More cushions on the virtual sofa

I saw an ad for Sony’s new generation of internet TVs this morning. The interesting part about it was the new functionalities it chose to focus on; in this case, the ability to merge Facebook and Twitter into the TV viewing experience.

A lot of discussion has taken place about what internet-enabled TVs will be used for. As one of those lucky people invited to the launch of Microsoft’s Web TV product over a decade ago, I am pretty sure it won’t be what Microsoft had in mind; lots of unrelated information appearing over the TV content being viewed. TV is an immersive (and predominantly shared) experience and anything that distracts from that experience will generally not be welcomed.

Instead, it will be web-delivered apps that enhance the TV experience that are most likely to succeed in this market. Along with enhanced search for on-demand TV content, I can think of few that improve the TV viewing experience as well as being able to ‘chat’ about it with our friends and family. This is what people have done with TV since the year dot and, as our recent TV Together research demonstrated, if they don’t have anybody in the room to share it with, then the ‘virtual sofa’ created by our increasing array of communication tools – phoning, texting, Messengering, emailing and now the social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter – do the job very nicely.

So I think that the integration of social media is a sensible use of broadband-connected TV sets. Two notes of caution though; because TV viewing is a mostly shared experience, on-screen chat about what you’re watching might not go down well with the rest of the family. And people are already using separate devices – fixed and mobile ‘phones and laptops – that deliver this functionality very well so it might not be a killer app that will sell these TVs on its own. But we welcome any new development that lets people share their telly love more easily.

The virtual sofa just got comfier.

  • Graeme Wood

    It makes sense that new functionality should be an enabler of stuff you weren’t previously able to do on your TV, like chat about the programmes with people who aren’t actually in the room. So it follows that the ads should concentrate on them. Realistically I’d guess people will mainly use internet enabled TVs to watch lots more stuff on TV – the role of social functionality will likely help them to schedule it in line with what their friends are watching (so that you are talking about the same episode of the same series with you friends – regardless of which (if any) medium you are doing the talking over)

  • iain morrison

    The porn industry must be overjoyed…