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Google may soon have more competition in India’s smart TV market, with brands, including Intex, planning to launch televisions running on LG’s webOS platform.

Currently, India’s smart TV market is dominated by televisions running on AndroidTV, but LG started licensing its webOS platform earlier this year.

The original design manufacturing (ODM) licence for LG’s webOS in India is held by Videotex International, a local TV maker with factories in Uttar Pradesh’s Greater Noida. Arjun Bajaj, director of Videotex, said at least five brands have already signed up with the company to make TVs running on webOS.

Intex announced its webOS TVs in 50-inch and 55-inch sizes earlier this month. Videotex is in the process of setting up another factory, which will double its capacity to around 4 million TV sets per year. The company manufactures TVs for brands such as Realme, Hisense and Toshiba.

Brands such as Intex and others account for a small part of the Indian market. Brands that don’t rank in the top five in India’s TV market account for 38% of the market, according to first quarter 2021 data from Counterpoint Research.

Xiaomi, Samsung, LG, Sony and OnePlus make up the top five TV sellers in India in terms of shipments. They have 17%, 16%, 14%, 10% and 5% market share, respectively.

Debasish Jana, research associate, Counterpoint Research, said it will take more than licensing an OS to affect Google’s dominance.

“Suppose if Samsung opens up Tizen tomorrow, and more brands start adopting new platforms, then it might be a threat," he said.

Of the top five brands, LG makes TVs on its webOS platform, while Samsung uses its in-house Tizen platform.

Sony, OnePlus and Xiaomi are tied to the AndroidTV operating system.

According to the Counterpoint data, Android accounted for 62% of India’s market in the first quarter, followed by Tizen and WebOS at 16% and 14%, respectively.

A total of 2.4 million smart TVs were shipped in India in the first quarter of the year.

Industry executives said that having an official licence holder for a platform in India reduces the cost of manufacturing TVs.

Currently, there are no ODMs in India that hold an official licence to make AndroidTVs.

As a result, brands using the platform in India have to pay a manufacturer, who in turn has to pay a different ODM, usually in China, that holds the AndroidTV licence.

The same applies to televisions made on Amazon’s FireTV platform, while the manufacturing for webOS TVs can be done entirely in India.

The Competition Commission of India (CCI) had ordered a probe into allegations that Google is abusing its market dominance in India.

The complaint, filed by antitrust lawyers Kshitiz Arya and Purushottam Anand in May last year, alleged that Google bars companies that acquired the AndroidTV licence from working with competitors.

After an initial investigation, CCI said it is “prima facie convinced" that a probe should be conducted.

“The emerging smart TV sector in India is thriving, in part, due to Google’s free licensing model, and AndroidTV competes with many TV OSs such as FireOS, Tizen and WebOS. We are confident that our smart TV licensing practices are in compliance with all laws," a Google spokesperson said at the time.

Anisha Chand, partner at law firm Khaitan and Co., noted that while new developments such as LG opening licences for webOS won’t affect the the competition regulator’s current decision, Google could challenge any future decision by arguing that the market has changed since the case.

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