THE market for smart TVs is growing globally, with global research firm Gartner expecting nearly 85% of all flat-panel TVs produced in 2016 to be smart TVs, it said on Tuesday.

Smart TVs combine traditional television functionality with a web browser and other interactive media, such as games, offered via downloadable software applications (apps). They can be described as smartphone devices on big screens, but without the voice-call option.

According to Gartner, smart TVs can pick up live TV broadcasts and connect to a range of other devices such as smartphones, tablets and PCs.

Samsung and LG are some of the main players in the smart-TV market.

Gartner predicts worldwide production of flat-panel smart TVs to grow from 69-million units last year to 108-million this year and 198-million in 2016.

But Gartner analysts said that smart TVs alone would not spur demand in the market. TV manufacturers must offer compelling reasons for consumers to choose their brands over their competitors’.

"In the end, the choice may be all about the extra content that one TV brand offers over another," said Paul O’Donovan, principal research analyst at Gartner. "Consumers will be asking questions such as: which internet TV services can the TV access? Are these the sites I think are valuable? Can I use my smartphone or tablet with this TV?"

Mr O’Donovan said it was critical for the TV industry, amid a global economic downturn and a decline in consumer confidence, to sustain sales and maintain or grow market share — especially in emerging markets.

"This is difficult when demand has slowed, so the extra functionality offered by smart TVs becomes the product differentiator if prices are already competitive and all other variables are equal between brands," he said

Gartner said the TV market was evolving, with the TV becoming the central component bringing together the multiple screens now present in the home. Smart TVs offer consumers greater access to a range of content in their living rooms that had, until recently, only been available on PCs, smartphones and tablets.

"With connectivity to smartphones and tablets comes the ability to pull content from the internet on one device and push that content to the TV," said Mr O’Donovan.

"For those TV manufacturers that also make smartphones and tablets, the marketing advantage of the smart TV makes educating the consumer a lot easier," he said.