Bullwinkle departs as Samsung U.S. TV innovation chief

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SANTA CLARA, Calif.--Richard Bullwinkle has left his post as head of U.S. TV innovation for Samsung, the high-profile consumer electronics executive announced at a BroadbandTVcon panel here Tuesday.

Richard Bullwinkle

Bullwinkle

Interviewed by FierceCable after the hour-long session focused on smart TVs and connected devices, Bullwinkle said he left a week earlier on good terms with Samsung, departing after he resisted the Korean CE giant's overtures to move to its Seoul headquarters.

"They offered me a chance to move to Korea to be a true Samsung executive," said Bullwinkle, who lives in nearby Palo Alto, Calif. "I thought I was already a Samsung executive." 

While Bullwinkle said he had a non-disparagement agreement with his former employer, it didn't constrain him from a refreshingly frank take on the smart TV industry during Tuesday's panel, which also included Doug Craig, VP of programming for Roku, and Sam Chang, division head of LG's Silicon Valley Lab.

Addressing the issue of smart TV's competing with other connected devices in the home, Bullwinkle said the former have suffered in the marketplace from overall slow speeds--from the product development cycle to the time it takes to load apps.

With some of the Samsung TV's he worked on, Bullwinkle said, "The switch from live TV to Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX) takes over two minutes. That's dinosaur speed."

He also noted the lack of content apps available on the typical smart TV, which he said are usually confined to the major providers "that tend to sell boxes, Netflix, Hulu and MLB."

He added, "I can tell you the percentage of [smart TVs] that have a Roku box or Apple TV box connected to them is very high."

Bullwinkle's comments were competitively juxtaposed against those of Roku's Craig, who noted that his company was bringing onto its service "three or four new channels a day."

"The pace of channel additions isn't slowing," noted Craig, who added that Roku's engagement levels hit all-time highs in first quarter of 2014, with users watching nearly 45 hours of Roku programming each month.

Bullwinkle took time to make clear he wasn't damning the whole smart TV product sector: "Is it in trouble? Yes. Is it fatal? No," he told the panel.

In addition to smart TVs, the executive panel--on hand at the Santa Clara Convention Center for the two-day event--also addressed the issue of Google's (NASDAQ: GOOG) soon-to-be-launched Android TV.

Noting that Google is "a great partner," LG's Chang lauded the company's software talent. But he also recalled Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt saying in 2010 that by 2015, half the TV's in the world would be built around the failed Google TV platform.

"We're still waiting for that to happen," Chang said. 

Related links:
Samsung's Bullwinkle says all content is moving to IP delivery
Samsung facility fire temporarily dumbs down smart TVs
Roku's Rosenberg: MVPDs threatened by connected TV devices