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Transforming TV

Companion devices have the power to transform the TV experience, but the TV ecosystem will need to evolve to meet the challenge, writes Simon Woodward.

It’s hard to imagine a world without our mobile devices – handsets, smartphones and tablets are now run of the mill tools that we rely upon, connecting and interacting with one another via social networks and other communication platforms. This move towards a more interactive world isn’t just having an impact on our communications when we’re on the go; it’s in our homes too.

The living room experience of 2011 is a far cry from 10, or even five years ago. For consumers, it means interacting with multiple devices all at once – a television, laptop, a mobile phone, a tablet. It increasingly means that TV services are no longer confined to the living room, with the potential for content to move beyond the main TV screen, driven by the consumer.

The chance to reach a viewer whilst they’re on the move through flexible, personalised content and on-demand features means that broadcasters have an opportunity to engage and connect with their audiences at a more in-depth level. The TV has now fully evolved from a ‘loudspeaker’ role (a box transmitting content controlled by someone else). Today, the consumer is firmly in the driving seat, selecting from a vast range of content to shape their own viewing experience fitted around their own schedule.

With personalisation fully ingrained in our ‘traditional’ TV viewing behaviour – arguably many of us take for granted today the ease with which we can pick and choose what we want to watch and when we want to watch it – it’s time for us to really contemplate what the rise of the companion device world means for the future of TV.
A recent industry study revealed that 70% of portable device owners use their devices whilst watching TV. For the broadcaster, the content provider and the advertiser, this is an engagement opportunity not to be missed. By taking online connectivity to the next level, there’s scope to examine a huge array of benefits – both for consumers and service providers.

Companion devices form part of a chain of connectivity leading to the convergence of media content and interactive services. The opportunity to move content from the TV to a companion device and vice versa provides consumers with a new level of flexibility, enhancing the viewing experience.

Touch screen user interfaces, a standard feature on today’s tablets and smartphones, create an opportunity to provide new search, navigation and control functions for the main screen TV. The impact of moving content across different devices must be considered when designing the user interface and the different functions of each device must be taken into account. And, it’s not just a challenge for broadcasters and content providers.

Device manufacturers also have a growing challenge on their hands – after all, these are the organisations that consumers are going to turn to when it comes to making this interactive experience a reality, companion device functionality offers an opportunity to differentiate.

Simple search and navigation and a slick user interface are just the first in a line of things that must be considered. Consumers don’t want purchase a new set-top box every time a new application or service hits the market. In order to make their products as agile as the marketplace, they need the right technology in place that will enable these new companion services to grow with demands – enabling them to deliver consumers with fresh content and new features, as they become available.

TV applications and services in the connected home have the potential deliver a step change in the TV experience. However, to fully fulfil this promise and deliver a seamless, intuitive, interactive TV experience, the whole TV ecosystem will need to embrace it.

Simon Woodward is CEO of ANT Software.

Tags: ANT, technology

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