Tablets are coming to the fore for dual-screen TV viewing

March 22, 2012

Back in October of last year, Nielsen published a report which revealed that 40% of American tablet and smartphone users use their device when watching TV. Since then, app developers have been getting in on the act, offering a raft of apps so that TV viewers can control their TV content on their tablet, find out progam information on their tablet or even share their favorite programs with friends. Indeed, apps like Zeebox are seen by many to be future of TV viewing.

This trend was certainly not lost in London this week, where hundreds of TV professionals from across Europe attended the TV Connect exhibition (previously the IP&TV World Forum), to talk everything from new remotes and set-top boxes (STBs) to streaming services and connectivity standards. The difference this year, however, was that dual-screen TV viewing had become a major focus, with various vendors promoting the tablet as a genuine companion device for the TV. Even the number of tablets on show seemed to be significantly higher in volume than the tablets I spotted back in 2011.

Companies like Ericsson and Siemens promoted multi-screen streaming services, while Opera Software, the software vendor behind the Opera TV Store and Opera web browser, attempted to show how mobile devices (smartphones or tablets) can be used to control a television set.

Elsewhere, Rovi demonstrated its RoviGuide for perusing TV shows on your iPad, TV software provider Access promoted its MediaPilot (DLNA sharing to tablets, among other devices) and AccessMyTV (for controlling your TV from your tablet over IP OTT TV), while Pushbutton, now under the ownership of Amazon, promoted its Lovefilm and Xbox iPad apps.

Opera was one of the first companies we spoke to at the show and the firm claimed that it has made some enhancements with its Opera TV Store. The store has previously allowed companion mobile devices to control the TV set, but is now is trialing a new feature which allows the content partners to detail how users can interact with their content. Sadly, on this occasion, demos for Cut The Rope were unsuccessful.

Despite this, all of those at the exhibition, which took place at Kensington Olympia in London between 20-22 March, were in agreement that the tablet is here to stay for future TV viewing.

“We think tablets are part of the future of TV, but there will be many different concepts,” said Opera communications manager, Slawomir Sochaj. “Tablets will allow TV streaming and navigation, while we also have an Android web TV browser, which could potentially be controlled through an ordinary tablet browser at some point in future.” Another industry professional, Pushbutton’s Eugene Lacey stressed that “everybody here is interested in multi-screen viewing.”

The TV Connect summit is primarily geared towards TV OEM manufacturers, and there were plenty of demos from ‘back-end’ vendors, such as RGB and Harmonic, detailing tablet transcoding and streaming standards, among other things. That said, some demos were of more interest to the end-user, with Siemens pushing ‘OTT Swipe’ – a new navigation system for controlling your TV using your tablet. The demo, on a Motorola Xoom at the exhibition, showed that users can select their favorite music, movies and TV programs, and ‘swipe up’ to push this content to the television set. A representative from the firm said that this new solution will work on iOS and Android tablets and smartphones.

Despite all of this optimism on tablets and the dual-screen world, there was a note of caution from Giles Wilson, head of technology for TV at Ericsson, during the show. Wilson said that the second-screen ‘must improve’, although he did add that consumers are generally happier with the experience offered through the tablet than through a smartphone or connected TV. Wilson also added that these connected TV consumers want more than just to view video through their smartphone or tablet. “Both devices, people want to use as part of the overall experience, but not necessarily to view video.”

Either way, with the profileration of TV companion apps, tablets and technologies which allow devices to interact with each other (like Bluetooth), it would seem that the trend for tablet-TV viewing has only just begun.


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