It’s been “infinitely deferred” for years. But Jonathan Watson argues that the era of connected TV is finally about to begin. Watch this space…
According to the French philosopher Jacques Derrida, words and signs could never fully express what they actually meant, but could only be defined by reference to other words, from which they differ. This meant that meaning was forever “deferred” or postponed indefinitely through an endless chain of signifiers.
It’s a concept that could also apply to connected TV. Heralded by industry experts as the “next big thing” for many years, connected TV’s emergence as a mainstream consumer product always seems to be indefinitely deferred. The big day always seems to be just around the corner, frustratingly out of reach.
The perfect example of this is YouView, the much-delayed internet-connected set-top box backed by the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5, Arqiva, TalkTalk and BT. It was expected to launch some time ago and make a big splash in the TV market, but there is still no sign of it.
Connected TV has yet to catch on with the average viewer. Only 20 per cent of those who own a smart TV in the UK bought it to connect to the internet, according to research published last month by YouGov, while 49 per cent said they bought one for the picture quality and the same percentage simply wanted a more up-to-date set. Only eight per cent of us own a connected TV, YouGov says, and only seven per cent plan to buy one in the next year. Only three per cent know that BBC iPlayer and YouTube are available on connected TVs.
And even when people do buy a connected TV, they are not always aware of what it does. UK research published this month by Kantar Media found that just 40 per cent of connected TV owners had bothered to connect them to the internet.
In addition, today’s connected TV interfaces are not always particularly consumer-friendly. Daniel Danker, who runs the BBC’s iPlayer operation, told an audience at the Digital TV Group summit in London recently that connected TVs need to become less complicated. Hooking the things up is hard enough, he reckons, and even then “audiences are presented with a list of choices that boggles the mind”.
Does all this mean the success of connected TV will continue to be indefinitely deferred? Far from it. People do not replace their TVs as often as they replace their smartphones, so this was always likely to be a gradual process. Eventually, as the technology settles down, standards are agreed and new applications are brought to market that catch the imagination of consumers, connected TV will have a good chance of becoming a mainstream consumer product.
It may not be a compelling proposition for most viewers just yet, but it soon will be.