We know Connected TV platforms and the OEMs behind each TV platform.

We think of them as a familial members, each with their own positives and a few blemishes here and there. After spending thousands of hours on the various TV platforms from building apps and SDKs, submitting apps, working with engineering, business and marketing executives from each of the TV platforms, it’s safe to say we’ve gotten to know what is what.

We’re going to share with you our learnings in snapshot form. This isn’t meant to be exhaustive, just a few tidbits for each major TV platform. It’s just what we’ve seen and we wanted to pass on our learned lesson. It’s also meant to rectify some of the misinformation thrown around by Connected TV “experts” at conferences, blogs or on white papers. 

Here you go.

Xbox

Right now, from an audience-size perspective, Xbox is an attractive platform. And, it’s future is bright if how they have created the platform is any indication. 

Pros

  • Huge viewing audience: There are a ton of Xboxes out there (66 million) and 40 million have Xbox Live accounts, which is needed to access the apps on the Xbox.
  • Rigorous app certification: Each app is provided a business and engineering account manager. No other TV platform does this.
  • Powerful hardware to support video streaming

Cons 

  • Invite-only platform. Each app must be approved by the powers-to-be at Xbox before the app can be built. It’s not easy to get onto the Xbox.
  • Rigorous app certification: There’s a flip side to the certification process -it’s probably the most rigorous app approval process.  However, to get the upside to Xbox, the rigorous testing is something you’re just gonna have to deal with.

PS3

Like Xbox, PS3 has a large install base similar to Xbox but it’s not as focused on streaming apps as Xbox is.

Pros

  • Large user base, probably a bit larger than Xbox.
  • No additional membership fee to gain access to apps
  • Powerful hardware to support video streaming

Cons

  • Invite-only platform. Each app must be approved by the powers-to-be at Sony-PS3 before the app can be built. It’s really hard to get on the PS3.
  • Very few apps. Currently there are less than 10 video streaming apps and the infrastructure and focus to bring additional apps isn’t as developed as Xbox or other Connected TV platforms such as Samsung or Roku.

Roku

The early leader in the Connected TV space, which means that they have their house in order when it comes to getting apps pushed out the door. No surprise then that they have the largest number of video apps of any Connected TV platform, at least in the US.

Pros

  • Anyone can build and submit it an app. Like every Connected TV platform, Roku will review each app before publishing it and will decline some (e.g., porn apps).
  • Largest number of video apps of any TV platform. Probably around 500 (of which we are tied to 35 or so) currently.
  • The easiest UI for viewers from a simplicity perspective.
  • Dirt cheap price tag ($50 for the entry-level box, goes up to $100 for the top box)
  • The quickest turn-around time for getting apps approved among Connected TV platforms

Cons

  • Power-starved hardware components lead to memory leaks and prevents you from installing an unlimited number of apps on the box
  • The app directory has the most apps of any platform, which may seem crowded to some viewers. 
  • The app directory is a magnet for a lot of religion-themed apps. 

Samsung

Samsung, among TV manufacturers, has the most robust Connected TV platform from an apps and infrastructure perspective. Interestingly, usage among Samsung TVs is approximately the same or below what we see from Roku usage. You would think this will change going forward.

Pros

  • The most mature Connected TV platform among TV manufacturers. It has the most apps and an established testing infrastructure.
  • Hardware is increasingly getting more powerful to support video streaming apps
  • The connected TV features come with the TV so there’s no need to buy a secondary hardware piece like a set top box or game console. 

Cons

  • Has a very rigorous testing environment that makes its very difficult to get an app approved due to inconsistent and at times overly aggressive QA policies.
  • UI for the viewer isn’t as simple as it could be. Complexity adds to slowness.
  • Platforms are not backwards compatible at times so developers have to develop multiple apps if they want to be on different models of TVs or Bluray players.

Google TV

Google TV is a software layer when put on hardware provides Internet connectivity, including Connected TV apps. 

Pros

  • HTML5-based TV platform with a browser for true web-surfing
  • Has Google Spotlight, a dedicated pool of Connected TV apps (of which adRise represents around 10%-15% of the apps).
  • Google TV is embedded on TVs (Samsung, LG, Sony), and other hardware (Vizio’s Costar (an STB), Logictech’s STB, thumbdrives). 
  • It has the potential of being propelled by third party hardware and software developers since anyone can take the latest code base to develop their forked version of Google TV.
Cons
  • Google Play: Google is appears to be focusing on Google Play, which is their marketplace for all Android-based apps. Since virtually all of these apps were not designed for the TV and a remote, most of these apps are difficult or unusable for the TV experience. 
  • In addition to the above, the Google TV interface is complex, with a cluttered UI and viewer experience. We’ll chalk this up to Google’s penchant for releasing beta products. Here’s to hoping it improves going forward.
  • Unclear what Google wants to do with Google TV. There was no real mention of it by Google at the most recent Google IO.  

Western Digital, LG, Sony, Vizio, etc. Then Apple.

There are lots of other players in the Connected TV space, including TV manufacturers like Sony, LG, Vizio and set top boxes from the likes of Western Digital, Sony, and Vizio. Writing about them wouldn’t cover any new ground though, since the major TV, STB, game console, and software layers were already written about. Then there’s Apple. Whether they’ll be releasing the real Apple TV or a unicorn, it’s safe to say it will be disruptive. Having Apple in the Connected TV space with a real TV would be great for this space. Or riding a fracking unicorn would be a good consolation prize.


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