Smart TV or the smart living room isn’t a new topic. Chinese TV makers, such as Changhong and TCL, started developing software solutions and producing Smart TVs a couple of years ago. But until recently Chinese video content providers or other Internet companies got involved in TV set design and production. They’d develop custom software solutions (almost all are based on Android) and reached out to conventional TV manufacturers to have the latter produce TV sets with their solutions built in.
Their Smart TVs provide videos from their own platforms or third-party partners who own licenses for streaming online videos onto TV. They offer additional apps or Internet-enabled services — Alibaba even provides features like shopping and payments — TV makers otherwise cannot provide with. Before the TV, most of them had launched set-top boxes.
One thing they do differently from the conventional TV makers is they sell their TVs online.
LeTV is the first online video service that released a Smart TV, called Super TV — LeTV was also the first to launch set-top box in 2009. LeTV claims it sold more than 20 thousand pieces in July.
As it’s the first, the latecomers set prices much lower than that for LeTV. Also, so far LeTV is the only one that charges an annual fee, RMB490, for content consumption.
LeTV promised to share revenues from paid apps, in-app sales, advertising and app-related licensing fees with developers.
iQiyi said they’d not get involved in hardware production but solely work on software development. The TV set of iQiyi’s, TV+, was produced by TCL.
Xiaomi TV runs a custom version of MIUI, the Android-based operating system for Xiaomi smartphones. MIUI has become an ecosystem, with more than 20 million mobile users, where users access digital content and services. MIUI has started making revenues from paid services and advertising. It is expected the MIUI TV will work in this way as well.
Alibaba came up with a customized Android system, trying to have as many TV makers as possible to adopt it in their smart TVs. It was reported that many manufacturers were not willing to. Finally Alibaba had Skyworth as its first partner. Skyworth, however, doesn’t use the full version of Alibaba’s operating system but only integrated shopping and payments functions into its own system.
So far it’s hard to know whether those TVs will be well-received. Youku Tudou is reportedly working on an Internet TV. Jia Yueting, CEO of LeTV, once predicted that “traditional TV will be replaced by smart TV; the number of smart TVs will reach hundreds of millions before long; remote controls will be everywhere and multi-screens will be unified; large-screen TVs will soon be in average households’ living rooms; fiber will replace coax and apps will replace TV channels that cloud-based video platform will be ubiquitous; TV won’t be TV anymore but the computing center and the Internet platform for families; Internet-based service providers will be market leaders.”