Smart TV growing slowly

Dan BrilotLead Director, Media
January 24, 2012, 11:00 AM UTC

Christmas fails to improve consumers’ connection with Smart TV as uptake remains low

Ownership of Smart TVs only increases by 1% from December to January

Smart TV ownership (a TV set able to be connected directly to the internet via Ethernet cable or Wi-Fi) is growing very slowly. A YouGov survey in November 2011 revealed that 1 in 10 people in the UK owned a Smart TV, but intention to purchase was very low ‒ only 15% of UK consumers said they would own one within the next 12 months.

Despite hopes from manufacturers and retailers, Christmas didn’t seem to provide a significant boost to take-up. Whilst other digital products saw a big upswing ‒1.33 Million e-book readers sold across Christmas and the January sales ‒ ownership of Smart TVs in the UK only increased by 1% from December to January. This tallies with the general trend from electronics retailers like Dixons, who revealed a drop in overall sales over Christmas.

So which device will win the battle when it comes to how people access Internet content through their TV? Will it be directly through a Smart TV or indirectly via a games console (such as the Xbox 360) or other ‘plug-in’ box such as Boxee or YouView (a new partnership between major broadcasters such as the BBC and Channel Four as well as BT)?

YouGov’s updated survey in January suggests games consoles. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given their suitability as gifts and their lower price point, the Nintendo Wii and other games consoles that can access TV content saw a big uplift in sales/ownership over this period. Wii ownership, for example, increased by 4%.

The modest increase in Smart TV ownership was mostly driven by males, at an increase of (3% over Christmas and January) and those aged 35-44 (also a 3% increase).

Most worryingly, for the Smart TV industry, there has been no practically no change (1%) in people’s intention to purchase one within the next 12 months - in contrast HDTV ownership seems much more the rage, with ownership increasing by 4% from 55%-59%. Despite continued advertising campaigns by manufacturers and retailers, and the ‘buzz’ in the general press around some of the news coming from the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas (such as the UK launch of Netflix) people still don’t seem to be hooked on the idea of accessing Internet content via their trusty television – yet.

However, some of the messaging does seem to be getting through as shown by a thawing in indifference towards Smart TV. Prior to Christmas, 16% of the UK population were unsure if they would make a Smart TV purchase in the next twelve months. This figure has now risen to 25%.

Furthermore, sales in 2012 could be stimulated by several key events such as the UK launches of Google TV and Netflix as well as major sporting occasions such as the European Football Championships and the Olympics. However, the challenge to the industry is now to make it clear to the general public the uniqueness and completeness of the Smart TV proposition.