An interview with Dan Saunders, Director of Content Services at Samsung Electronics’s European Headquarters in England.

2012 is undoubtedly the year of smart TV: for us, this is a particularly happy fact, since Daazo’s shorts are now available on Samsung’s Smart TV. Dan Saunders, Director of Content Services at Samsung Electronics’s European Headquarters in London talked to WOSH about the importance of audiovisual content in the world of the smart television.

What is the main link between SmartTV and film these days?

When we first launched Smart TV into the European market, we were keen to focus on premium content. We saw all these great VOD services available via the PC – Lovefilm and Maxdome for example – and we knew they would be more attractive to consumers if we could bring them to the television device. We’re now at the stage where we’ve got quality premium VOD services available in all major markets, and we’re seeing consumers get more familiar with the technology and more used to the idea of simply ordering a movie through the remote control. Of course, within that the Hollywood blockbuster is important to capture the interest and understanding of the mass market. But one of the things that really excites me as we move forward is the opportunity to offer niche content globally through the Smart TV experience.

What are the differences between Smart TV applications and Smart Phone apps and in what ways are they similar?

The technology is broadly similar of course, but the context of the different devices has a huge impact. The smartphone is a personal device, the TV is social – so the type of app that proves popular on each is very different. I’m not sure “apps” is the correct word for Smart TV – sure, it’s an application-based technology, but for TV what we’re really interested in launching is big immersive services.

Please tell me about a successful business model for a Samsung Smart TV app (for want of a better word). Is there such a thing right now?

The secret to success is that all players achieve a self-sustaining business model. It’s really important to Samsung that our partners are able to make Smart TV a viable part of their business. So we take a pragmatic approach to the issue – essentially we follow the business models of our content provider partners. In that sense, for many who have launched apps, Smart TV is just a natural incremental part of their growth.

Right now, do motion film SmartTV apps represent competition to traditional television channels? How can they be integrated into the system?

I don’t see how premium VOD apps are any more competition to traditional TV than Blu- ray or DVD. Of course, at a macro level the market within which all of these opportunities exist is the 3, 4 or 5 hours of free time that the consumer has to spare during an average evening. Should I go watch TV, put on a movie, surf the internet? What we do find is that the easier you make it for people to access the content they want to watch, and the greater quality the experience, the more content they consume. I think broadcasters also recognize this. We see all major broadcasters now launching so-called catch-up TV services. There was always a fear that these services might cannibalize the broadcaster’s linear channel ratings; but actually the flexibility provided by non-linear catch-up creates greater engagement with the broadcaster’s channel brand.

Why is it important for Samsung to develop the SmartTV/Smart HUB market? Would it mean selling more TV sets, or do they hope to see a significant profit rise in content service and advertisements in the long term?

In many ways, we’re just talking about the next logical step of the television experience. It used to be about picture quality, screen size and so-on (and of course that is all still really important). But now we added a new dimension: how to make this new experience of Samsung Smart TV connected to the internet, the best television experience. That means working more closely with content providers because it’s only by working together that we’re able to really achieve success.

Can you imagine Samsung entering the film production market as producer or distributor in the future?

Never say never. We are beginning to build our own services – Explore 3D for example, which allows consumers to stream 3D content over the Internet to their Smart TV – but our main focus is on building the best Smart experience across all of our devices including TV, smartphone, tablet and PC.

text: Zsuzsanna Deák
collage: Francesca Pageo