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CES: Yahoo’s TV Widgets May Miss Consumer Priorities

by David Mercer | Jan 09, 2009

At Pepcom's Digital Experience press event we chatted with Yahoo about their approach to web TV. It certainly seems the company, which has been struggling in recent times, has finally been making some progress in its TV strategy. It has signed deals with Samsung, Sony, LG and Visio to incorporate its widgets engine in their internet-enabled TVs. All this talk of internet on the TV screen really does make me feel my age. When I mention that we were having similar discussions 10 or even 20 years ago there is rarely any recognition that interactive TV has been tried many times over, and has usually failed. Of course today's innovators are convinced that the power of today's internet can solve many of the problems that prevented previous interactive TV platforms from becoming successful. There's no doubt that a fast broadband connection straight to the TV is a far cry from those early days of dial-up internet connections. But the question of whether or how many consumers really want to see anything but "television" or "video" on their "TV set" remains unresolved, whatever the technology used to bring them these exciting new services. Yahoo seems to have convinced its partners, for the moment at least, that there is some level of interest in the ability to have internet-based mini-applications on various parts of the TV screen, showing the usual weather, stock prices or latest news. Strategy Analytics research suggests that this type of application is not in fact at the forefront of TV viewers’ expectations from internet TV browser technologies. In fact in a recent survey we carried out for Oregan Networks by our Digital Home Observatory team, widgets and user interface customisation were ranked among the lowest priorities. The highest, not surprisingly, were the ability to access video on demand services from the internet, and to search for video content already stored on the home network. But in various demonstrations we have seen here at CES, not just at Yahoo, video is not given the priority consumers clearly expect. That may well reflect the fact that the various web TV value chain partners – TV manufacturers, platform developers, content owners – are far from confident that today’s internet connections can deliver the sort of video experience consumers are expecting on big screen TVs. And they are obviously right to be nervous in this respect. It will take time and lots of education to overcome the obvious quality and reliability issues. But to build demand for internet enabled TVs there needs to be a greater focus on internet-based video and television services, because this is what consumers think internet TVs should have as a core capability. Everything else is simply icing on the cake, and some people clearly prefer the cake without the icing. Client Reading: Digital Media Survey: An analysis of US Online Premium Video Users Add to Technorati Favorites
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