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Why Smart TVs Spurn DLNA: Evil Plot to Charge Tolls?

Experts discuss smart TVs at CEA Forum; Is DLNA underutilized because of support issues or do vendors want to extract more revenue from customers?


“I think DLNA offers many attractive solutions and value,” says LG’s Nandu Nandhakumar; however, many product and service providers “use a lot of DLNA but tweak it.”

Why won’t connected TVs connect? Some of the brightest minds in the smart TV category discussed the subject last month at the CEA Industry Forum in the Technology & Standards track.

Consultant Scott Smyers, former SVP at Sony and one of the movers-and-shakers in the Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA), moderated the panel discussion which included:
  • David Kurtz, co-founder of Flingo (app developer for smart TVs)
  • Nandu Nandhakumar, SVP of LG Electronics
  • Jack Perry, CEO of SyncBak (developer of Internet delivery platforms for broadcast TV)
  • Peter Redford, CEO of iLook Corp. (developer of Internet delivery platforms for broadcast TV)
Smyers and the panelists agreed that the smart TV thing isn’t working so great these days.

“It’s challenging today,” said iLook's Redford, who lamented the multiple user interfaces and the challenge of switching between apps.

“Today, video-on-demand through apps on the TV is not an easy thing to do,” he said. “Most people are not able to successfully connect it up and watch it by using their [TV’s] own app. An app on the iPhone can do it much more easily.”

There ensued a heated discussion about developing standards for smart TVs, when someone chimed in: “There is one: DLNA.”

That's a standard that Smyers certainly knows well. Sony launched DLNA in 2003 and Smyers served as president of the group for seven years. DLNA is an interoperability standard (with DRM) for sharing photos, music, videos and other content across multiple devices from disparate manufacturers.

But while the standard has been widely implemented in cameras, printers, gaming consoles, media players, PCs, phones and other shared devices, it hasn’t fared well in TV land.


First, we should recall that DLNA took forever to gain traction anywhere, starting with digital cameras and networked printers. Other devices and online services followed slowly as their adoption grew among consumers. Smart TVs are pretty much the newest additions to the world of connected and shared consumer devices, so it’s not surprising that the category has yet to embrace any standards at all … except for IP.

Smart TV Toll Booth?

But is there, perhaps, a more sinister reason for TV makers’ lack of love for DLNA?

Redford thinks so. He suggests that some TV manufacturers intentionally reject certain elements of DLNA as a way of “building a toll booth for themselves.”

Presumably, then, they could charge users for access to content, and service providers for access to consumers.

LG’s Nandhakumar dismisses such notions.

He says that TV makers may shy away from the full DLNA program because of support issues.

“I think DLNA offers many attractive solutions and value,” he says; however, many product and service providers “use a lot of DLNA but tweak it.”

The reason, he says, is that companies like LG – which is teaming up with Sharp and Philips to create its own Smart TV app standard -- don’t want to be saddled with supporting every little device on the home network when a customer has (supposed) issues with a DLNA-certified TV.

Even Smyers concedes this point, which is an age-old concern in the interoperability business. He knows that customers will inundate manufacturers and resellers with tech-support calls, complaining, “Hey, I have a DLNA TV. My [insert device here] should work with this.”

When asked what he thought were the roadblocks for DLNA in connected TVs, Smyers joked, “If I knew that, I’d be a consultant.”

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Article Topics

News · Product News · Displays · Video · Digital Media · Events · TVs · Consumer Electronics Association · Smart Tv · Dlna · Industry Forum · All topics

About the Author

Julie Jacobson, Co-Founder, EH Publishing / Editor-at-large, CE Pro
Julie Jacobson, recipient of the 2014 CEA TechHome Leadership Award, is co-founder of EH Publishing, producer of CE Pro, Electronic House, Commercial Integrator, Security Sales and other leading technology publications. She currently spends most of her time writing for CE Pro in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V and the business of home systems integration. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin, and has never taken a journalism class in her life. She's a washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player currently residing in Carlsbad, Calif. Follow her on Twitter @juliejacobson. [More by Julie Jacobson]

10 Comments (displayed in order by date/time)

Posted by Michael Toscano  on  12/12  at  05:10 PM
Posted by Julie Jacobson  on  12/12  at  10:01 PM

I guess, Michael—I mean if you’re you or DrFlick!

