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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: 2) by bobthecimmerian on Tuesday January 22 2019, @08:46PM (3 children)

    by bobthecimmerian (6834) on Tuesday January 22 2019, @08:46PM (#790281)

    I have an antenna instead of paid television service, but I have a Tivo for the schedule and the convenient DVR features. So they can still screw me. I prefer to buy media and rip it, so I can stream to my Kodi box. But I still watch some regular TV.

    For your antenna, do you have something else set up for scheduling?

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  • (Score: 2) by RS3 on Tuesday January 22 2019, @11:17PM (2 children)

    by RS3 (6367) on Tuesday January 22 2019, @11:17PM (#790354)

    Scheduling? You mean Zap2It and my remote? Oh, you mean recording? Good old fashioned VCR. It ain't broke, so... I'm an EE, it should all add up... (you know, crazy practical.) Oh, I'll even divulge that inspite of owning more than one 48" flat-screen TV, I mostly watch on a 14" CRT. You flat-screeners are missing out on therapeutic X-rays you know. Oh, sure, I miss the fine print and I can't count people's nose hairs, but then real-life is so much more real. :)

    And frankly, I don't watch much TV, like really zoned in focused on it. And I almost always find a clip on youtube of something I missed, so I've never bothered to set up one of my many fine NTSC video capture thingies. And I have use of a VHS -> DVD dubbing deck and it does pretty much as good a job as you can do from VHS. And that's about as much as I care about the whole thing, but it's interesting to observe all the fray over cable TV costs, Netflix, etc.

    • (Score: 2) by bobthecimmerian on Wednesday January 23 2019, @02:34PM (1 child)

      by bobthecimmerian (6834) on Wednesday January 23 2019, @02:34PM (#790601)

      I watch too much television, good for you for finding other ways to spend your time. I wasn't aware of Zap2It, I'll check that out before my next Tivo service renewal.

      I grew up watching and recording shows on DVR, but I've become fond of Blu-Ray/full HD video quality and I can't imagine going back. I have Shawshank Redemption, The Running Man, and a few other old films converted from VCR to digital and the picture quality bugs me.

      If you ever want to do something fancier with recording but without giving a corporation data to sell, there's always MythTV. Our experience with Tivo has been decent - minus all the privacy violations - but I'd rather do something fully open source.

      • (Score: 2) by RS3 on Wednesday January 23 2019, @03:27PM

        by RS3 (6367) on Wednesday January 23 2019, @03:27PM (#790627)

        Well, in general I have some significant hobbies / interests / projects / goals and entertainment isn't helping them along. :0

        Yeah, MythTV is great but you have to get the video into the computer, which will require an investment in some kind of hardware, although I admit it's gotten very inexpensive. Nice ASTC -> USB tuners are cheap and you're inspiring me to think about it, but I need a big hard disk to go with it. And I don't generally leave computers turned on 24/7. As I mentioned, my VCRs are Good Enough for me. :)

        Right now my resolution is limited to 480. I'm using the free "digital" (ASTC) tuners you got with govt. vouchers when they went to ASTC, and by definition (punny!) they were limited to 480. You can buy better ones, but right now $ and interest are limited. Most of my flat-screen TVs have built-in ASTC tuners, so they'll receive whatever is being broadcast: 1080p in many cases, I don't know.

        Since I grew up with analog TV, and never really very good TVs except some Sonys I had back in the day, high def. isn't really in my blood. I was at a high-end tech. store a few weeks ago and some of the TVs (brands I've never heard of) had mind-numbing picture quality. I remember one being an LG with curved screen. It was amazing, but too visually immersive for me, and I very rarely watch movies. Too much time invested for big disappointment. I do have 2001 A Space Odyssey on DVD.

        Thanks again for all of your encouragement.