Digital Sports Summit: The Evolving Living Room

Internet apps, wireless, 3D, connected TVs, and more technologies available to the consumer were key to a discussion on “The Evolving Living Room” at Sports Video Group’s Digital Sports Summit in New York last week. But panel moderator Shelly Palmer cautioned, “The technology itself has no bearing on what can be done.” He credited Verizon VP Terry Denson with the comment that “deployed innovation has to match consumer aspiration.”

In a discussion that ranged from IP-capable TVs to the viability of 3D, panelists representing Verizon FiOS TV, Samsung, Vizio, and Roku offered their perspectives on the new technologies in the consumer marketplace and what impacts they are having.

Samsung VP of Content and Product Solutions Eric Anderson said that 17% of his company’s current sales (TVs and Blu-ray/DVD players) are IP-ready, allowing access to Internet programming services, such as Netflix. Of those, Anderson said, the company is seeing a 50%-70% activation rate. At Verizon, Rachelle Zoffer, director of content strategy and acquisition, sees an ever increasing use of Verizon’s Internet apps and widgets.

At Roku, reported Director of Business Development Ed Lee, one in eight customers are leaving traditional content providers cable and satellite in favor of online and on-demand services. He expects that more will “cut the cord as soon as they can get all their news and sports.”

When Palmer asked whether the “battle” is for the living room, Roku’s Lee suggested that the battle is for the home, with increasing wireless capabilities to move video around a home, be it on televisions, computers, or hand-held devices.

The biggest change, perhaps a paradigm shift Palmer suggested, is consumers’ moving away from watching specific channels or even content suppliers and toward a scenario where content is provided from a variety of services. “The battle is for the account in the cloud,” said Samsung’s Anderson. “The battle is to get a hold of that account.”

The question of the viability of 3D was also addressed by the panel. Peter Schwartz, senior director for product management at Vizio, called 3D “the next HD-ready,” referring to the early days of HD-capable TVs that came to the marketplace in advance of any substantive HD programming. “I kind of believe that consumers are going to experience it and it will evolve that way.”

Verizon’s Zoffer opined that 3D “is here to stay.”

Samsung’s Anderson reported that, “for us, 3D is another complementary supplement to the [TV and Blu-ray].”

With “connected” TVs and Internet-accessible programming growing, Roku’s Lee said, “over the next six to nine months, more content will be available over IP. We’re moving toward a world where people want what they want and [are finding ways] of getting access to their content.”

Vizio’s Schwartz added that “people are going to find a way to bring connected services and connected content into the living room. Once they see it, people are going to know this is what they want to have, what they need to have.”

When asked whether, in 10 years, there will be a critical mass of consumers with connected TVs, Schwartz said the time frame was more likely three years.

“Watch out for how fast it’s coming,” Palmer advised. “Move your business toward it.”