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Are Consumer Electronics Makers the New Content Gatekeepers?

The new push by television set makers to introduce Internet-connected models this year could turn consumer electronics manufacturers into gatekeepers for content.

Internet-connected sets from Sony (s sne), LG and Samsung were among the most buzzworthy products showcased at the recent Consumer Electronics Show. They’ll come to market later this year with Crackle,, the Minisode Network, YouTube, Flickr and other web services embedded into them, heralding a long-awaited step in the march toward web-to-TV convergence.

Their expanding role also raises the question of whether they might become gatekeepers for web content, much as cable and satellite operators have for decades determined which networks make the cut. Many consumer electronics makers will now also play a role in separating the wheat from the chaff by striking deals with some Internet sites and passing on others. They’ll also determine the placement for such services on the TV sets. This development can benefit content creators and consumers, because Internet-enabled TVs now represent a new distribution source for programs.

Most TV set makers declined to comment on their potential new role as gatekeepers.

Yahoo’s (s yhoo) program to develop widgets for TV sets is open to anyone, pointed out Roger Urrabazo, product manager for the Yahoo Widget program. As part of the program, Yahoo’s consumer electronics partners have agreed to allow their consumers access to any widget in the Yahoo widget gallery, said Lucas Mast, a spokesperson for the company. That means widgets from YouTube, MySpace, Showtime, CBS (s cbs) and others are available on sets from Samsung, Sony, LG Electronics, VIZIO and Toshiba, Mast said.

However, Will Richmond, an analyst with VideoNuze, says the best placement on a TV set menu is likely to be awarded to the strongest brands, like Netflix (s nflx), Amazon (s amzn) or YouTube. “These are known consumer brands, and they all have some degree of pull through the retailer,” he said.

Still, consumer electronics makers are more eager to welcome new services to the set rather than block them, Richmond said. “They are just concentrating on selling sets. The economy is hammering these guys, and they need to focus on that.”

More Internet services could be what help them move more units.

12 Responses to “Are Consumer Electronics Makers the New Content Gatekeepers?”

  1. I worry anytime I see consumer electronics hardware manufacturers embed software services into their systems. This is just another way of expediting obsolescence.

    Anyone out there old enough to remember VCR+?

  2. I don;t think i agree to the where part. Networks will be around, the content may be in various areas, but to create high numbers for ad sales possibilities, there will be exclusives. This will either be on first run, or on demand with special sponsor ship (limited ads by).

    Time shifted media is here, and with the DVR and tons of website, we have greater control of watching content. But big programs that air at a specific time will pull large numbers and preset ad sales with a great opportunity to sale ad space. Then with the content available in other areas, whether a paid download or ad supported UI, thats revenue over the long term for that clip.

  3. In the next 10 years it wont matter what device you are looking at – you will be connected to the web.

    When TV’s have full functioning browsers it will be the end of the Networks control over who will see what, where and when.

    And that is a good thing.

  4. I think this is a great programming opportunity for TV manufacturers. Connected TVs will undoubtedly open up a wealth of content to lean-back viewers as more Internet services are embraced. With so much content available, there is still the question of what to watch. Just as music labels hope for featured placement on iTunes, and video producers hope for featured placement on YouTube, the TV manufacturers can now play a programming role through their choice of UI. Featured placements can either be editorial selections and/or paid placements, potentially opening up new revenue streams for manufacturers. Don’t be surprised to see programming and ad sales execs working for manufacturers in the next few years.


  5. I love the idea of these widgets, but tthey will need to be more integrated into what i’m watching for me to actually want to use them. I have the Samsung 750, which has the original onscreen widgets/rss feeds. Personally thy were useless to me.

    1.I need to use the TV remote to activate them, thats a problem
    2.I can not add my own RSS feed
    3. This should have been wireless from the start, although my router is within 6 ft of my entertainment center.

    These new widgets are feature rich, but if say the NFL had widgets i could use to enhance my experience of the game, exclusive game angle views, stats, weather condition updates on the field, injury reports… there are a number of things that can be done.

    The areas of concern is the intrusive aspect, similar to the way friend alerts pop up during an XBOX 360 experience. Useful, yet at times annoying, so these widgets will need some serious restriction, and opt in options. Similar to why I’m not a big fan of the news, the gatekeeper aspect should not be used to serve data.

    The next area of concern is the presentation of ads, it;s going to happen, but I just hope it;s not in the same way that this occurs with online video. Disabling an experience to present an ad is not the best approach. Nor is popping ads over the content a great experience. But, i highly doubt there is a way around this, hopefully more creative ideas will be created, and hopefully not like the lower 3rds on TV.

  6. I have been arguing this point for years. Ie the TV will be an extension of what we expect on the Internet. An open and wall-less expanse where producers will be able to go direct to consumers.
    Ie, anyone can make a widget that represents a producer. For example, imagine a Pixelcorps icon. a Twit network icon.
    Imagine a Stargate icon direct from the producers who make stargate and spend money doing it. Etc.

    This is inevitable. And a realistic future of TV is very similar to the street performer doing a dance and passing a hat around for money.. and possibly wearing a logo on his clothes. (Advertising pre-roll, product placement etc.)

    Microsoft (Media Room, Xbox), Cable networks.. Spending billions a year trying to stop a dame (Of Gate, which they are the keeper of) falling apart with bigger and bigger fingers. Its getting painful to watch, and I simply wish we can get on with this painful growing/evolving experience.


  7. Hi Daisy – good to see you writing on NTV! I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately… even Yahoo Connected TV goes through an approval process, much like the Apple store with even less definition on what will or won’t be accepted (we have applied, and not heard back yet).

    The real question is: are the TV manufacturers seeing this as a way to expand revenue sources via services and rev share on advertising? Maybe each TV Manufacturer becomes an Ad Network? Or does a Search deal with Google in a TV “toolbar”, ala Firefox/Google? No one knows yet, but it sure makes it an exciting area to be involved in!

    We will see…. let’s hope they keep it an open ecosystem. One thing we do know: consumers want choice and power over their experience.