New year message: Apple, Samsung and Sony will battle in your living room

Multimedia living room market is expected to cross $1 trillion by 2017

Your multimedia living room in Dubai is now part of the Dh2.8 trillion ($780 billion) global market – and tech titans are fighting it out for supremacy in the heart of your house.

‘Since when did my living room become so important?’, you’re entitled to ask. Well, since yesterday. 2013 will be the year of the multimedia living room (yes, it will be) and the war for dominating your living room is being waged in the right earnest.

Are you ready to let them in?

Tell you what, they’re already in – and are playing games worth hundreds of billions right from your home. Globally, the digital living room market – including the connected device market – is expected to cross $1 trillion by 2017 – and you are a part of it.

Unless, of course, you don’t own a TV set, a gaming console, a home theatre system, a Blu-ray player, a laptop, a PC, a tablet, or a smartphone – any one of them.

According to IDC, worldwide smart connected device market – a collective view of PCs, tablets, and smartphones – is expected to have reached 362 million units shipped in the final quarter of 2012, with a market value of $169.2 billion.

The total smart connected device market in 2012 is estimated to have been well over $600 billion.

Looking forward, IDC expects the worldwide smart connected device space will continue to surge, and predicts shipments to surpass 2.1 billion units in 2016 with a market value of $796.7 billion worldwide – let’s take a ballpark figure of $800 billion to avoid decimals and the likes.

Add to that a new report from Markets & Markets, which estimates that the total ‘digital’ living room market – including specific devices such as TV systems, gaming consoles, home theater systems, and Blu-ray players – is expected to cross $200 billion by 2018. Currently, the market value is approximately $180 billion.

The worth of the digitally connected living room, therefore, will be $1 trillion (Dh3.67 trillion) within the next four to five years – and every device-maker and his mother-in-law wants a bigger slice of that market.

So, yes, the digital living room is indeed the final frontier for the Apples, Samsungs and Sonys of the world.

But who watches TV in your living room?

Before you dismiss this question as a rhetorical one – who doesn’t, right? – you should know that there are forces out their battling it right now to dominate your living room in 2013.

Your answer to that question, rhetorical as it may sound, will determine who wins the battle and perhaps the overall war for digital domination.

It isn’t just TV – the television screen is no longer the only screen in our living rooms – laptops, smartphones and tablets have invaded the living room and are vying for your attention all the time.

Today’s living room may be digitally-connected like never before, but if you were to know what’s coming in 2013, well, you’ve seen nothing yet.

The death of the TV at the hands of the broadband was once predicted – well, that didn’t happen. Instead, the humble TV has in fact adapted to embrace the Internet and is thriving in its new, digitally connected avatar.

Among Bain & Co.’s five megatrends for 2013 are: Abundance (consumers want access to an ‘infinite shelf’ of content), Personalisation (consumers are increasingly segmented by their interests), Aggregation (fragmented audiences converge toward powerful digital platforms), Community (social networks are becoming key to content choices), and Engagement (consumers are actively involved in content discovery and curation).
 
The battle for the living room, therefore, no longer consists of competing devices aimed at replacing the TV screen. The biggest challenge TV publishers and advertisers now face is to unite these screens – the laptops, smartphones, tablets and, of course, the televisions – into a complementary experience.

Even a digital joker will tell you that smartphone ownership is on the rise (and so is tablet ownership), but despite the increase in smart device ownership, Internet-connected devices are not replacing the TV screen.

In fact, the television remains the primary screen for video viewing, and it is safe to now assume that smartphone or tablet owners are not dumping their televisions for their small-screen addictions. On the contrary, the role of the TV screen is changing.

TV watching is no longer limited to ‘push’ services – basically watching what’s on Telly – but with the advent of smart TVs and a little help from second-screen technology (integrated smartphones, tablets etc.), the living room has been converted into a multi-device ecosystem that helps you ‘pull’ content.

The ‘pull’ of course refers to content such as that on YouTube (videos etc.), making Skype video calls, browsing the worldwide web and searching for real-time news complete with keywords et al.

So what’s so challenging for the advertisers – more devices means more eyeballs, right? This would mean that the playing field is getting bigger and advertisers can have a field day with ads specifically targeted at the right audience.
That, at least, is the theory. In practice, it is nowhere as simple.

To begin with, content publishers (including TV channels) and advertisers must understand the impact of simultaneous device usage while watching TV.

Simultaneous usage is the concurrent use of two or more devices while watching television. It can be multi-tasking (checking email on the laptop while watching Django Unchained on TV) or complementary usage (analyzing a live stream of in-game statistics on a tablet while watching the live broadcast of India vs. Pakistan ODI on TV).

While multi-tasking would tend to distract your attention from what’s on TV, complementary usage will tend to enhance it – and therein lies the marketers’ dilemma. How do they differentiate between the two – in real-time and how do they leverage this piece of information?

Complex question, simple answer – by adding interactivity. In terms of consumer appetite for innovative TV experiences, 54 per cent of respondents to a Bain & Co survey said they would be interested in interacting with a TV programme, such as providing views, voting, participating in quizzes, etc. That’s a huge number.

“Digital platforms not only increase the depth of content available to consumers, but also stimulate interest in new experiences,” says Laurent Colombani, Bain partner and co-author of a new report titled ‘Creating Value in the Digital Age.’

“While satisfying this appetite present is a daunting challenge for content producers, it presents major opportunities for traditional publishers and digital platforms to become the curators of the digital chaos.”

How? Well, that’s a whole new article – but for now, let’s enjoy the fact that 2013 will ensure that our living room will gain more prominence among the global content and technology firms’ business plans. Better change that sofa-cover – who knows who will be visiting your living room this weekend!

(Home page image courtesy Shutterstock)

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