After a slow and frankly extremely uninteresting start, online services are now being built into TVs from many of the major brands - even on sets fairly low down their range 'ladders'. What’s more, online features are shaping up to be one of the biggest TV battlegrounds in the coming years.
The main reason for this is that most brands are making their new online TV services 'ring-fenced' affairs. In other words, in order to best control the quality of their online services, and the ease with which you can use them via a TV remote, brands are choosing not to allow unfettered Internet access, but rather are filtering you into a carefully constructed and managed corner of the online world.
This means there’s scope for each brand to sign exclusive deals with content providers, which is why all the brands we’ve spoken to about this burgeoning technology see it as being potentially a massively competitive area.
With all this in mind, we thought it would be illuminating to take an in-depth look at the state of play right now of all the online services currently available on UK TVs. This involves five brands: Philips, Sony, Samsung, LG and Panasonic. Toshiba and Sharp, for now at least, don’t have any proprietary online features on their TVs.
One last point to stress before going any further is that TV online services are a movable feast. For all the current online TVs have the facility to add extra services to their online platforms as new content deals are done. So it’s possible that the 'pecking order' of online capabilities we uncover during this feature might change over time.
But taking a snapshot of where we’re at today is obviously of strong relevance to anyone in the market for a TV right now, and also gives a clear indication of who’s setting the pace in this crucial, developing area.
Without further ado, then, let’s go through each of the five online platforms in turn. Which means, according to the time-honoured alphabetical order of things, that we start with LG.