Posted by Rob Klaproth  on  12/13  at  02:41 PM

Someone needs to raise Steve Jobs back from the dead and get him to help with this.. Oh wait, he already has, and the product will probably come to fruition sometime in 2012.  The only problem is it will be a closed Apple Standard.  While it will “just work”, unlike current DLNA, it will be limited to a hand full of devices made by Apple and the rest will be stuck in DLNA wasteland.

DLNA totally sucks right now.  I’ve never gotten anything DLNA on my network to work.  Lots of errors on my PS3 “DLNA connection failed”, etc… And on my Samsung TV, it shows DLNA stuff, but when I try to actually open anything it doesn’t work…

Someone needs to get this right.  In the meantime, I’ll just take my Plex for Samsung app on my TV… And XBMC on jailbroken Apple TV2… Those are the best solutions that “just work” 99% of the time, but require a lot of tech know how to get working at first.

Posted by Ryan Jayasinghe  on  12/13  at  03:43 PM

Wouldn’t it be easier to intergrate a small PC into the TV which can access the entire web.
Right now any PC with HDMI out can be used in a similar manner.

PC’s selling for $299.00 minus the display and keyboard cannot add more than $150-$200 to the cost of a TV.

Posted by Julie Jacobson  on  12/13  at  07:59 PM

Ryan—no major TV vendor wants to support a PC and a home network.

Posted by Roland Seibt  on  12/14  at  03:20 AM

Nearly every smart-TV in europe has DLNA-functionality build in!!! DonĀ“t they in the US? Nowadays TVs even act as DLNA-renderer, so from Windows 7 or Phone-Apps like “eyecon” you can send movies or other media from a DLNA-server or the internet directy to your TV.

Posted by wi3inc  on  12/14  at  09:00 AM

I think everyone is missing the easy answer.

Corporations miss it because they believe their own marketing hype on data rates of Wi-Fi only and power line networks.

Professional Integrators miss it because they can easily put in Cat5/6 backbones in their customer’s homes.

In the majority of homes and apartments though, the average person cannot afford or does not have the technical know-how to get beyond low-bandwidth infrastructure.

So the missing ingredient is bandwidth. Without it, the quality of experience is terrible, and the average customer only knows to blame the product; i.e., Google TV, or a wireless router.

Fix the speed at which the consumer’s TV can access IP content, and the market will come around.

Posted by Doug Johnson  on  12/14  at  08:32 PM

DLNA is not the answer and I agree with the direction that Rob was going.

Apple is on the right track in terms of performance but unless you completely buy into the apple ecosystem you cannot easily share your digital collection across all your net connected devices.

Back to DLNA.

The three major issues that I have with the DLNA starts with it’s inefficiency.

There is tremendous overhead in the code with lots of network chatter making it incredibly slow and if you have a growing digital collection the problem only gets worse to the point of “time out” errors.

The second issue is that it simply doesn’t work across the devices that indicate “DLNA certified”.  Nice..

Lastly, when you do try to use DLNA and a problem is encountered, the user is often given some obscure error code with little direction on how they might resolve the issue. Not a consumer friendly solution.

And we wonder why Apple is successful.

Oh come to think about it - I need a second Apple TV for my basement setup.

Posted by Dhimant  on  12/15  at  05:43 PM

One can almost write a book why DLNA is failing consumers . . . (i) it is the promise of interoperability that no one is in charge of . . . if your USB port did not work, you would return the product! So, you see there is no ‘incentive’ for suppliers to provide the quality (ii) Messaging of DLNA is Mouthful and Geeky, Listen and Experience the AirPlay. Think how to message DLNA for average consumer. (iii) CPU, Browser and S/W in almost all smartphones and tablets is better than most Connected TVs oops, since first generation Connected TVs failed . . . I should say SmartTVs! [to which I say, why does a SmartTV make me feel not so smart!]

Moving forward, content will be more and more in the Cloud and on your handheld device. In this scenario, DLNA is interesting but with all the issues with TV Hardware & Software and Interoperability, in the emerging multi-screen & multi-device world, we need a new standard! In the meantime, enjoy AirPlay and likes . . .

Posted by J Huang  on  12/21  at  12:27 PM

DLNA is not a standard. It is an interoperability guideline which has to deal with not only communication protocols but also the areas relating to the user experience. But device companies don’t want their products look and feel same as others’ products and they have tried very hard to minimize such requirements when developing the guideline. They just want the DLNA name in the product feature list, not the true interoperability with the products made by others….

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