Flingo, Accedo Broadband, and Others Cram New Tricks into Smart TVs:
Television Wants to Be Your Best Friend Again

Xconomy New York — 

Between the digital content being squeezed into televisions and the perpetual stream of new hardware, sitting down to watch a show is far from simple these days. Companies such as Flingo in San Francisco and Stockholm-based Accedo Broadband, which got a foothold in Brooklyn last fall, develop apps and platforms designed to enhance TV viewing. More and more action is happening in TV land thanks to a glut of sometimes confusing software, more content getting pushed to mobile devices alongside televisions, and the introduction of funky new controls to increase audience interactivity.

New technology is nice but are televisions trying too hard to behave like other types of gadgets?

Xconomy caught up with Flingo’s CEO and co-founder Ashwin Navin at last week’s International CES where he chatted about his company’s latest technology changes and what he expects to see this year on the television frontier. Flingo developed SyncApps, which pulls up content on televisions and mobile devices that is relevant to shows and movies being watched. The company’s technology also lets viewers engage in conversations, on social networks, about what they are watching.

Flingo's Ashwin Navin says its time to get serious about business models for interactive television.

Navin says though the market for interactive television is thriving, some players may run out of steam in 2013. “This year the story’s going to be about how the pure second-screen companies are going to fold,” he says. Navin did not name names but pointed the finger at businesses that do not marry interactive content on tablets and smartphones, the proverbial second screens, directly to televisions. “These two have to work in concert with each other,” he says.

Another trend that gives him pause is the push to make televisions function more like computers with, he says, too much happening for their own good. Navin says a streamlined interface on television can be the bridge that connects viewers to additional functions controlled through a second screen-device such as a tablet or smartphone. “If you want to personalize your tweets [about a show] and get recommendations—bring it out to the second screen,” he says.

Navin cautions that some technology that gets stuffed into TVs runs the risk of being overlooked by viewers. “It’s no secret that the smart TV hasn’t really inspired the user the way the smartphone has,” he says. “A lot of people spent money on smart TVs the last couple of years but they aren’t really using the smart features.”

Flingo tries to avoid such underuse by keeping things simple. At CES, Navin demoed his company’s new Samba platform, which recommends related videos from the Web and shows similar to what the viewer watches on television. Designed for use with second-screen devices, Samba lets users check in with social media, take polls based on the shows being watched, and look up information on the cast and crew.

Even as he touted his company’s technology, Navin said that innovators in the television market need to remain grounded. “2013 is the year we all have to get real from a business model perspective,” he says. Over the years, various content providers, television makers, and app developers have tried to foist e-commerce ideas onto television, such as selling apparel that actors wear during shows, but Navin does not see that catching on. “Advertising is what keeps [the industry] going,” he says.

Looking to cut down some of the growing confusion happening inside televisions, Accedo Broadband talked up at CES its new TV Everywhere software, which media
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