Connected TVs Offer Appetizing Distribution Platform

So much of the magnificence of the Web is rooted in content democracy, where anyone can become a global publisher. No walls or mazes.

Not long ago, video creators looking for wide distribution on TV sets had few options beyond going door to door begging cable companies for what’s known as a hunting license. Then, after capturing one, going door to door again, begging for a spot on the dial in market after market.

Now, however, there is another emerging option. It doesn’t quite harbor the democracy of the Web, but the de facto lawmakers might not be as hard to lobby as a Comcast or Time Warner Cable. Smart and connected TVs and other over-the-top options offer a chance to cut a deal with a Yahoo, Roku or Samsung and launch a content portal via an app or widget.

Take iFood.tv, a five-year-old venture from former Microsoft executive Alok Ranjan and start-up veteran Vikrant Mathur. It started as a Web site with a load of food and recipe-related videos.

Since January, it’s found its way onto TVs via Roku and Boxee; Google TV and Yahoo Connected TV; and on Samsung’s Smart Hub. Viewers may not be accessing its offerings as much as Netflix or Hulu, but it’s got an entry point.

“We are putting a big bet that the food and recipe kind of content is very suitable,” said Ranjan, an engineer with an MBA.

IFood.tv has plenty of content with 35,000 videos available for on-demand viewing, collected from professional chefs, TV shows, cookbook authors and others. The company also says it has advantages with a recommendation engine based on personal taste, along with easy navigation and search technology.

Last month, the Silicon Valley company brought a trio of “channels” -- focusing on Indian food, healthy food and vegetarian options -- to various connected TV portals such as Google TV. It is also taking advantage of Apple TV -- the Indian food channel can be downloaded as a free iPhone app and then streamed through the platform.

With its legacy online business, even without the cachet of a Food Network or Epicurious, iFood.tv had about 3 million U.S. visitors in April, according to Quantcast data (down 8% from the year before).

The growth of smartphones and tablets should prove a benefit as users look to access recipes in the kitchen. Large-screen connected TVs, however, probably have a limited presence there. 

Co-founder Ranjan says, though, that “five, 10 years from now almost all the TVs will be connected.”

Seems like a reasonable assumption, both considering consumer behavior and manufacturers’ interest in getting into the software business. IMS Research forecasts about 70% of total global TV shipments in 2016 will be Internet-connected. In 2011, the figure was 25%.

“Internet connectivity is becoming a standard on high-end TV sets, and it’s increasingly being added to mid-end televisions,” Veronica Thayer, a market analyst at IMS Research, said in a statement.

For now, iFood.tv and other companies launching video-on-demand “channels” via connected TVs already have pretty strong potential reach. The Leichtman Research Group says 38% of U.S. homes have at least one Internet-connected set via a gaming system, Blu-ray player, Apple TV, Roku device or functionality built into the TV set directly.

IFood.tv has attracted a bucket of advertisers that include Kraft, L’Oreal and American Express. It is running a campaign now for the Brioni’s coffee brand with an eco-friendly message, which includes a healthy living micro-site and some sponsored video.

“We try to engage the users with the message in the context of what the users are already doing,” said co-founder Mathur, also an engineer with an MBA.

He's hoping that a growing connected-TV universe and over-the-top movement, and ubiquitous iFood.tv distribution across it, will attract a bevy of hungry advertisers. That’s an appetizing opportunity for other independent video developers, too.

Tags: television
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4 comments about "Connected TVs Offer Appetizing Distribution Platform".
  1. Tulika Tiwary from Duke , May 3, 2012 at 4:29 p.m.
    I have a Roku with 10 food channels by iFood.tv and I am totally hooked to it. Some of the great recipes I found on iFood.tv and tried include Low Calorie Guacamole, Quinoa with Raisin and Banana Bread. I have a open kitchen connected to the Family room and it is easy to start, stop and rewind the iFood.tv food shows and cook along with it. Most of the shows have homely feel with practical, easy to follow instructions. I agree that Connected TV is the future.
  2. bill king from health N life , May 4, 2012 at 1:06 a.m.
    Since the time i have moved to UK, ifood.tv u have been the instrument for me making my own food. I was able to impress my partner with a romantic dinner last month all thanks to you. Iptc sure is the next in thing and you guys are gonna rock there :)
  3. Virginia D'Cruz from MHRD , May 4, 2012 at 1:11 a.m.
    ifood.tv on TV, that is great news because it will now allow me to work in my kitchen while watching all the wonderful videos on the website. I have learned to be comfortable with cooking with ifood.tv on my side. Too good that it is now venturing into Television too.
  4. kornika ganguly from content , May 6, 2012 at 10:12 a.m.
    Getting to learn about food from all over the world and watching how the experts cook is an experience that can only be termed as 'óut of this world'. Thanks for giving us this great opportunity ifood.