Samsung announced this morning that it’s launching a contest in the U.S. to find innovative new apps for its connected TVs and Blu-ray players. Through the contest — which begins today — Samsung will give away $500,000 to developers who come up with the best new TV apps.
Samsung’s “Free the TV Challenge” will give away a $200,000 first prize, a $100,000 second prize, a $50,000 third prize, a $50,000 People’s Choice award for the most popular app based on user votes, and cash prizes to 10 runners up. All winners will also receive Samsung’s top-of-the-line LED 9000 HDV, and winning apps will be shown off as part of next year’s Consumer Electronics Show.
The launch of the contest comes as Samsung attempts to lead the connected TV space. The company already has 6.5 million connected devices available, and claims to own 60 percent market share for connected TVs and Blu-ray players. To spur interest in its devices, Samsung has pushed TV apps as a differentiating feature. Samsung currently has 80 apps available on its connected TV platform, and expects to have 200 apps available by the end of the year.
TV apps, while a nascent business today, are destined to become big business; according to a report by GigaOm Pro, apps distributed through set-top boxes and connected TVs will generate close to $1.9 billion by 2015. Samsung hopes to be at the forefront of that fast-growing business. In addition to doubling the number of apps available — and pushing developers to create even more — Samsung has opened up the ability to create premium apps that developers can sell through its connected devices. App revenues will be divided between developers and Samsung with the industry-standard 70/30 split.
In addition to the apps contest, Samsung announced that it’s bringing on an exclusive new app from ESPN, dubbed ESPN Next Level. The Next Level app will give Samsung customers exclusive access to ESPN content — but sorry, no live streaming. The app is the second exclusive app to launch on Samsung’s platform, following the launch of the Hulu Plus app, which Samsung will have exclusively until it launches on other connected TV platforms beginning early next year.
Finally, Samsung announced the ability to create 3-D apps for its 3DTVs. The 3-D capability could allow developers to create 3-D games or to enable viewers to watch trailers for upcoming 3-D films through their TV sets.
Developers who are interested can download the Samsung app SDK at www.freethetvchallenge.com. They have until November 11 to submit apps. Entries will be evaluated by a panel of judges from Samsung, Opus Capital, Sequoia Capital, Bessemer Venture Partners and Floodgate.
Related content on GigaOM Pro: TV Apps Market to Hit $1.9 Billion by 2015 (susbcription required)