Tech on Deck: The Digital Distribution Dilemma

Only 8 percent of consumers have devices that connect their computers and TVs.

ByABC News
October 3, 2007, 4:48 PM

Oct. 4, 2007 — -- Have you ever received a gift for which you really had no use? According to "Connected Home Theater" a recent NPD report that looked at awareness of, interest in and usage of consumer electronics devices that can access digital content from a PC or broadband connection that's been the case for millions of Americans.

The "gift" has been the ability to access content, such as music, photos and video on a PC, via the big-screen television in the main entertainment center. Products with this capability include the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Apple TV and many TiVo video recorders. Only 8 percent of U.S. consumers say that they have such a device, but fewer than half of even those consumers use the PC content-sharing features.

That's sobering news for companies such as Microsoft, which recently introduced a new platform for what it calls Media Center Extenders products that can bring the Windows Media Center user interface to devices such as DVD players and televisions. But, in order to determine why consumers aren't interested in such products, it helps to look at what they are using them for today.

More than half of consumers who own such products said that they listened to PC-based music or looked at PC-based photos on the TV in their main entertainment area, using these products.

However, the leading type of media enjoyed was video, including personal content, such as video shot with a camcorder, and commercial video downloaded from online stores, such as iTunes and CinemaNow.

PCs often have a lot of music and photos on them, but rarely do many TV shows and movies have the kind of content that consumers most want to see on their televisions.

One route that companies are taking to get around this dilemma is by circumventing the PC entirely. HP, for example, has developed MediaSmart televisions that allow ordering of movies directly from CinemaNow.

TiVo has a partnership with Amazon Unbox that allows direct movie ordering.

Indeed, NPD found that, while a quarter of consumers with a home network are interested in a device that can access broadband entertainment and many of them are in the market for potential devices that can access it, such as televisions, video game systems and digital video recorders the leading objection to such products is satisfaction with the selection from existing cable and satellite TV service providers.