To Widget TV or Not to Widget TV

Giff Constable media

tvwidget-fearChris Albrecht over at NewTeeVee, a blog I enjoy following, has a recent post up called “5 Apps I’d Like to See on My TV“.  Apparently a research group did a study where 76% of respondents were in favor of widgets.  You can color me a serious skeptic.

First of all, once you look past the early adopters, TV watching behavior is slow to change.  Let’s look at where we are with DVRs and online video.  In Q1 2009, Nielsen estimated the DVR viewership at only 79.5M, compared to 284.6M watching live TV.  In terms of time, 153 minutes were spent in a month watching live TV, 8 minutes were spent watching time-shifted TV, and 3 minutes were spent watching video on the net.  How about youngsters?  Nielsen’s recent teen study put teen TV viewing at 3 hours, 30 minutes per day (timeshifted TV at 8 minutes per day), and online video watching at 3 hours, 5 minutes per month.

It is worth noting that high definition TVs are making inroads with market share, even if household penetration remains about a third.  So that is a good sign for widget makers since greater screen real estate and, more importantly, higher resolution are prerequisites.  I still don’t think that mainstream audiences are going to want to clutter up their nice, expensive view with widgets — after all, there is no such thing as too big a TV screen.  Maybe, just maybe, audiences will create personlized “widget channels” with their weather, stock quotes, and latest feeds, but I don’t think you’ll see this stuff sitting side by side with TV content.

I am also a skeptic when it comes to avatarized social tv — for good reason, since I’ve been experimenting with this, and watching others do the same for 3+ years in virtual worlds.  Avatars can provide a lot of value for game play and other forms of entertainment, but not for sitting around watching YouTube videos.

So what am I not skeptical about?

I do believe that people increasingly want to socialize and play games around television, especially around certain types of television like reality shows, game shows, sports, and breaking news.  However, this will not be in 3D or with avatars.

There also do happen to be some excellent screens already commonly used while people watch television — screens that can be as cluttered as a viewer wants while they watch TV (although given split-attention we’re talking about, simple UI will rule).  Those screens are called their laptop, netbook and smartphone.