The Smart TV “Box Killer” Breaks Out

Hub Research logoA new media milestone appears to have been reached, as the new Entertainment in the Connected Home report [details here] from Hub Entertainment Research shows that US TV households now have an average of one (1.0) smart TV with internet access, enabling streaming directly to the set itself.

In one sense, this milestone technically means little other than smart TVs have become mainstream. But it is a psychological benchmark just like the Dow crossing 20,000 or 25,000.

In a real sense, it compares to other TV-related psychological benchmarks like when the average number of TV sets exceeded the average number of people in the home (around 2003). Or when VCRs (1999*) or DVD players (2011*) reached nearly ubiquity by reaching 90% of TV households.

The Possible Victims

Unlike other TV-related technologies introduced over the past couple of decades, the rise of the connected smart TV isn’t introducing a new box to hook up to a set. It is giving viewers freedom from those boxes. Internet connectivity within a set can potentially remove many boxes…

  • the pay TV STB – if you switch to a vMVPD
  • the DVR – if your vMVPD service offers a cloud DVR
  • the DVD or Blu-ray player – if you rely on OTT or SVOD services to watch movies or catalog TV series
  • the streaming media player (Roku/Fire TV/etc) – this capability will migrate into smart TVs
  • the stereo/amplifier of a home theater system – if you have a set that supports Bluetooth or WiFi transmission of sound to external speakers
  • even the hand-held box of the remote control may become obsolete as more sets gain internet-driven, voice-activated controls

Videogame consoles may have a longer survival due to the greater processing power and memory needed for games, but this box will also become expendable  as cloud gaming prospers, internet speeds increase and lag times lessen.

As we’ve seen for many years, consumers want fewer boxes and fewer wires. Evidence of this is when TiVo’s separate boxes were quickly pushed to the side by pay TV STBs with built-in DVRs. This was despite TiVo’s superior technology and user interface. And also how popular TV combination units (TV sets integrated into a single box with VCRs or with DVD players – or even both!) became in the latter stages of the VCR/DVD product cycles.

The Only Question is Adoption Rate

The trend towards smart TVs isn’t going away. It’s hard to find any TV set for sale now that doesn’t have smart capability as a standard feature. The only question will be how many of these sets will end up being connected to the internet, and how deep viewers will go to activate and use all the box-killer applications available to them. Evidence so far indicates this may take a while.

Disclosure: The author works as a consultant for Hub Research and is project manager for the Entertainment+Tech Tracker research series, of which Entertainment in the Connected Home is one report.
*per The Home Technology Monitor– published by Statistical Research Inc. (1999) and by Knowledge Networks (2011)

David Tice is the principal of TiceVision LLC, a media research consultancy.
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