People in developing country economies such as China, Brazil and India take more advantage of Web-connected television (TV) more than their counterparts in the UK, US and Germany, according to new research from the GfK Group.

Much has been said and written about the opportunity for emerging modern economies to “leapfrog” their already developed country counterparts by leveraging recent advances in computing, telecommunications and other technology. GfK’s results indicate that when it comes to all-important social adaptation and adoption, the conditions exist for this to be accomplished, at least when it comes to connected TV.

Western consumers are stuck in an ‘analogue’ mindset, whereas viewers in emerging markets are more likely to exploit the digital capabilities of Connected TV, GfK said.

Recent research indicates that social TV viewing is growing fast, but GfK notes that, in broad terms, it’s “yet to fully take-off.” Just 28% of TV viewers globally said they find programs they can interact with to be more interesting to watch than their conventional counterparts, according to GfK. Furthermore, only one-quarter thought that tweeting and commenting on programs “enhances the viewing experience.”

“Our findings suggest that broadcasters need to integrate their social elements far more engagingly into the fabric of the program, to encourage viewers to interact,” commented GfK research director Richard Preedy.

GfK’s research results also indicate that connected TV market participants would be better off focusing their business and market development resources in emerging market countries. TV viewers in emerging market countries including China, Brazil and India are more motivated when it comes to interactive TV than those in the US, UK and Germany, GfK found.

Uptake of the enhanced, interactive capabilities of connected TV has been more rapid in emerging markets, and people in those markets also more likely to use more of the functionality built into the latest connected TV sets, GfK says. Three-quarters of Chinese Smart TV owners were making use of such features in the past month as compared to half, or less, of those in Western markets.

Regardless of geographic location, Internet access is seen as less important than price, screen size and display technology when it comes to making new TV purchase decisions, GfK also found.

The indifference to TVs having Internet connectivity is greater in Western countries surveyed than it is in their developed country counterparts, however. While 64% in China and 61% in India said they look out for Internet-enabled TV sets, only 26% in the UK and 29% in the US said they do.

Nonetheless, consumer demand for Smart TV is gaining momentum in the West, according to GfK. Its latest research shows that sales in the six largest European countries increased 31% in the first half of 2012.

“We are seeing the developing countries such as India, Brazil and especially China viewing an increasing amount of content away from a television set, but also using TV in a more advanced way,” Preedy elaborated. “They combine viewing a program with increased levels of online activity – giving us a glimpse into how the West will start to move in the coming years.

“China, India and Brazil essentially are the early adopters at the moment. However, in the coming decade, critical mass will be reached in traditional TV markets such as the UK, US and Germany and the way we all watch programming will be changed forever – finally burying analogue for good.”

Discovery tops interaction when it comes to making use of smart TVs’ enhanced functionality, according to GfK: 33% more viewers search for information on shows they watch than use social networks to share their viewing experiences. Program producers should therefore focus on “viral campaigns and digital bonus content to enhance the viewers’ experience, rather than looking for viewers to enhance their own experience via interaction.”

GfK’s survey results also indicate that intuitive viewing control will be the “next big growth area”: 67% of respondents said they are interested in touch and gesture TV control, and 43% said they want to control their own TV using something other than the traditional remote control.

With smartphones extending and expanding the definition of mobile communications handsets to increasingly encompass media viewing and computing, it’s “likely that this technology holds an advantage over TV in having already defined its usability credentials in terms of touch and gesture control,” GfK commented.

“While TV does not show any signs of losing its position as the top content-viewing device, other technologies are starting to catch it. The growth of online catch-up and streaming services makes devices such as laptops, tablets, smartphones and games consoles far more accessible in terms of content delivery and therefore more appealing to viewers looking for content rather than a mechanism for consuming it. As a result of this the technology manufacturers and OS developers could hold the key to future content delivery with viewers looking towards the most convenient and intuitive method of consuming this content across their device ecosystem.”

Recently released research results from Ericsson Consumer Lab found considerably more interest in using social media while watching TV.  Ericsson ConsumerLab reported that 62% of video consumers use social media while watching TV.

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