It looks like Samsung is ramping up promotion for its Samsung Apps store for connected TVs, using the tag line "Now there's a TV for that," a play on Apple's well-known "There's an app for that" slogan. I noticed a full back-page ad in the current issue of the New Yorker (see below) and promotion will no doubt be turning up elsewhere as well.
Samsung announced "Samsung Apps" back at the January Consumer Electronics Show. With the store Samsung is aiming to have a central destination for owners of certain of its HDTVs, Blu-ray players and home theater systems to download free and paid apps that in turn work across multiple Samsung products, particularly mobile phones. The press release indicates that Samsung Apps uses an open platform that Samsung calls its "Internet@TV-Content Service." There's a video on the Samsung site that explains how this works. Something that's in the fine print of the ad is that owners will also need a Samsung "LinkStick," a $60 USB wireless adapter in order to get their device online (in other words for now there's no built-in WiFi just yet anyway).
In the ad there are 16 different apps showcased, from USA Today, Netflix, Dailymotion, Pandora, Twitter, Blockbuster and others. At the Samsung App site there's also a PDF that lists all the apps that are available for each of the company's different products that currently offer access. A key recent win was Hulu Plus's announcement to offer the service first on Samsung connected devices (in addition to the iPad and iPhone) at launch.
Samsung Apps builds on the "widget" model that Yahoo in particular has been promoting for several years now. CE companies like Samsung fully recognize that the TV is the next big thing for online video viewing and possibly for Internet use in general. Connected TV is a competitive imperative for these companies and we can expect to see plenty of promotion going forward (note Sony recently announced a partnership with Google TV).
In general I like the idea of Samsung and other CE companies making available downloadable apps as it follows nicely on the "app store" paradigm that's well established in the mobile world. However there are a few challenges I see.
First, there's going to be strong competition for control of the connected TV experience. This will come primarily from standalone set-tops like Roku, gaming consoles, boxee, Google TV, etc. as well as connected or "hybrid" pay-TV set-tops. Though Samsung and others will fight hard to control this experience, it's not clear that consumers see this as the TV maker's role.
Related to this, there's the issue of how many new HDTV buyers even continue to use the TV's remote control, which is critical to navigating to these apps. Many people quickly stow the TV's remote in favor of the pay-TV provider's remote or an all-in-one product like Harmony. This is a consumer behavior that Samsung and others will have to reverse.
Lastly there's a messaging challenge. Even as an industry insider, I found it somewhat confusing to understand how the Samsung App model works. No doubt this will become clearer over time, but getting buyers to think of their TV as more than, well, a TV, is going to take a lot of education, marketing dollars and retail support.
Still, as more TVs are inevitably connected - regardless of the method - the concept of online video viewing and Internet usage on TVs will become more widely known and valued. That will give Samsung and others a tailwind. All of these connected devices pose a new challenge to existing pay-TV providers; if more good stuff is available "over-the-top," then subscribers have many more opportunities to question the value of their multichannel subscription. I'm not suggesting a rash of cord-cutting is imminent, but by leveling the playing field for content and apps outside the traditional cable ecosystem, Samsung and others will be slowly resetting consumers' expectations. That suggests pay-TV providers themselves should be offering app stores, and not let third-parties get the upper hand in the connected era.
What do you think? Post a comment now (no sign-in required). Update - No sooner did I post this than I noticed a Mediaweek story today that Samsung is taking out a 6-page insert across 6 Conde Nast magazines for the next 8 months. No doubt Samsung Apps will be getting heavy attention in the campaign.
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