Date
23 July 2017
Facebook is developing a TV set-top box app to distribute premium content. Photo: Reuters
Facebook is developing a TV set-top box app to distribute premium content. Photo: Reuters

Who will win the smart TV battle?

Televisions were once the biggest battlefield for global home appliance makers. However, in recent years, TV has been overtaken by smartphones and computers, where internet content can be easily accessible.

But the situation is again changing and some tech giants are taking a fresh look at the potential of television, or more precisely smart TV.

In a four-member family, it’s quite normal to have nearly 10 screens, with four mobile phones, three tablets and two computers.

Nevertheless, most families still have traditional TV in their living rooms.

In fact, people are quite happy to upgrade their TV from time to time, perhaps due to the fact that it offers a unique opportunity for family members to spend time together, a role that mobile phones and personal computers can hardly fulfill.

Also, TVs usually have 30-40-inch screens, sometimes even bigger. Large screens are far better for playing video games or watching shows.

The crippling weakness of traditional TVs is that they don’t have internet connection. The audience is thus forced into a limited choice of content.

New models, however, are beginning to incorporate such functions in the form of smart TVs or TV set-top boxes.

Apple launched its first Apple TV model in 2015. Facebook recently revealed that it’s developing a TV set-top box app to distribute premium content.

At present, the computer and smart phone markets are saturated. Growth will soon become limited, largely driven by replacement demand once in a few years.

By contrast, the smart TV market remains undertapped.

In China, LeEco is a pioneer in the smart TV industry. It has launched its own smart TV with screen sizes of up to 55 inches.

LeEco sold more than 10 million smart TVs as of the end of last year. That means more than 10 million families in China have installed LeTV in their living rooms.

Unfortunately, sales have not reached critical mass and the company has been burning money too fast.

It would be interesting to see how China tech behemoths like Tencent and Alibaba will also throw their hats into ring.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Feb. 6

Translation by Julie Zhu

[Chinese version 中文版]

– Contact us at english@hkej.com

RT/RA

Hong Kong Economic Journal columnist

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