I’m hearing a lot about services that, for a fee, let you play computer videos, like Hulu and YouTube, on your TV. Is this a necessary expense? How hard is it to do yourself? I talked to Shawn DuBravac, a head honcho at the Consumer Electronic Association, and learned that, for many TVs, you can buy a cable for about $45 that will eliminate the need for a pricey service. This interview has been edited and condensed.
How hard is it to stream videos from your computer to your TV? If you want to play YouTube videos on a television, you have to have some type of computer object connected to that television: a browser in essence.
What is an Internet TV? About 20% of televisions are Internet-enabled. If you have one of those televisions you really don’t need to do anything.
What about a non-Internet TV that has an HDMI input? If you have an HDMI port, then all you have to do is
get a computer with a video card and an HDMI port and then you run a single HDMI cable between the two.
How common are the HDMI inputs? A large screen television over $1,000 probably has Internet capabilities. Most televisions circa 2005 started to integrate HDMI.
And all HD TVs have HDMI inputs? Yes.
How hard would you rate this project doing it yourself? With an Internet television, it’s zero. You just have to flip to the YouTube channel. If you’ve got an older television, it’s a 10. I’ve done it. I’ve hooked a computer up to a television that didn’t have HDMI, it was a circa 1999. It’s not impossible, but for the average person they’re not going to be able to deal with it. You have to get the right video card, and do all this other stuff. If your television is made out of wood, do not try this at home. If it has any wood or if it has the appearance of wood on it, you are not going to be happy.
What is the advantage of a service that does it for you, like Apple TV? Apple TV lets you access iTunes and you can buy movies and you used to be able to buy TV shows. You can push things from iPads and iPods and things like that. If you have a computer hooked up to your television, it’s just a regular old computer and anything you can do on that computer, you can do on the television. You’ve turned the monitor into a bigger television.
Is Internet connectivity a feature that TVs will soon all come with – like cameras on cell phones? Possibly. Larger TVs and screen sizes? Yes. Smaller televisions? Debatable. I just flipped to Best Buy’s website. Smart TVs is what they call them. Total televisions for sale, 180. Under the Smart TV category, they have 92. 51% of the TVs they are offering are some degree of smart. Last year, through the first half 2010, 7% of the televisions being sold were smart. In the first half of 2011 , it was 20%. Internet connectivity is a very large trend. Everything is increasingly being connected to the Internet.
Is there a website you recommend to walk people through connecting their TV to the Internet? We have a site called DigitalTips.org that will walk you through a couple different devices.