Kaylene Hong was Asia Reporter for The Next Web between 2013 and 2014, based in Singapore. She is bilingual in English and Mandarin. Stay in Kaylene Hong was Asia Reporter for The Next Web between 2013 and 2014, based in Singapore. She is bilingual in English and Mandarin. Stay in touch via Twitter or Google+.
Chinese Internet giant Tencent, which owns the wildly popular messaging service WeChat, has launched a smart TV in China that features integration with the Chinese version of the chat app — known as Weixin — in terms of program controls and even payment solutions.
This comes as Tencent is exploring various ways to monetize WeChat, with its initiatives typically starting in China with Weixin. By linking up with Internet TVs, the company is no doubt hoping that the messaging service can form an indispensable part of any Internet user’s life — conquering a consumer’s habits from mobile all the way to the living room.
There are a few interesting characteristics about the Weixin TV which displays a promising start for using a messaging service as a wide-ranging platform.
First of all, Weixin users can select and load any TV programs listed within the chat app while they are on the move, so they can watch them immediately once they reach home. They can also control their TV with their chat app — doing away with the need for a remote control.
The key feature of Weixin TV though, is the way users can now pay for premium TV shows via the chat app. In August, Tencent rolled out an update to Weixin incorporating payment services, letting users simply link an online banking account to pay for items, while its payments solution Tenpay does the necessary backend work. Applying Weixin’s payment capabilities to this new Internet TV helps to make payment more convenient by eliminating the cumbersome payment process for TV shows, and will no doubt help reinforce the idea of using Weixin as a payments solution in the minds of users.
There is also a search function on Weixin specially developed in tandem with the TV — all users have to do is speak the name of the TV show they are looking for, and Weixin will display a list of programs that they can select and play immediately on the big screen.
Tencent teamed up with Future TV, a subsidiary of China Network Television and television manufacturer Skyworth, to produce the television. There are no details on pricing yet, though Tencent Tech notes that the TV will be released before Chinese New Year (January 31 next year).
In the future, Weixin TV will introduce content-sharing features and even roll out user-generated content, according to the companies.
With WeChat and Weixin having a combined 272 million monthly active users, the chat app could very likely help Tencent make its mark on the smart TV market — but more importantly it could help convert more people to use Weixin’s payment capabilities for the convenience that it brings.
Related: WeChat is going international in a different way to WhatsApp: using games and commerce [Interview]
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