What are you lookin’ at? Ericsson seeks to bring TV sets in from the cold

The tech firm has developed an innovation that allows users to watch a movie on their TV screens and “flip” it over to their tablet

Saffiya Ansari
Saffiya Ansari - Al Arabiya News, Stockholm
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As international consumers increasingly turn to the Internet and smart devices, leaving behind their television sets, a panel convened at an Ericsson conference in Sweden to understand why our humble TVs are being left out in the cold.

As consumers now access the Internet for personal entertainment, news and social media, what will happen to the television set that revolutionized the spread of information in the last century?

Ericsson ConsumerLab’s annual TV & Media report found that the TV landscape is changing.

New aggregators are enabling consumers to decide what they want to watch and pick-and-mix their own services, rather than settle at what is provided by their broadcasting service.

This disruption puts the user and their content preferences at the center of the push to make TVs relevant.

“Personalization is key, mobile devices are becoming more popular because each individual in the household can watch what they want on separate, smaller screens,” Niklas Ronnblom, consumer trends expert for TV and Media at Ericsson, said at the panel attended by Al Arabiya News.

One of the facets that will ensure TV remains a mainstay is interconnectivity between TV sets and smaller smart devices such as tables and phones, Jon Gamble, a business builder with Ericsson, added to Al Arabiya News.

The tech firm has developed an innovation called MediaFirst that allows users to watch a movie on their TV screens and “flip” the movie over to their tablet if they wish to continue watching it on the move, based Ericsson’s findings that consumers are increasingly performing tasks across multiple locations.

For instance, 21 percent of consumers who use social networking in one location switch screens, according to their research. This number rises to 44 percent for those who use social networking in at least three locations.

To address the issue of personalization, Ronnblom said that traditional linear broadcasting is being shunned due to its only providing set content at set times, not all of which will be appealing to every viewer.

In response, the MediaFirst innovation allows the TV set to connect to online platforms such as NetFlix and Hulu.

The system uses the user’s content preferences – based on their recently watched movies and series – to dictate what is suggested to the viewer. If a viewer tends to watch crime-based shows for example, a suggestions box will flash up on the screen aggregating possible shows of interest from a host of online platforms that can be streamed on a TV screen.

This connection with Internet-based entertainment providers allows users to pick-and-mix content using their television sets.

But is there a need to keep TV relevant, is television viewership really in decline?

According to Ericsson’s research, 75 percent of people watch any type of streamed video several times a week or more, compared to 77 percent who watch scheduled broadcast TV several times a week or more, indicating that streamed content is fast closing in on traditional linear viewing.

“In the future, consumers will not accept paying for inflexible managed TV packages in order to get access to the content they love,” the Consumer Lab report concludes.

The ability to “binge watch” content is also dictating the need for TV to catch up. Before the online viewing became a staple, box sets of TV series allowed people to binge watch their preferred content, the only barrier being the high cost of such box sets.

However, with the introduction of streaming services such as Netflix, people have begun to binge watch like never before and Ericsson’s research shows that 5 out of 10 consumers prefer all episodes of a TV series to be released at once, enabling them to watch at their own pace.

Easy access, as well as the absence of incremental cost, has broken down viewing barriers, and TV sets need to be able to stream such content.

It is, after all, just a monitor and so Ericsson has concluded that connecting TV sets to the Internet and streaming services is the way forward.

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