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posted by martyb on Tuesday January 22 2019, @05:57PM   Printer-friendly
from the you-can-still-be-the-product-even-if-you-pay-for-it dept.

Submitted via IRC for chromas

Taking the smarts out of smart TVs would make them more expensive

CES is always a show about the future of TVs, and this year is particularly interesting. Not only are 4K HDR TVs better and cheaper than ever, but the software side of things is opening up in unprecedented ways. Not only are Google Assistant and Alexa control everywhere, but Apple’s embracing the TV industry for the first time: Vizio and LG TVs will support AirPlay 2 and HomeKit, while Samsung TVs will get an iTunes Movies & TV app, as well as AirPlay 2 support.

I just hung out with Vizio CTO Bill Baxter on the Vergecast, and the conversation was wide-ranging and illuminating. Vizio just announced its 2019 lineup of 4K HDR TVs, and they’re as impressive as ever: there’s brighter, bolder colors from quantum-dot technology for the M- and P-series TVs, and the new flagship P-Series Quantum X line has 480 local dimming zones and a wild peak brightness of 2,900 nits. In terms of pure hardware, these are some of the best 4K HDR TVs I’ve seen yet.

[...] And we definitely talked about the pervasive ad tracking that all smart TVs do — especially after I noticed the new Vizio P-Series in my parents’ house seems to ping the network an awful lot. Baxter told me that he thinks Vizio is the industry leader in disclosing what tracking is happening and letting users opt in or out during setup, and that he’s fine if people choose to turn it off. But he was also clear that TV companies are in a cutthroat business, and that companies like Vizio would have to charge higher prices for hardware if they didn’t run content, advertising, and data businesses.

[...] I guess I have a philosophical question. You guys are committed to low price points and you often beat the industry at those price points. Can you hit those price points without the additional data collection that TV does if you don’t have an ad business or a data business on top of the TV?

So that’s a great question. Actually, we should have a beer and have a long, long chat about that.

So look, it’s not just about data collection. It’s about post-purchase monetization of the TV.

This is a cutthroat industry. It’s a 6-percent margin industry, right? I mean, you know it’s pretty ruthless. You could say it’s self-inflicted, or you could say there’s a greater strategy going on here, and there is. The greater strategy is I really don’t need to make money off of the TV. I need to cover my cost.

And then I need to make money off those TVs. They live in households for 6.9 years — the average lifetime of a Vizio TV is 6.9 years. You would probably be amazed at the number of people come up to me saying, “I love Vizio TVs, I have one” and it’s 11 years old. I’m like, “Dude, that’s not even full HD, that’s 720p.”

But they do last a long time and our strategy — you’ve seen this with all of our software upgrades including AirPlay 2 and HomeKit — is that we want to make things backward compatible to those TVs. So we’re continuing to invest in those older TVs to bring them up to feature level comparison with the new TVs when there’s no hardware limitation that would otherwise prevent that.

And the reason why we do that is there are ways to monetize that TV and data is one, but not only the only one. It’s sort of like a business of singles and doubles, it’s not home runs, right? You make a little money here, a little money there. You sell some movies, you sell some TV shows, you sell some ads, you know. It’s not really that different than The Verge website.


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  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by DannyB on Tuesday January 22 2019, @08:09PM (2 children)

    by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday January 22 2019, @08:09PM (#790262) Journal

    Make the Smart TV element be functionally separate from the TV Monitor element. This would enable consumers to come back and spend more money by upgrading the Smart TV part.

    Connect the Smart TV part and the TV Monitor part by some newly developed industry standard interface. This would allow Brand-X smart boxes to work on Brand-Y TV Monitors. In fact such a standard interface could be given a new name, like, oh, say, HDMI.

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    This Christmas season is the most likely to see Missile Tow instead of large artillery pieces being toed.
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  • (Score: 2) by maxwell demon on Wednesday January 23 2019, @05:48AM (1 child)

    by maxwell demon (1608) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday January 23 2019, @05:48AM (#790470) Journal

    Make the Smart TV element be functionally separate from the TV Monitor element.
    You mean, like a TV stick connected to a dumb TV?

    --
    The Tao of math: The numbers you can count are not the real numbers.
    • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Wednesday January 23 2019, @03:03PM

      by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday January 23 2019, @03:03PM (#790612) Journal

      Basically, yes. But it's got to look more technical than that. There must at least be a cable to the stick / box. And that whole arrangement must be under some kind of cover, box or flap that requires a screwdriver to open. That way this superior "smart" tv can be sold for cheaper, but you can still use it as a dumb tv, or use your own smart box as you see fit.

      --
      This Christmas season is the most likely to see Missile Tow instead of large artillery pieces being toed.