nScreenMedia OTT multiscreen media analysis

The future of the connected TV

Pay TV Show 2019 Plenary Panel 2019

Many consumers have three or more devices connected to a smart TV to allow them to watch all their video services. There isn’t much hope the situation will get simpler any time soon according to execs from Amazon, Google, Comcast, LG, and Arris.

At the Pay TV in Denver last week, I had the privilege of moderating a discussion entitled “The Battle for Living Room: Sticks, Boxes, and Smart TV Platforms.” Among the many questions we discussed, I asked panelists from Amazon, Google, LG, Comcast, and Arris to answer two closely related questions:

  1. Ultimately, all we will need is a smart TV to watch anything we want. Do you agree?
  2. Five years from today, there will be more, less, or the same number of connected TV platforms as there are today?

Here’s what each panelist had to say.

Jennifer Prenner, GM and Global Head of Marketing, Growth & Engagement, Amazon Fire TV

Ms. Prenner sees convergence ahead for the connected TV device market. Five years from now, she sees the field thinning:

Jennifer Prenner, Amazon Fire TV

Jennifer Prenner – Amazon

“I think there will be less. It is very expensive, and consumers are demanding more and want more from their TV platforms. I think you’re going to find that whether they adopt a smart TV, Roku, or Fire TV you’re going to have less bifurcation among all the OSs and they’ll start condensing into the ones that are truly the most valued by consumers.”

Looking farther out than five years, she sees an opportunity for the smart TV to win the battle, but it must get a lot smarter to do it:

“Yes, but the race will be who can provide a really smart TV. There’s a lot of smart TVs out there that do not provide an integrated UI, do not provide Alexa, do not provide a truly full experience for consumers. If we can get there, then yes, all we will need is the smart TV.”

Jon Stewart, Head of America’s Android TV Partnerships, Google

Android TV is finding increasing success among device vendors and pay TV operators. Mr. Stewart sees the market for his TV OS among device makers reaching some stability over the next several years:

Jon Stewart Google

Jon Stewart, Google

“It will be the same. You’ll see people come in, but also some will exit. At the end of the day, it is very difficult to build platforms at the scale we are all trying to accomplish.”

Like Ms. Prenner, Mr. Stewart sees an opportunity for the smart TV to emerge as the victor, but it will only come when IP delivery is ubiquitous:

 “Today the answer is no; you need another device. I think as we move into the future and things move more toward IP, then potentially yes.”

Brynn Lev, Vice President, Programming and Editorial, Comcast

Ms. Lev also doesn’t think the number of connected TV devices will grow by 2024:

Brynn Lev - Comcast X1

Brynn Lev, Comcast

“The same. There are plenty in the marketplace today that people are using, but I can’t imagine there being ten more, and all of them being successful and surviving.”

However, for the long term, she believes customers will continue to demand choice, and that operators like Comcast will support them:

“I believe it will be a combination. Smart TVs aren’t going away, but I also believe in the value of X1, and we also believe in the value of customers having choice. If their choice is smart TV, then we are going to be there to support that.”

Matthew Durgin Senior Director North America Partnerships, LG

As the only smart TV manufacturer representative on the panel, we might expect Mr. Durgin to predict the smart TV will ultimately be the single device we need:

Matt Durgin - LG

Matt Durgin, LG

“Yes, all you need is a smart TV but since when have Americans only gotten what they need. We all have a lot of opportunity to experience different devices.”

However, in the near term, he sees more devices coming into the market to support the continued evolution of TV technology:

“I think there is going to be more. Technology has been on such a great pace of innovation. We’ve made a lot of advancements with things like HTML5, streaming technology,  HDR – Dolby Atmos, and sound. The next five years are going to be more about new market entrants.”

Charles Cheevers CTO CPE Solutions, ARRIS

Arris is a major supplier of equipment, including set-top boxes, to the pay TV industry. Over the next five years, Mr. Cheevers thinks the number of TV platforms will remain the same:

Charles Cheevers - Arris

Charles Cheevers, Arris

“I think it’s going to be the same number of devices in the following combination:

  • smart TV with an (Internet) connected pay TV STB and a third-party STB,

  • pay TV STB and smart TV

  • the smart TV only.”

He is not optimistic that in the long run, all we will need is the smart TV. The replacement cycle of a TV in the home is, on average, 7-8 years. A lot can change with the technology and the TV apps in that time. To keep those aging screens useful, Mr. Cheevers’ says they’ll need to get an upgrade:

“No. The most valuable part of the smart TV is the screen and screens never die. They just transfer from one room to another. You always need to plug in upgrades.”


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