Europe set for catch-up on smart TV

Europeans are on the verge of switching on to web-connected TV after a slow start, according to three consumer surveys just released.

Despite almost laughable differences in their assessment of current connected TV activity, the surveys at least agree that several factors such as the arrival of Netflix and proliferation of WiFi capable TV sets are driving increased consumption of web content on TVs.

One study found that the big three European nations of Germany, the UK and France were already up with the US in terms of connected TV usage. The study by UK consumer electronic analysis firm Futuresource Consulting conducted in the spring of 2012 in the U.S., UK, France and Germany on more than 4,000 consumers people aged 16 to 66, found that among connected TV owners in these four nations, France had the highest proportion connecting to the Internet at 71 percent, and the UK lowest at 56 percent.

This was quite at odds with a report just published by the European Commission on the application of its Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMSD), which found that just 20 percent to 30 percent of connected TVs in Europe are actually being hooked up to the Internet.
The third report, by global media and communications technology analysts Strategy Analytics, was even more downbeat, suggesting that only 9 percent of European smart TV owners connect to the Internet at least once a week. This found that U.S. smart-TV owners were three times more likely to connect, but that still put the figure at under 30 percent, way below the Futuresource Consulting finding.

The differences partly reflect variations in the questions asked, but there was agreement that few people had purchased smart TVs originally for their Internet connectivity. Yet, at the same time, many more would next time around. According to Strategy Analytics, only one-third of smart TV owners across both the U.S. and Europe had bought the TV because of its ability to connect to the Internet. But, 65 percent of smart-TV owners now say that Internet connectivity would be an important consideration when they next bought a TV set, having become aware of the potential.

Strategy Analytics concluded that smart TV manufacturers and their partners must develop compelling video services and content in the local language for non-English speaking markets in Europe to drive purchase and subsequent usage.

“The success of Netflix with smart-TV owners in the U.S. has demonstrated that such services can drive usage of smart TV services and apps,” said Caroline Park, senior analyst and author of the Strategy Analytics report.

The Futuresource Consulting survey found that at present the most popular uses for connected TVs are catch-up TV, YouTube videos, and streaming films via online channels such as Lovefilm and Netflix. However, social networking sites, streaming music, and personal media libraries are also frequently used by, respectively, 40 percent, 24 percent and 23 percent of smart TV owners.

Like Strategy Analytics, the Futuresource Consulting study also identified availability and choice of content as key differentiators in brand selection when purchasing devices. As a result, companies that have realized the importance of content to help develop brand loyalty have been the clear winners. Organizations such as Apple, Samsung, Amazon and the like have developed comprehensive content ecosystems, which have been fundamental in helping to lock in consumers and grow market share.

All three studies concurred that connected TV usage in Europe would rise quickly over the next few years.