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Samsung’s Elion TV App May Spell Doom For Set-top Box Vendors, And Offer Hope to Service Providers

by David Mercer | 9月 13, 2012

Away from the controversy caused by the inevitable if justified hoopla surrounding Samsung's legal battles with Apple, the Korean giant was pursuing its strategic visions on several fronts at last weekend's IBC show in Amsterdam. The vision was made more evident at one level as David Eun, EVP Global Media Group, discussed the company's options in the content industry. Of most note was his admission that we should not completely rule out Samsung's entry into the content business as developer or owner ("Never say never"), although in general Eun, who was appointed to the role in early 2012, hedged his bets on specifics regarding the company's relationship to the content industry. Samsung "will take a slice of the content value chain" and all options remain open.

The most significant demonstration at the IBC show was on Samsung’s booth, where the company was demonstrating the pay TV app which will be launched later in 2012 by TeliaSonera’s Estonian subsidiary, Elion. This was the closest thing we have seen so far to a virtual set-top box implementation. The app or service runs the entire portfolio of Elion pay TV channels and VOD services, and also provides a virtual (cloud) DVR functionality to replace the hard disk drive which would appear in the (real) set-top box solution.

Most impressive of all was the way in which the pay TV takes over control of Samsung’s smart TV. As soon as the user signs up to Elion’s service via the app, it becomes the default setting, overriding even Samsung’s own Smart Hub. If the viewer switches off the TV at night after watching Elion’s TV channels, as we would expect, the TV boots straight into the Elion app when switched on again in the morning. In order to exit Elion the viewer must select the input select button on the remote control in order to get back to the “regular” TV functions, including the TV’s built-in Smart Hub. We know well from our user experience research that this is not something many consumers will find easy.

The Elion demonstration illustrates the degree to whcih the traditional video ecosystem may be disrupted by apps and cloud technologies over the coming years. Clients wanting a deeper analysis can consult our latest Insight report.

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