithms use tag information that you and your friends can use to develop recommendations on other shows you may like.

Into_Now was also engaged in some interesting advertising campaigns. Before Yahoo purchased Into_Now (Twelve weeks after the company was started), Into_Now partnered with Pepsi Max where Into_Now users were rewarded with free Pepsi in exchange for tagging the “Clubhouse in the Corn” Pepsi Max commercial. An interesting combination of TV, hand-held device, social networking resulting in strengthening advertisement engagement.

Samsung also recently started promoting their new Galaxy tablet 7 plus, which comes with an application called Peel. Peel turns your smart phone or tablet into a preference based TV remote. The Peel application recommends programming options that may be interesting to you. The application also allows you to share over Facebook and Twitter. Samsung announced that their partnership with Peel is an example of their strategy to create enhanced user experiences.

Peel was started by some folks who worked at Apple and were involved in developing i-Tunes. They have implemented a compelling system to combine the power of a preference- based recommendation engine application for your smart phone or tablet that works together with a device called the Peel “Fruit” a device that sits near your TV and set-top boxes and works in conjunction with your smart phone or tablet to control all the input devices in your home. The Peel application together with the Fruit becomes a recommendation engine that is a universal remote tied to your social sphere – with a very compelling user interface to boot.

The smart phone or tablet nearby will accelerate the social interactivity associated with TV. And the level of social chatter about shows is being watched much more closely. Taking advantage of this trend, a technology company in the UK, called TV Genius, set up a website called Social TV Statistics. This site is updated daily and provides a list of the20 most tweeted TV shows aired in the UK. The statistics include the maximum daily tweets in a week as well as the maximum tweets in an hour. Recently the UK version of the XFactor was the most tweeted show with about 80,000 max daily tweets and 20,000 max hourly tweets. This is followed by “The Only Way is Essex” which has registered about 1400 max daily and 1200 max hourly tweets. (The large discrepancy most likely is also partly due to the nature of the Xfactor show which makes use of multiple engagement strategies such as viewer participatory voting as well as aggressive Twitter engagement through hash tag promotion etc.)

Social chatter is golden information to networks and advertisers and shows a level of engagement in a show or movie– which is more valuable than viewership statistics of old. Also, the general chatter in the tweets can also be aggregated to develop some meaningful insights about how people feel about the show as well as potentially how they feel about advertising associated with the show. TV networks themselves can also use tweet levels to engender further engagement in their programming by publishing tweet levels or other such information.

The use of a handheld device in conjunction with the TV also introduces interesting new use case possibilities. As we discussed in the first article, TVs are going to be able to recognize users and be able to recommend content tailored to viewer preferences. The handheld communication device is a great way for a TV to recognize a user. The hand-held device can also download information to the TV to further aid in preference generation. For example, say you were watching a movie on your tablet on an airplane. Half way through the movie, you need to shut down as the airplane starts to land. After you get home, the tablet can update the TV to let it know that you did not finish your movie. The TV can then provide you an option to see the rest of the movie on the TV set.
In fact, the portable nature of smart phones and tablets could give rise to improved applications that further bind tablets and smart phones to your TV watching. In fact, if OEMs could find a simple way to download your pictures and video from your tablets and smart phones it would make a big impact. Imagine that you come home from a day at the beach where you took amazing videos of your family on your smart phone. Wouldn’t it be nice if as you come into the house your phone asks if you would like to synch your new content to you home network – and it does it automatically. A few short seconds later you can call up the movies and pictures on your TV.
The knitting of the multi-screen enables media to move around the house. Today we already have the base protocols and standards in place to make this happen. Many TV companies have been trying to improve this dynamic. Apple is perhaps the most advanced. Apple’s Airplay is a system that already sets up the use of a tablet or smart phone to mirror what we see on a TV. In addition, it allows us to easily take the content off the PC and display it on our TV. This is a huge advantage. 95% of us are not making use of the HD content we produce with camera and camcorders- how many of us resort to looking at our photographs on a 9 inch computer display when in fact we could be using the high-definition screen in the living room.

Tablets and smart phones will also help us navigate growing cloud- based applications for TV. In fact, the use of the cloud will have huge benefits especially for the future of interactive TVs. By moving content and interactivity to the cloud, content can be viewed on any device. This allows one to watch TV anywhere and on any device.

The cloud is also important because it extends considerably the capabilities and future functionality of your TV. TV is not a platform that lends itself well to constantly updating software and increased CPU requirements. After all, it is easy to replace a PC, a Phone, or a tablet – but we hate to throw away the beautiful 60” OLED if it is already hanging on the wall and looks great.
The cloud in effect serves to future-proof your TV. Now applications can evolve, user interfaces can improve, and applications of all kinds can multiply. The heavy lifting will be taken care of in the cloud while our TV screen will do what it does best – provide a great picture.

With the cloud we will see expanded use of the TV for online sales of movies and TV shows – not to mention other retail sales. To date, other than I-Tunes there has not been very successful systems that allow digital sales of video to flourish. But that may be changing. Recently a large studio consortium announced a digital right locker system called Ultraviolet. The system establishes a streamlined way to buy digital video programming and store it on the cloud. Searching, purchasing and navigation will be much more efficient through the combination of the tablet or smart phone. The hand-held can be used to enter or swipe credit card data while you and your family review movie trailers or whatever it is that you are considering buying.
Again CES 2012 will be a key show to see how TV industry stakeholders will expand the use of the multi-screen multi-tasking. The multi-screen experience is becoming the new TV experience. Looking into 2012 we are sure to see many new applications by networks, advertisers and technology companies to take advantage of this new dynamic.

Note on Part III: Part III will look more closely at TV image quality and expected improvements we will see in TV display technology in the coming years and why the connected TV is driving new requirements in image processing.

Anthony Simon

Dr. Anthony Simon is VP in charge of DTV Ecosystems Strategy & Partnerships efforts for CSR. CSR, headquartered in the UK, is a leader in semiconductor and software platform solutions for the Automotive, Consumer Electronics and Locations based markets. Anthony develops third party partnerships with interactive new media companies related to the digital TV market space. Anthony comes to CSR as part of CSR’s acquisition of Zoran Corporation where he led the pay operator set top box business. Prior to CSR Anthony has held management roles in both marketing and sales at technology companies such as Pixelworks and Conexant focusing on the consumer TV, operator set top box and new media markets. Over his career, Anthony has served multiple expatriate positions in Europe and Asia and speaks Japanese, French and Hungarian. Anthony is based in Sunnyvale, CA.
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  • Hell Anthony,
    This article is very informative.
    Are you also planning to cover the “Sound Quality of TVs” in Part-III ?
    It seems that the audio performance of New & Thinner TVs is not in balance with the “picture quality”.
    While there are great advancements in picture quality, content and connectivity, a very vital aspect of entertainment (Sound) is being compromised.
    Like George Lucas says, “Sound is Half the Experience”! We got to bring good sound back to TVs.

    I would love to hear your comments on this.

    Regards
    Hari Seedhar
    Strata Audio LLC

    • Anthony Simon

      Totally agree – Sound quality is vital to the immersive experience. I agree with you that as panels get smaller new techniques are needed to maintain quality. Looking into the future I am interested in the development of 3D spatial sound – specifically 22.2 proposed originally for the UHD TV. Besides audio quality I am also interested in news ways to connect a wireless surround system in a home using innovative battery powered speakers systems. Have a great CES 2012!

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