'Tis the Season For Connected DevicesThe explosion of tools that can stream video over the Web continues in the run-up to CES in January 12/05/2011 12:01:00 AM Eastern
Next month’s 2012 International CES isn’t
likely to produce any game-changing devices
on par with the launch of high-definition, flatpanel
television sets or tablets.
In fact, the biggest news is not so much technical improvements
as the sheer number of TVs, tablets, smartphones
and other devices capable of streaming video over
an Internet connection that are moving into homes.
Worldwide, there are already 350 million connected
devices that can access video on Google’s YouTube, reports
Adam Stewart, industry director of media and
entertainment at Google.
By the end of the third quarter, Americans owned 105.7
million smartphones (up 47% from third-quarter 2010),
61.6 million game consoles (a 34% increase), 20 million
tablets (a 488% spike) and 6 million over-the-top boxes
like Roku (up 253%), according to MagnaGlobal. By the
end of the year, MagnaGlobal estimates there will be about
5.4 million smart TVs in the U.S., up 399% from the end
How quickly some of those devices will continue to
move into homes remains an open question, however,
given the ongoing economic woes that turned 2011 into
a relatively disappointing year for TV sales. “Some of the
more advanced feature sets like backlit LEDs, 3D TV sets
and smart TVs have generally not lived up to the expectations
manufacturers and retailers had at the start of 2011,”
notes Paul Gagnon, director of North America TV research
at DisplaySearch, which is predicting set shipments of 42.7
million TVs in 2011, down from 43.9 million in 2010.
Still, holiday sales of electronic devices are already pacing
ahead of last year, and products in some hot categories
are flying off shelves. Investment bank Piper Jaffray
predicts that 13.8
million iPads will be
sold worldwide in the
And those unit
sales may underestimate
the impact of
these devices, which
are widely shared
among family members.
A recent report
from eMarketer predicted
that the number
of Americans using
a tablet at least once a month will hit 33.7 million
by the end of 2011 and grow to 75 million by 2013,
which would translate to about one-quarter of the U.S.
population using a tablet.
ready to open their wallets, particularly for larger-size sets
and smart TVs in 2012. A recent study by Frank N. Magid
Associates found that 40% of consumers were looking to
buy a new TV in the next year, with 62% of those shoppers
saying an Internet-connected TV was “somewhat” or
“very” important among features, notes Maryann Baldwin,
VP of Magid Media Futures. “We see consumer interest
returning to pre-recession levels,” she says.
Meanwhile, the Digital Entertainment Group is predicting
sales of HDTVs 60 inches or larger will grow
50% this year, to 1.3 million units.
So far, the popularity of these new connected devices
has had a generally positive impact on the TV industry.
Nielsen data going back a number of years has shown
steady increases in TV viewing across all age groups, despite
growing popularity of online and mobile video.
“We found 52% of online consumers now watch
TV shows and movies
[online] at least
once a month,”
Baldwin says, citing
data from Magid’s
annual late October
survey. “But while
viewing is growing
quite rapidly, traditional
TV view levels
remain stable, and
we are also seeing
growth in areas like
VOD, DVR and DVD usage.”
The attendant explosion of content across these devices
has its advantages, but it’s also creating a number
of challenges for both operators and programmers.
A recent study from Tribune found that on any given
day, around 82,000 unique full-length TV shows and
19,000 movies are available to be viewed online.
Viewing choices have proliferated, but navigational
schemes have not simplified. Currently, consumers must
laboriously navigate through different apps, screens and
devices to find out what might be available on their Netflix, Amazon or multichannel subscriptions.
“There is a real need to bring all content together
and make sense of it for the user,” so they can access
it via one screen and user interface, notes Alex Vikati,
executive director of product strategy and innovation
at Tribune Media Services, which offers a number of
technical solutions for the problem.
Vikati and others stress that finding a way to unify
access to all this content across different consumer devices
will be a major issue for consumer electronics
manufacturers over the next year.
For example, the rumored launch of a television set
from Apple sometime in 2012 could offer users unifi ed
access to content on TVs, iPads and iPhones via Apple’s
Others are also putting time and effort toward the
problem. Verizon recently began making some of its
live channels available on Microsoft’s Xbox 360, and
it has integrated with Kinect for Xbox so that Verizon
customers can use voice and gesture commands to
control their TV viewing.
“Better navigation and finding ways for consumers
to move easily through all of those choices on different
platforms will be a big issue for the next 12 to
24 months,” notes Ian Olgeirson, lead multichannel
analyst at SNL Kagan.
Stewart at Google also argues that the expansion of
multiplatform viewing is making mobile devices a more
important promotional tool. “Mobile queries for returning
broadcast shows in 2011 grew by 92% over the
previous year, and returning cable shows saw a 105%
increase in mobile queries,” he says.
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