This column is authored by Abhesh Verma, COO nexGTV
For years, the television has lived with the tag of the ‘idiot box’. As television’s hardware evolved in the 21st century from a clunky box to a sleek monolithic device that props up on your wall, so did its intelligence thanks to technology and the Internet. Only a little over two decades ago, watching television meant turning on the TV in the evening to catch up on the news or tuning in on Sunday mornings to watch your favourite shows with the whole family.
Cut to twenty years later, there is so much on television that you can’t help but feel exhausted navigating through the blitz of channels and content. But just when you thought that the TV was dead and over-saturated with content, newer technologies are offering far more options for things to do on the TV.
The first wave of technological disruption gave birth to the smartphone which was essentially a hybrid of the computer and the television. The interface of these larger devices was shrunk to fit into a pocket-sized device, allowing you to do almost everything on it that you would do on your desktop, laptop or television. Faced with the threat of obsolescence, the TV has made a comeback, riding on a new wave of digital disruption that has permeated into nearly every sphere of the consumer domain.
With some extensive retrofitting, the television has turned into a much smarter device than it was ever before. Smart software and operating systems like Android and iOS that now power the LED/LCD TV screen allow viewers to do so much more than just channel surfing. The television is now as efficient as your smartphone, offering endless video and audio entertainment possibilities through the internet. In addition, it allows you to check e-mails, make Skype calls to friends around the world and even play games.
The access to online content or streaming OTT video has none of the technical or commercial constraints of traditional broadcast television. TVs are more intelligent, free of limitations like schedules or channels that were characteristic of the analogue era. The Internet, long perceived to be the television’s replacement, is now its very faithful ally. Thanks to it, now time is no longer a shackle for viewers. You can now stream an eight-hour long season of your favourite series without pausing at all. Moreover, the smart TV has facilitated a seamless and immersive web experience, allowing you to browse through extensive catalogues of movies and TV series on YouTube or OTT platforms and watch or buy content in a matter of seconds, as easily as you would purchase a pair of shoes online.
Faster and more affordable broadband services have made sharing of video content extremely quick through social media, adding a whole new degree of interactivity to the viewing experience. You can now share a movie or TV show that you have just finished watching with friends through social media channels easily accessible through the smart TV. The interconnectivity of multiple devices and highly advanced touch interfaces has also led to better and more intuitive navigation. You can continue watching a movie or series on your television that you were watching on your phone on the way from work.
Similarly, artificial intelligence, sophisticated analytic tools and cloud technology – things that were seen or heard of in only science fiction novels and movies in the past – are helping drive an enhanced viewing experience for consumers. Viewers are even provided with automated suggestions for films and shows of their favourite genres based on their past viewing history.
Making TVs even smarter are a large number of plug and play devices like Chromecast and Amazon Fire TV Stick. These thumb-sized sticks which resemble USB pen drives are capable of streaming a wide range of content like music and videos from a vast number of OTT platforms. These devices also allow easy access to content from your laptop, tablet or smartphone directly on your TV screen by connecting to the Wi-Fi.
The aim of television manufacturers is no longer limited to just delivering high-quality audio and video, but to complement the smarter mobile devices and drive far superior user experiences. By facilitating a seamless inter-connectivity between multiple devices, access to a large collection of video, OTT content, and music is made possible. Home entertainment is no longer confined to the remote control or a fixed schedule of programming. The idiot box has finally smartened up and made the living room an entertainment hub all over again.