For the first time, Israelis will be able to subscribe to online video on demand (VOD) services via their televisions, similar to Apple TV. But the new service is being brought to Israel not by Apple but by its rival Samsung, which will begin broadcasting content to customers of its Smart TVs beginning in October.
The announcement is significant because it propels Israel into the world of online TV content via set-top boxes, which many consider to be the next wave of TV broadcasting. Services like Apple TV and Hulu provide television programs that are generally shown on regular broadcast and cable channels, as well as movies, YouTube videos, and other content. The services operate on a VOD basis, with users choosing the program or movie from the online connection at their convenience.
Unfortunately for Israelis, neither Apple TV nor Hulu is available to them because international licensing of broadcast content and movies involves masses of cable companies, local broadcasters, production companies and attorneys.
Because of these legal issues, Apple TV is unlikely to arrive in Israel anytime soon. But “Samsung TV” (officially called Samsung Smart VOD) will be here next month, albeit only for Israelis who own Samsung Smart TVs, Blu-Ray players and MFM dual TV/computer monitors. The service comes built into the TVs (there is no need to add a separate set-top box).
For a cost of about NIS 30 a month, customers will be able to subscribe to the basic service — or, if they prefer, they can “rent” individual programs. Movies broadcast in high-definition cost extra (NIS 18 for 48 hours). Some Samsung TVs can “convert” movies into 3D, and those films will cost NIS 23 for 48 hours. The content will be broadcast via the TV’s Internet connection (a minimum 5MB connection is required, a Samsung spokesperson said).
Users can control the content with an application made by an Israeli start-up called Vonetize, which is a Samsung partner and has developed content applications used by the company in other countries. The application will allow users to pause content and automatically start from the pause point, even if they close the application and the TV, and users who have more than one set can start watching content on one TV and continue on another.
Most customers will decide whether to join the service based on the quality of the content, and at a press conference announcing the new service last week, Samsung Israel officials promised top-of-the-line shows and movies. Right now, there are about 1,000 TV shows and movies in the Smart VOD library, and much more is set to come. Currently, the service boasts only four channels — the London Olympics 2012 channel, Baby Channel, Bollywood Movies, and DogTV (with content for and about dogs).
But the company promised a lot more TV in the coming months, including programs from cable and satellite TV providers Hot and Yes. Both those companies have their own streaming video services, as do the Israeli cellphone service providers. But Samsung is the first company to provide a streaming TV service specifically for televisions. Future plans will allow Samsung TV owners who have Samsung tablets to watch content on their tablets, as well.
“Over the past year we have invested a great deal of effort into developing the application for our Smart TVs,” said Barak Palachi of Samsung Israel. “We intend to greatly expand the content that will be available for viewers, and we have no doubt that by the end of the year we will be able to double our offerings, enabling Israelis to enjoy an advanced and enjoyable TV viewing experience.”