Smart TVs have been here for a while. Leaders of the market -- Samsung and LG -- have put a lot of effort to push this concept into the mainstream. Microsoft stepped into the game just weeks ago with its Smart Glass technology that connects X-Box with smartphones and tablets. And more and more vendors are trying everyday to change the very foundation of the TV as we've known it for the past 90 years.
This movement has brought with it some challenges to the content management industry such as: how to deliver content to the living room?
For many this is still unexplored territory, so let me explain some basics of the Smart TVs.
Smart TV is another platform which is ruled by apps. Each vendor has its own store, where apps can be downloaded from. There’s no unified operating system, so apps have to be developed for the specific TV sets. What’s even worse is that the APIs change quite often. However technology-wise, all apps for the major platforms are made either with Flash or HTML5. So nothing new here, the platforms are quite easy to learn.
Smart TV Characteristics
Large Screen, Low Resolution Apps
Despite the fact that many screens are huge in terms of physical size, the resolution at which the apps run is usually low. This is because of the fact that people watch TV from the couch and are basically far away from the screen compared to other devices. This fact also means that the content provided to the Smart TV should be pretty much the same density as on the smartphones.
Different App Form Factors
Many Smart TV platforms allow you to use not only the full screen window, but instead run your application in ticker and overlay modes on top of live TV. The ticker mode can be particularly interesting for news companies.
99 percent of the apps are controlled with TV remote, which is -- simply put -- not easy. Although, Microsoft’s Smart Glass approach is solving this, I’m afraid that for many years to come, TV remote will be the only interface for TV for many people.
Yep, the interface is rather slow and not just because it is controlled by the TV remote. That is one of the reasons why users don’t explore the app stores because the response that the TV gives is very slow.
Many TV sets have predefined fonts. Although you can take advantage of CSS3 and all of its craziness like rounded corners, floats and all sorts of similar options.
Of course the apps themselves can be paid or free, but as for the purchases within the apps, it’s a different story. On some markets, app makers can take advantage of deals with content or cable providers and monetize their apps through them in the same fashion as with video on demand.
Since the dawn of the television it was the ultimate device to consume media. Up until Smart TVs it was about passive consumption -- i.e. we watched whatever was on. Now, you can step into the game and choose what you will watch. So it is no surprise that the top apps of each platform are about consuming media -- YouTube, Hulu, Vimeo, CNN, USA Today, etc. But obviously there’s more that can be done:
- Many TVs have a built in camera that can be used to live chat or for video conferencing.
- TVs are ideal candidates to monitor all your house activities such as energy consumption, bills, household supplies and more. The TVs can be plugged to various data interfaces that can push this data into the app and then up to the cloud.
- Retailers can benefit from the ticker mode -- they can sync the app with the tv schedule, and offer new level of product placement -- realtime offers based on the show currently being watched.
Content Management for the Smart TV
So, are the content management tools prepared to deliver content into this platform?
To some extent, many are. The situation is very similar with delivering the content to smartphone apps.
But there are some notable differences:
- Since the interface is sluggish, the content must be very easy to consume. Forget about using too many pictures, or additional side content to your main articles. This won’t work from the usability perspective. On smartphones, navigation within the app is fairly easy, but that’s not the case with the TV remote.
- You want the app to be an empty shell into which you’ll feed the content through the web services. Don’t rely on the app updates. However TVs are usually connected to much faster lines than mobiles with low latency. Take advantage of it and set up the app to work this way.
- Generally speaking, you can’t use other apps. So if you need to display a map, you need to include it within your content. You can’t rely on any system maps or similar capabilities.
- But most importantly, the context is very different. Watching TV means you’re home. We do very different activities while watching TV than we do with smartphones or desktop PCs.
The one important concept to have in mind is that of the Second screen. Second screen is a phenomena that is constantly rising. You are using Second screen whenever you’re using PC, Tablet or smartphone while watching TV. Far too many people do this, yet there’s no really useful second screen service that could deliver content to the devices based on what is being watched.
The second screen concept is the best example to show the different context of the TV: if you were to build twitter or chat client, you don’t need to take the full screen as you would on the smartphone. You could design the app to run as an overlay over the currently watched TV program so that users can chat and watch at the same time.
So what can CMS do to help leverage the Smart TV platform? I believe that it is automated personalized content delivery based on semantic information about the content and its consumer.
Scary sentence, but it’s actually very simple: for example, the CMS could sync with services like GetGlue to gather information about what you are, or will be viewing, then search its content database for matching items and serve it either to the TV or to the Second screen. The matching items can be anything from articles, through sport results, to merchandise. This is a field on which CMS can be very strong if done right.
What’s in the Future?
I believe that we’re still waiting for the iPhone-like breakthrough with the Smart TVs. The platforms are good, but not great. I am still waiting for one strong OS -- like iOS or Android that would take away the pain of developing for hundreds of devices. TVs needs to be much faster and they should be able to easily connect to the Internet of things.
There’s still lot of work to be done on these fields, but nonetheless, for many the Smart TV means a new opportunity today. If you are one of them, I recommend you to take the first step. Learn the specifics of the platform. It will pay off one day, when the time is right.
Title image courtesy of OZaiachin (Shutterstock)
Editor's Note: To read more by Martin Rapavy: