When it comes to consumer technology, the TV still stands as the undefeated ruler of the living room. But why has it been so successful over the decades, and how will it endure?
Even in a mobile world where we’re on the go and swiping our smartphones as we take the bus to work, stand in line at the coffee shop, or walk to the store, it’s the television set that we come home to, hang out in front of, and gather around for shared experiences, such as the Super Bowl, political debates, or a season finale of Game of Thrones.
It’s TV’s continued relevancy and ability to create social moments of “community” like these that are the key to its enduring popularity. And this concept of “community” is one that New York Times critic David Carr used to describe television’s role as a means of bringing people closer together.
Throwback to the ’40s
The television first arrived in the U.S. in the late 1940s. It’s reported that in 1948 there were only 100,000 sets in the country. Fascinated by the new technology, friends and families flocked to viewing parties at TV owners’ houses. Something that was once revolutionary quickly evolved to become a commercially available household product. Today, there are more than 116.4 million TVs in homes in the U.S., according to Nielsen. We’re as transfixed by TV today as our grandparents were, with American viewers averaging five hours of daily devotion to their screens.
Our obsession with TV is being fueled by its evolution into the Smart TV. The TV as we know it today blends the PC, smartphone, and traditional television to create a much more sophisticated animal. According to NPD, 52 percent of all U.S. internet-connected homes have at least one TV connected to the internet, an increase of six million homes over the past year. From my perspective, consumer buy-in — and actual adoption versus ownership — will speed up as Smart TVs get even better at satisfying our appetite for being social, productive, and always connected —essentially doing more with less.
There are so many interactive possibilities for the Smart TV that have yet to be tapped into. Streaming entertainment and gaming companies have been at the forefront in terms of seizing this opportunity, to date, but we’re just at the dawn of the Smart TV era. As use cases widen, so will consumer adoption. This means that as you sit with your friends, you can shop via your TV, book your next Airbnb together, or get competitive in a workout app. As the TV continues to diversify and enable these experiences, people will feel more and more passionate about it as a way to feel connected and collaborate with the people around them.
Tinder… for your TV?
Diversifying both the use of the TV and the accessibility of Tinder, we’ve been working on a way for users to experience the smartphone app directly from their TV. We built Tinder for Apple TV to let you swipe from your living room surrounded by friends, creating more matches and having fun while doing so. We see it as one of the latest examples of how the TV is increasingly becoming a diversified platform for social experiences and applications. Picture a group of friends huddled around a smartphone to help each other make swiping decisions. Now, using the trackpad on Apple TV’s latest remote, users can swipe left, right, and even up to Super Like. It’s our hope that just as the first TV users gathered wide-eyed together around one of those early TV sets, so Tinder users might find a blend of fun and utility as they experience the Tinder for Apple TV app together.
No longer is the TV a passive “one-way street” for viewers to consume content; it is maturing into an active portal for many different use cases, including — starting today — online dating. To me, TV’s success is directly attributable to the way the technology has moved with the times and continued to keep generations of users engaged, following its first introduction into the home all those years ago.
In the next decade, uptake and engagement is only expected to increase, with Parks Associates reporting that Smart TV adoption is set to increase by 31 percent each year. It seems the TV is very much here to stay. I’m excited to see the TV remain front and center in the home as it continues to diversify in its enablement of entertainment, utility, and community — bringing with it new and exciting ways to connect people.
Jonathan Badeen is cofounder and chief strategy officer of Tinder.