“Connected TV” has been an emerging concept these last 18 months, and strongly linked to all the buzz about cable cord-cutters. Roku, Boxee, Apple TV, Google TV….the announcements just keep coming. But what does “Connected TV” really mean? Are we talking full blown internet access? (In most cases no.) And why would one buy one of those devices rather than just connecting their desktop to a flat screen TV by a HDMI cord? (cheaper, but the mountain of cords involved gets tricky….and unsightly!)
“Connected TV” is just short hand for the small club of electronic devices that turn any cable-compatible TV into a computer display. Roku, Boxee, Apple TV, Google TV and xBox all fall into this category. Roku, Apple TV and xBox limit the viewable internet content to entertainment-related sources delivered as app channels (e.g., the YouTube app opens to show YouTube content as a channel). Google TV and Boxee, both of which are much more expensive, are also structured around apps/channels, except one of those ‘channels’ is the internet itself. Basically it turns your TV into a netbook, so it makes sense that it is priced against that technology.
Yahoo Connected TV is in a class by itself, and the jury’s still out on whether it’s in the special education or the gifted & talented track. I personally am hoping for the latter. Yahoo collaborated with select TV manufacturers (Samsung, LG, Vizio, Sony) to develop something that basically takes the notion of Roku & Apple TV and put the hardware inside of the TV rather than an external device. So you buy the specially enabled TV, and you get selected, entertainment-oriented websites alongside all the standard capabilities you’d expect from any TV. What’s intriguing about the Yahoo solution is the idea of visually serving up internet-sourced content alongside whatever you’re watching on TV. For example, sports stats to go along with the Sunday afternoon game; shopping options to buy the outfits you see on that fashionable sitcom you like, airline tickets to the destination they’re featuring in tonight’s travel show. Very interesting stuff…well, for advertisers anyway!
Connected TV is still a pretty new area of digital media, so a lot of the writing out there on capabilities and long term potential is comprehensive in its scope…..so much so, actually, that I am going to end my commentary here and invite you to explore 3 really excellent resources on the topic. First, a couple of sites that evaluate set-top and embedded technology options. Second, the head of Yahoo’s Connected TV did a really excellent, extended blog post on the go forward potential for this field—pretty much the best set of “So What” takeaways one could ask for.