The Toyologist: Is my TV Smarter than me?

This week Peter Jenkinson looks at the evolution of telly and asks: could Smart TVs help reclaim kids lost to computers and touch-screen devices?
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For me the television revolution started in the first quarter of 1983.

It was the year both Breakfast Time and Good Morning Britain were born - I woke up eagerly to watch both for a few weeks before the novelty wore off. And anyway, the early starts made me too tired to consume the couple of hours of dedicated kids programming at the other end of the day.

Ah, the kids TV back then. If you’re lucky, you might get today’s generation to glance those programmes for a few minutes - usually they’ll do it to satisfy before squashing any romantic hopes that mum or dad might have of them uttering “Isn’t Bagpuss brilliant” by abruptly flicking back to SpongeBob Squarepants – or more likely, vacating the room to go and play with their computer.

Anyhow, the verb “Flick” is a misnomer today.

Now, you barely need to search for what you want to watch, and you certainly do not have to wait for a pre-defined time. It’s easy enough to go straight to a pre-recorded episode on a hard drive recorder (like Sky+) and today, thanks to internet enabled TV sets or ‘Smart TVs’ – kids can pop to YouTube and find a plethora shows to be watched at will.

Add streaming video on demand (VOD) services like Netflix and Lovefilm, iPlayer, 4oD and ITV anytime and Smart TVs seemingly have the ability to halt the disappearance of platform agnostic viewers. 

But although connected sets are forming an increasingly important percentage of sales they still can’t catch up with the popularity of multi-functional, touch screen, must-have tablets, smartphones and laptops that an ever younger audience has access to as mum/dad/siblings trade-up and pass yesterday’s hot device down the line – This is their content source of choice, highly personal and always available.

The arrival of a trio of Kids tablets will only increase smart device consumption of entertainment to an even younger audience and this could lead to a downturn in ad spend on the gogglebox. 

It’s the next generation of TV programming which might be able to truly bring families around the box.

Imagine an interactive game show with live on-air opportunities to compete against other families for prizes and bragging rights and some face time on the box. Each person uses their smart device to interact with the on-screen action and each other – not quite as romantic a notion as remembering TV of yesteryear - but it’s where we’re headed.

Peter Jenkinson is CEO of Toyology.tv and is sorry he wasted his money on a 3D set - its only good for watching tennis.

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