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Similarly able to frustrate and elate at the same time were 2010’s online TV features. These took off spectacularly after a quite start in 2009, but while we embraced some of the 2010 online fare with open arms, other aspects of the burgeoning online TV world failed to inspire.
The biggest single problem was a universal lack of quality control. Every brand got caught up in the classic ‘numbers game’, where just compiling as long a list as possible of service providers took over from any sensible appraisal of what worked in an online TV environment and what didn’t.
It didn’t help that the rush to pile on the list of content providers quickly led to almost every 2010 online TV interface starting to look overwhelmed by what it was having to deal with.
The biggest winner in online terms was Sony, which turned its frankly pathetic 2009 AppliCast system into the really quite impressive Bravia Internet Video platform in a single mighty leap. BIV understands that for now, at least, video content is king when it comes to watching online content on a TV, serving up a cornucopia of video content for your delectation. Some of this is excellent - BBC iPlayer, Demand 5, LoveFilm - some of it less so. But it’s hard to see how anyone could feel less than impressed at what Sony has delivered without, in most cases, charging you extra for it.
Philips also notably ruffled a few feathers by persisting with its policy of providing open Internet browsing on its TVs. Plus it did a content sharing deal with Sharp and Loewe which flew in the face of the ‘every man for himself’ approach most brands seem to be adopting to online TV functionality.
Samsung deserves a mention, too, for making big strides into applying an obviously ‘app’-based approach to online TV functionality. The Korean brand’s efforts in this area arguably made it the most guilty of the ‘quantity over quality’ and faffy operating systems gripes we mentioned earlier, but actually we suspect the basic Samsung Internet@TV model may well be adopted in a refined form by others before 2011 is out.
One intriguing element of the various online systems launched in 2010 is their pay per view content. Philips, Panasonic, Sony and LG all include content on their online platforms that you have to pay for, so it will be interesting to see if these turn into genuine revenue makers in 2011, or if TV viewers continue to resist the idea of paying for something that they don’t ever physically hold in their hands.