Is web-connected TV the next big thing?

03 Feb 2011


It’s a non-descript weekday evening. You’ve just finished your dinner and you’re watching a gameshow on television. The presenter asks for participants from the audience to compete for tonight’s big prize. That’s your cue to join in.

Bruce Forsyth might call on you to join in from the comfort of your sofa…

So you press your red button and this time you’re lucky enough to be selected. Your face appears on the screen via webcam and you’re answering questions, then moving in front of a motion sensor to complete a task. Congratulations, you’ve won the car.

It sounds ridiculous and far-fetched, doesn’t it? But we are edging ever closer to this new television reality.

You see, while in years gone by audience participation stretched as far as Bruce Forsyth yelling for members of the audience to ‘come on down’ and play The Price Is Right, web-connected TV could see everyone become involved in the show.

Just as viewers became bored of dour talking heads delivering the news to them in the early days of television, one-way broadcasting where a programme lectures the folks at home is dying.

The era of the active viewer who can interact with presenters and have their opinion heard is approaching.

An increasing number of new televisions are now web-connected or ready to use the internet. Sony said half of the Bravia televisions it sold last year were internet ready and it expects this figure to rise to 80% in 2011. Other television manufacturers are likely to continue on the same trend.

Web-connected TVs come with internet browsers and email facilities already on board, so viewers could surf the net while having Coronation Street on in a corner of the screen.

Apps are also available to download, making social media even more important to our viewing experiences. Do you tweet about what you’re watching on television from the laptop on your knee?

A Twitter TV app could have you tweeting direct to your television screen, where your opinion could be joined by other viewers of the show using a specially created hashtag. Meanwhile, the presenter of the programme is tuned in to the feed and could react to the best ones sent in.

Other TV apps, or widgets as they are sometimes known, allow viewers to access select sports scores of their choice in a panel on the screen, or see what their friends are watching and discuss it with them.

It’s not just the viewers who could benefit from web-connected TVs. Broadcasters have a lot to gain. Programmes are losing viewers to tech-savvy people who download American series before they come to networks in Britain.

By introducing widgets which allow the audience to take a more active role in the programme and discuss what’s going on with their friends as they action unfolds, more value is put on watching the scheduled broadcast.

Advertisers would be delighted, too. Like what you’re seeing from the latest mp3 players on screen? Click a button and it could be winging its way to you in the post. It makes impulse buying hassle-free.

However, there are certain challenges web-connected TVs must face. If you are watching alone then you could play with your remote and adjust camera angles or tweet along to the programme.

But what about when more than one person is in the room? Arguments over the remote control would be even more heated!

Making programmes more than just a lecture is a great idea, but only if the viewer can be bothered to get involved. Watching TV is currently a relaxing experience, yet participation would mean sitting up and paying attention. After a day at work, or on a lazy Sunday afternoon, would people really want to join in?

Television is at an exciting point in its development and we could soon be controlling it all from our sofas.

What do you think about web-connected TVs? Do you want more say on what goes on while you watch, or are you happy to play a passive role? Comment below…