EXCLUSIVE: Samsung's Internet@TV could become serious rival to Pay TV operators

This year has been a doozy for new display technologies, with headline acts Freeview HD and 3D TV getting their fair share of the limelight. Indeed, 3D is still a buzzword that bristles with electrical charge every time it's mentioned in print, online or on TV. Although there's little content at present to justify its billing, it seems it's all anyone, manufacturers included, wants to talk about.

However, there's a third technology lurking in the bowels of modern LCD, LED and plasma screens that has had far less attention, yet is possibly equally, if not more, exciting. It's also available right now, and is bursting with content. It's connected TV, and it's about to be talked about a lot.

While all the major, and some minor, TV manufacturers have their net services, Samsung is about to put a lot of energy and focus behind its own. Internet@TV, which features the telly version of the company's Samsung Apps, is hardly new, but only now has it matured enough to be more than a mere gimmick. In fact, with the launch of the BBC iPlayer app in July, and the Lovefilm portal that preceded it, it's far more.

And the best is yet to come, so says Samsung UK's content manager, Darren Petersen, during an exclusive one-to-one chat with Pocket-lint: "We are talking to all major content providers in the UK - all broadcasters - pretty much everyone you can imagine we’re engaged with, and we’re at different stages with each. Some are further on [in discussions] than others. And there might be some other brands that you’re not aware of that are interested in bringing services to the platform".

Basically, that means ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5 and others are all in discussions to follow the BBC's lead. And that could even involve high definition programming.

Unlike with a majority of its hardware partners, The BBC offers HD shows through its Internet@TV version of iPlayer, and isn't worried about the average broadband speed of the UK. During the demonstration, Pocket-lint was shown that the Internet connection at the venue was less than 1Mbps - less than 1-Meg broadband - yet a HD version of Sherlock was up on screen in less than 5 seconds, and playing smoothly.

"The power of the TV helps to balance out, maybe, slow speeds", says Petersen. "The TV will do its best to help play the content and stop buffering [problems].

"The technology we're using on the connected platform has been well-received by content providers. The BBC, example, has really high standards. It wouldn't launch anything unless it is absolutely spot on, especially with the other plans in this area, that it's heading towards. It wouldn't do anything unless it's, you know, top drawer".

So that's Project Canvas as well then, and although Darren didn't say as much, it wouldn't come as a surprise if Samsung was one of the manufacturing partners courting a tie-in.

Nonetheless, with the amount of content already available on the platform (over 2000 films on demand via Lovefilm/all of iPlayer's HD and SD programmes), and the promise of more broadcasters to join forces soon, Project Canvas aside, Samsung's Internet@TV service could soon be a valid rival to Virgin Media, Sky and BT.

And, with the service also being available in the company's newer Blu-ray players, it's already part of the set-top-box market too.

How about you? Would you consider sticking to free VOD services, such as Internet@TV, or does Pay TV offer so much more of what you want? Let us know in the comments below...



>