TV: A Low-Maintenance Friend

1/18/2008 7:00 PM Eastern

Despite the buzz about TV on personal computers, consumers still love their television sets more than their PCs and will resent it if new TV applications eliminate what they like best about their viewing experience.

Unlike computers, TVs never crash, said Genevieve Bell, director of the user experience group for Intel.

Bell, a Ph.D. in cultural anthropology, said consumers view television as a “low-maintenance friend,” never demanding their full attention.

Even when sets become old, they are seen as useful and flexible. She gave the example of a 1969-vintage black-and-white set one consumer has moved to her kitchen to enable her to watch soap operas.

Bell made her observations last week during an iHollywood Forum online seminar titled “What Consumers Really Want from Consumer Electronics.”

Television even enables social interaction, she said, adding that consumers still desire mass-market content, and want to be able to participate in the next-day water cooler discussions. That might contribute to a trend Bell sees, with a percentage of digital-video recorder users going back to watching live television.

Future applications need to be simple (“No one wants to sit on the sofa with a mouse and keyboard”), and promote social viewing. Don’t underestimate how much consumers embrace the “lean back,” non-interactive nature of television, she said, and don’t introduce computer problems (such as the “blue screen of death”) to the TV experience, she advised.

The View
TV experiences viewers value:
Source: Genevieve Bell, Intel
Used as background noise
A movie-going experience at home
Sports, special events
Provides “together time”
Provides rhythm to daily activity
Enables community building (fan groups)
As a babysitter
Provides information
People enjoy surfing channels
Provides a games platform

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