Do People Want to Talk to Their T.V.?

May 28, 2007

I’d previously written that entrepreneurs need to understand the digital past before they set out to create the digital future.  If you’re going to pour your blood, sweat, and tears into your great idea, find out if someone before you already tried it and why it failed.

A great example is interactive television. As I noted before, ‘iTV’ isn’t a new idea – it was thought up in the early 90s by internet pioneer Jim Clark, blew threw a billion dollars, and never launched because people didn’t want to interact with their television.

When developing any new idea or product it’s crucial to understand the behavior of your target consumer. What do people want from their television viewing experience? Most people I know come home from a hard day, plop themself in front of their T.V., turn off their brain, and watch their favorite shows before heading to bed. I don’t know many people that want to work at watching T.V.

Digital video recording enhances my viewing experience. It lets me watch what I want when I want. I see the value. Would I pay an increased monthly charge to be able to answer polls, vote, or order a pizza through my T.V.? Nope. These services don’t add any value to what I use my T.V. for – watching.

Today, AT&T is spending billions on U-Verse (as are other telecoms and cable co.’s), CNN and other major channels offer interactive channels, and both start-ups and giants are pouring money into helping people talk to their T.V.  This includes billions to allow the up stream data flow to support interaction. The bet is that people will treat their T.V. as their gateway to the digital world. Anything we can do on the web we’ll be able to do by clicking at our television.  Cool, but there is a difference between T.V. and the Web. People watch in groups but they surf alone.

I do think there can be some great new innovations in television (like predictive technology and searching) but before any targeted efforts can work the behavior of people – how, why, and with who they watch T.V. – needs to factored in.

For now, I’ll call in my pizza order. It’s free to use the phone and it won’t recommend my wife’s favorite.