The emergence of Smart TVs has significantly altered the TV viewing landscape. Viewers can now interact with their TV sets like never before.
--BY ASHIM NEUPANE
The effectiveness and usability of technology designed for direct human use are directly correlated with our ability to interact with them. For a long time, interaction with our television sets took place through a remote controller, effective but limited. Now, with the proliferation of Smart TVs, the viewing experience is witnessing a new dawn. We can now interact with our TVs in a more organic manner. Smart TVs come equipped with integrated internet and Web 2.0 features, they represent the confluence of computing technology and traditional television sets. LG smart TVs, for instance, can be operated with a “magic motion remote”, which has a PC mouse-like cursor. Samsung has a line of smart TVs that respond to voice commands and hand gestures, which essentially eliminates the need for a remote.
Dhiraj Bariyait, a regular user of cable television, rarely watches any programmes on his TV these days. After purchasing a smart television a year ago, Bariyait, a resident of Baneshwor, shifts to traditional programming only to view live sports and some of his favourite shows.
Bariyait says he does not feel the desire to view regular programming, all of his favourite programs and movies are accessible on demand through Internet TV, YouTube and other websites. “After shifting from a box television to a smart television, my experience with the viewing medium has changed dramatically. I can play games, use applications and connect my television to the Internet. Not only me, even my mother watches her favourite programs through Internet TV,” Bariyait shared.
Consumers shifting to a smart TV have been going through a rather different experience, courtesy of technological advancements. Lately, the periodic inclusion of new features has further facilitated the sales of smart televisions and has contributed to the escalation in subscription figures of Internet protocol television (IPTV).
One sales manager at Nepa Hima Trade Link Pvt Ltd, the authorised distributor of Sony TVs in Nepal, also believes the addition of fresh features has helped strengthen the sales of the product and enhanced the television viewing experience of the customers. “The TV viewing experience of consumers has changed over the years, primarily because of increased Internet bandwidth and different applications like YouTube available on smart TVs,” the manager said, adding Sony's smart TVs accessible in Nepal cost between Rs 50,000 to Rs 650,000. According to Binay Bohra, managing director at Vianet Communication Pvt Ltd, the subscription of IPTV has increased considerably over the last two years, thanks to smart TVs. Vianet has been providing IPTV to the consumers for the last two years now. NetTV auto-records the programmes of selective television channels for a week so subscribers can watch their programmes of choice at any moment. Internet television providers offer only HD and Ultra HD quality channels to their subscribers; formats are not optimised for 2K and 4K TVs.
However, Niran Raju Bhandari, CEO at NetTV revealed the picture quality of NetTV supports high-end televisions. Three Internet service providers in Nepal – WorldLink Communications Pvt Ltd, Vianet Communications Pvt Ltd and Himalayan Online Services, distribute NetTV. The consumers are required to have an Internet connection to subscribe to IPTV as both the services are implemented through the same cable. He also said the number of Internet TV subscribers has increased after the government’s resolution to ban analogue cable television and convert to a digital television system.
Like Bariyait, Bimochan Shrestha of Matatirtha also feels smart TVs have altered the television viewing experience of his whole family. Shrestha thinks the popularity of smart televisions has intensified because of built-in applications and Internet connection. Smart TVs run with an operating system. Shrestha says volume from the TV used to disturb other members of the family earlier, but now, he can connect the television to a headset. “I connect my laptop with the television. It is easier to work on a big screen,” he said.
Shrestha’s brother resides in Australia and he communicates with his brother through Skype. He now connects the Skype calls with the television so all family members can talk with his brother on a bigger screen. According to Purushottam Bhandari, assistant general manager at CG Electronics, currently, the market for smart TVs is enormous in Nepal. “The consumers look for new features in the television. The sale of smart TVs is increasing because it allows the viewers to browse the Internet and also has a crystal clear picture quality,” Bhandari said. LG televisions also have an adaptive brightness technology, which means the brightness of the screen adapts according to the extent of light available in the particular room.
At a point when television channels offered by service providers are not supported by 4K TVs, the 4K TVs of LG have an up-scaling technology, which helps emit better pictures on the television. LG smart televisions are available in the market from Rs 45,000 to Rs 138,000. “A few years back there used to be only one television set in a house, but these days people prefer to instal a television set in every room, which is because of frequent addition of new features,” Bhandari said. CG is also planning to introduce new offers on the sale of smart televisions for the upcoming festive season.
Smart TVs equipped with 4K technology are widely prevalent in the market, considering their cost has reduced significantly compared to their launch prices. Although sales of 4K TVs are increasing every year, the figures are incongruent with the limited 4K content available today. Regular programming in 4K is still a while away; for now, the likes of Netflix and Amazon Prime rule the roost when it comes to providing native 4K content. Nevertheless, with 4K Smart TVs becoming increasingly affordable, the days of regular 4K programming is on the horizon.
Bhandari believes the future is smart television, and other televisions like UHD TVs will be available at affordable rates because of competition in the market.