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IT SEEMS old habits die hard. Despite being sold as the next must-have item for technology-savvy homes, the vast majority of ”smart” television sets remain unconnected to the internet.

And industry executives report that of the 1.5 million sets that are connected, a small percentage of people are actually surfing the internet for programs to watch.

Smart TVs are marketed as the gateway to the internet, where a wealth of programs is just waiting to be found. But the reality is few people have ventured forth.
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Telstra’s executive director of media, J. B Rousselot, said: ”A huge number of people have bought them because they are the latest TVs. A lot haven’t bothered to plug in the cable and for those who have, a lot of them haven’t discovered what they can do on it.”

Manufacturers such as Sony, Panasonic, Samsung and LG are banking on the sets to deliver a sales fillip after the market for flatscreen TVs plateaued.

Market leader Samsung, for example, has done deals with YouTube, ABC iview, film rental company Quickflix, Foxtel and Wiggle Time TV for them to appear as apps on its screens.

Smart TVs and set-top boxes such as Telstra’s T-Box are part of a new wave of operators attempting to woo the 75 per cent of the population that are not subscribers to Foxtel or Austar into paying for some TV services.

But Mr Rousselot said that even when presented with a choice of subscription channels, the viewing habits of his T-Box subscribers remain unchanged – they still watch the same free-to-air channels in much the same numbers as they did before they paid their $11 monthly subscription.

The editor of PricewaterhouseCoopers’s Entertainment and Media Outlook, Megan Brownlow, is not surprised.

”You have to think about the way in which we watch TV. Most of us work long hours and are tired at the end of a long day. When we watch TV, it is a slump back experience,” she said. ”Being in a lean forward position and being confronted with too much choice is probably too much for most people.”

Although connection figures for all TV sets are unavailable, Samsung disputed the figures, saying 60 per cent – roughly six times industry estimates – of the 600,000 sets it sold are connected and that in one month 150,000 clips were accessed from the internet and watched.


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