The future of TV, as on display at CES
Hello, and welcome to the second edition of our new Protocol | Entertainment newsletter, your guide to the business of the gaming and media industries. This Thursday, we are looking at the biggest TV trends coming out of CES, TikTok’s expansion into bars and restaurants and LG’s extremely conceptual CES booth.
Where the TV industry is headed
TVs are once again front and center at this week’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. TV makers like Hisense, LG and Samsung used the event to unveil their new lineup, and, just like every year: Everything is bigger! Brighter! Better!
However, beyond the breathless specs of the industry’s 2022 lineup, the announcements did offer some interesting clues about the future of television, the companies that are battling to be a part of it and the ways we will all consume it for years to come.
The platform wars are continuing. TV OS makers are the new gatekeepers, and a bunch of them used their CES news releases to brag about their growing presence in the world’s living rooms.
- Roku’s OS was once again the most popular smart TV platform in the U.S. in 2021, based on unit sales tracked by NPD.
- Amazon revealed that it has sold more than 150 million Fire TV devices worldwide. The company aims to grow that footprint with a major expansion in the automotive space.
- TCL, which is also a major Roku partner, is now selling more than 10 million TV sets based on Google’s Android TV and Google TV platforms per year.
- Proving that there’s still room for platforms that aren’t owned by Amazon, Google or Roku (or Samsung or LG, for that matter), Hisense surprised its press conference viewers by announcing that it expects its own VIDAA OS to have 100 million users this year.
TVs aren’t just for watching TV anymore — but TV makers have yet to figure out what else we might want to do with them.
- Gaming is a pretty good bet, which is why Samsung added a bunch of cloud gaming services to a dedicated gaming hub on its 2022 TVs.
- Video chat in the living room may be a thing one day, but so far, TV makers are still shying away from adding cameras directly to their sets. Sony will instead give buyers of its higher-end models a free Bravia-branded webcam that will also eventually support gesture controls — because that worked so well for the Xbox.
- Health and fitness is still a big topic, but building your own health services from scratch is challenging, which is why LG teamed up with Independa instead.
The future of over-the-air still isn’t quite here or there. Almost half of all U.S. households now have access to ATSC 3.0, aka NextGen TV, which promises free over-the-air 4K broadcasts. However, the topic was almost entirely absent from press releases put out by TV makers, showing that the new standard is still facing an uphill battle.
- TCL has yet to add NextGen TV support to its sets, with executives telling media during a briefing ahead of the show that the company was still in a wait-and-see mode.
- Hisense was one of the few TV makers to tout NextGen TV support, giving the standard a shout-out during its CES press conference.
- DVR maker Tablo announced a first model with ATSC 3.0 support at CES, but the device comes with a lot of caveats: no whole-home DVR support, no out-of-home streaming and no word on what might happen if and when broadcasters start to use DRM for their feeds.
8K is coming, for real this time. TV makers have been touting 8K video as the next big thing for a while now, and also introduced a number of 8K sets at the show. Getting content for those ultra-high-def sets remains challenging, but this may be changing.
- The 8K Association announced Amazon Prime Video as one of its newest members. Prime Video is the first major streaming service to join the industry group, paving the way for Amazon to eventually support 8K streaming.
Weird stuff is good, actually. TV makers tend to show a bunch of weird concepts and niche products at CES that never really become commercial success stories. Except, sometimes, they actually do.
- When Samsung first introduced its Frame lifestyle TV in 2017, it seemed like one more of those proof-of-concept products designed to make the company look innovative.
- Five years later, Samsung has sold over 2 million units of the Frame — enough for the company to double down with a new anti-reflective coating.
- And Samsung isn’t done with weird and interesting ideas: This week, the company introduced a new portable projector that doubles as a mood lamp.
— Janko Roettgers
TikTok is venturing further beyond the small screen: More than 18,000 restaurants, bars, gyms and other commercial venues will soon be able to play a curated stream of TikToks on their TV sets. Some of the venues you might see TikToks in include Texas Roadhouse and Taco Bell.
TikTok previously launched apps for various smart TVs, and Head of Global Business Development, New Screens Dan Page told Protocol that these types of initiatives were a good way to broaden TikTok’s reach. “We're showcasing the creativity of our community among new audiences that might not understand what the TikTok experience looks like, or the diversity of content our platform has to offer,” he said
TikTok’s out-of-home distribution is being powered by Atmosphere, a startup focused on streaming video to commercial venues that claims to reach an audience of more than 20 million people a month. Spun out of the Chive Media Group in 2019, Atmosphere coincidentally just raised $100 million in funding this week.
A MESSAGE FROM SAP
As businesses grow during the pandemic, they also encounter pressing challenges to maintain that success. Among them is the pressure to strengthen their digital backbone, which leads to the question: How can companies find the ideal technology provider suited to their evolving needs?
In other news
Sony’s new VR headset has a familiar name. The next iteration of PlayStation VR is called … PlayStation VR2. Sony revealed the new, not-so-surprising name at CES 2022, though with no confirmation of release date or pricing.
Amazon plans to bring its Sidewalk IoT network everywhere. Amazon’s latest device is a commercial bridge to bring Sidewalk to campuses, parks and warehouse districts.
Ubisoft joins forces with Microsoft on subscriptions. Ubisoft’s subscription service, Ubisoft+, will expand from PC to Xbox devices some time in the future, giving Microsoft yet another subscription platform to serve gaming customers alongside Xbox Game Pass and EA Play.
Popcorn Time, the Netflix for pirates, shuts down. And it didn’t even take a movie industry lawsuit: With legal streaming everywhere, interest in Popcorn Time has been so low that its makers are throwing in the towel.
Call of Duty's publisher takes aim at cheaters. Activision this week filed a lawsuit against EngineOwning, a seller of auto-aim hacks and other software, Gamesindustry.biz reported. Game developers have increasingly turned to the courts in the constant whack-a-mole fight against cheaters that tarnish the integrity of online games.
AR contact lens maker Mojo Vision raises another $45 million. The startup has struck deals with a bunch of sports brands to commercialize its technology.
Tell us how you really feel, LG
Love it or hate it: Even before the pandemic, CES used to be a very polarizing event. Some people hated going and tried to avoid it at all costs, while others always got a kick out of it. COVID and the omicron surge only intensified those notions: Many of us didn’t go but really missed it, while others happily took a break from the inconveniently scheduled spectacle.
Thoughts, questions, tips? Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Enjoy your day, see you tomorrow!