Sony’s Opera Browser Is Good News for TV Standards

Good news for online video publishers that want to reach viewers in the living room: Opera announced Wednesday that Sony (s SNE) will add the web browser to its connected TVs and Blu-ray players. The addition of Opera’s browser to connected devices will give online video publishers a new way to build 10-foot, leanback experiences — but instead of creating a whole new framework for video delivery and playback, Opera’s browser will rely on standards like HTML5.

The addition of a standards-based platform for building web apps will be a welcome change for publishers in an increasingly fragmented TV app market. According to GigaOM Pro analyst Michael Wolf, there are at least 10 different TV app platforms to build for today, all of which are vying for developer attention.

But the diversity of TV app platforms, while giving publishers choice, also means those video creators who wish to have their content everywhere end up spending significant resources on building and re-building their user experience for multiple devices. The best example of this is probably Netflix, (s NFLX) which is now available on more than 250 different connected devices.

However, even Netflix CEO Reed Hastings admits the company is paying an innovator’s tax by trying to be in all places at once; because it’s intent on leading the space, the company is investing significantly in making sure all of its TV apps work, sometimes on platforms that aren’t fully ready. Other publishers who come later should have significantly fewer headaches in building out their own apps, as the platforms reach maturity.

Moving to a standards-based approach for building TV apps will also make life easier for publishers. Already, some publishers — like music streaming service MOG — have said they will only build for platforms that support HTML5. The BBC Trust recently ruled that it will only build standard versions of its iPlayer video catchup service. Even Netflix is pushing for a more standards-based approach to delivering video to different devices.

Some consumer electronics companies are stepping up to the plate by offering standards-based browser capabilities. Google TV (s GOOG) and Boxee both have HTML5-compatible browsers for displaying web content, although so far most publishers are more interested in taking an app-based approach.

Putting Opera’s browser on connected TVs might be one way to help publishers build HTML5-based experiences. Opera has a content development kit available for publishers that want to build standards-based web apps displayed through its browser, although it’s not clear if this functionality will be available on the new Sony TVs.

Even so, a browser-based approach, rather than one built on apps, might be one way publishers can reach multiple devices. In the same way publishers build HTML5-optimized pages for the iPad, they could also reuse those assets for connected devices that sport Opera and other standards-based browsers. That would allow them to build once and have their content formatted appropriately across multiple devices, without having to worry about rebuilding those experience for other app platforms.

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