Two weeks ago, I saw the smiling face of Devita Saraf, CEO of Vu Technologies, in full-page advertising jackets in leading dailies.
The 34-year-old’s decision to model for her own brand is rare in the corporate world, but more significant, I noticed, was the way Vu announced how their new smart TVs will come with a remote that has a Netflix button.
Now, Netflix,a global leader in video and movie streaming over the Internet, arrived in India just this month, and is expected to accelerate the demand for video-on-demand. The timing is just right. I had predicted a smart TV revolution about three years ago but had got my timing wrong. I have reasons to believe that I became a victim of an old saying: the pace of a new technology is always overestimated and its magnitude underestimated.
Smart TVs, with apps that connect to the Internet, are in themselves are not enough. There needs to be a mix of affordability, bandwidth, apps and services that make the whole experience complete for a large number of people for it to become a phenomenon.
Two decades ago, the then president of the software industry association, the late Dewang Mehta, was eagerly waiting for the days when a PC could be bought for R 10,000 (we speak of a simple desktop PC). He said at that price, a PC would cost about the same as the then price of an affordable colour TV, and a great number of people would buy them to dramatically increase the PC penetration.
Smart TVs may be in a similar stage now, given the increasing purchasing power. The entry-level price has dipped below R 20,000, and this coincides with the arrival of 4G telephony. Fibre-based affordable broadband is not widespread enough in India, and more affordable wireless broadband, both 3G and 4G, will make it for millions to access smart TVs.
Also, the early versions of smart TVs were not keyboard friendly and it was clunky to link a laptop to a TV screen. Now, you can simply watch YouTube videos by pairing the app with your mobile handset that becomes a remote for choosing the video you want to watch. Netflix and other video services also have smartphone apps.
The increased bundling of apps like Netflix as part of smart TVs would make it even more attractive from the content side for people to go for them. Also, consider the fact that increasingly, livestreaming of videos is possible on YouTube and even Facebook. So you can switch on your TV soon and watch the wedding of a friend or relative live from somewhere else on the planet right in your living room TV.
Prime time is fading. Prime views matter more.
The author tweets as @madversity