Friday, 30 January 2009

Global IPTV subscribers reach 16 million

It’s always useful to keep an eye out for new industry forecasts. The latest set conducted by US research company Dittberner (as posted on Broadband TV News), says the total number of IPTV subscribers worldwide has reached 16 million, marking a significant growth compared to previous years.

Moreover, the research revealed that EMEA has seen the most growth in IPTV subscribers and more specifically France has the highest number of subscribers with the second highest broadband penetration level worldwide. France's high IPTV adoption was attributed to its extensive deployment of home gateways that allow the “efficient creation of higher revenue services”.

Thursday, 29 January 2009

CES 2009: An Appreciation of Innovation

I returned from CES a few weeks ago, nevertheless I’ve been planning to blog on this for a quite some time so here it goes.

This years Consumer Electronics Show once again provided the forum for new products, new technologies and new ideas of how it all might work together. In the backdrop of broader global economic challenges, this show certainly provided the inspiration to march forward into 2009 on the right foot.

A number of interesting new technologies caught my eye while in Vegas, ranging from advances in seamless wireless connectivity, connected home services, Microsoft’s Surface Tables, 3D Gaming and TV experiences, embedded services to truly brilliant Web Connected TV’s.

With a personal project underway back at home, I was impressed to see a diverse set of well priced solutions for distributing content around the home. This came in the form of solutions like the Divx Connected TV device that allows you to stream content (video, pictures, music and applications) in HD to your TV or watch on your PC. There was also a wide range of HDMI to Ethernet switches & transceivers, making it much easier to distribute from a central location around your home in HD – if only these were available before I started a few month ago… Even so, the vision of a connected home was realised in a very practical way by a number of exhibitors.

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Channel4 Skins on Messenger

As Skins' second series makes a start on Thursday, C4 has launched a new messenger service (in partnership with Microsoft MSN Messenger) that enables a chat based TV viewing experience. According to its website the series will be supported by soundtracks, diaries, and extras in real time.

Although the technology behind it is nothing new, Instant Messaging coupled with interactive streaming is an interesting move from C4 in an attempt to take the series across multiple platforms in real time. It’s a smart move to embrace the twitter style community that I’ve talked about in the past that watches TV and chats at the same time online. How long before this all takes place on the same screen though, as we showed at the IPTV World Forum last March, the technology is ready…

Monday, 26 January 2009

On-demand adds to TV viewer figures

I read an excellent article from Julian Clover of Broadband TV News over the weekend about how on-demand TV is reinterpreting broadcasters’ approach to measuring viewer figures.

According to Julian’s insight, since the on-demand measuring system Unitam, for digital cable and satellite channels, was rolled out in 2006, on-demand data now contributes significantly to broadcasters’ performance figures. Meanwhile, BARB data has revealed that the number of hours we spend watching the fixed TV has dropped.

What’s more interesting, it’s said that multichannel broadcasters like Sky are benefiting most from these new consolidated viewing figures from BARB.

Julian also points out that the new figures make ITV2 and ITV3 as the most watched individual channels partly because of a successful cross promotion and a wider reach through Freeview DTT platform.

Friday, 23 January 2009

Twitter is a hit in the UK

Internet research company, Hitwise, reported that Twitter is one of the fastest growing web sites in the UK, with traffic rising tenfold in the past 12 months.

What started as a very dense community site around micro-conversations has had a 974 per cent traffic increase in the UK last year alone. This astonishing fast growth was said to be augmented by a number of global catastrophic events including Mumbai bombing incident and the Hudson airplane crash, during which active users of the site ushered in to provide real-time eye witness updates. In addition, Twitter has attracted a number of global celebrities like Barack Obama and Britney Spears, as well as popular TV personalities including Stephen Fry and Jonathan Ross.

Webuser has a pretty decent list for all celebrity users here, if you’d like to join the microverse.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Watch the Pope on Youtube TV

As reported on Wired, the most watched video sharing site Youtube recently launched a video channel available on Nitendo Wii and PS3 consoles, bringing in a vast archive of user and pro generated content direct to TV viewers, including video messages from the Pope Benedict XVI, a new channel launched by the Vatican. Youtube TV has been developed with the TV user in mind rather than the PC or laptop, this is a smart approach when taking web content to the TV, they’ve also tweaked it so that can watch a series of similar videos on an auto-play. See below for a demo of Youtube on PS3.

It was mentioned that the quality of watching Youtube on Wii and PS differs slightly, but overall Wii has the upper hand when it comes to delivery as it has more than 40 million consoles in use globally, as posted previously here.

Currently in Beta, Youtube TV is said to be providing APIs for developers.

Monday, 19 January 2009

How are you watching Barack Obama’s Inauguration?

With millions and possibly billions of global citizens expected to watch and celebrate the new US president Barack Obama’s inauguration ceremony tomorrow, it’s predicted that all major broadcast and internet sites will be inundated with live reporting. However, with so many options out there, how are you planning to watch the inauguration?

If you're not sure yet, below are where the celebration will be broadcast online:

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Who Wants Widgets?

When any technology is suddenly hyped or gets a ramp in news coverage, it is always interesting to read the minority report. Farhad Manjoo's CES piece in Slate magazine is no exception. In this article he addresses a topic I commented on last week – the rise of widgets on the TV.

While Manjoo makes some good points, his central argument seems to be the tired old lean-forward vs lean-back user interaction that sums up the differences between TV and PC. For me, widgets are more subtle - I see them as an evolution of the European teletext service and the digital red button apps. Teletext and EPG are not lean-forward activities, they are just ways to augment the information that the TV provides the user. TV widgets will fulfil a similar function.

What about Flickr and Amazon though? Is one-click ordering a book really that interactively different than one-click ordering a movie? Is organising your photos really so different to organising your night's viewing? It doesn't feel different to me.

Friday, 9 January 2009

Open IPTV Forum publishes system and protocol specifications

The Open IPTV Forum published version 1.0 of their end-to-end specifications for an IPTV System yesterday. As active members of the Forum and a strong supporters of open standards, the team at ANT are pleased that the specifications are now generally available to the public, and we hope that they will help the industry as a whole to move forward and build some really exciting new services that show off the real potential of IPTV.

Apple drops DRM for good

Apple has announced that every song in its iTunes music store will be DRM-free and available in high quality 256bit audio by the end of March this year. iTunes music store has over 10 million music tracks and 75 million users, which makes it no.1 music retailer in the US.

Apple has also taken the opportunity to release iTunes 8 and revamp its music store price points, moving from a single price point of 99c in the US to a three tier pricing model: 69c for old music, 99c for tastemaker or emerging music and $1.29 for new singles from popular artists.

It's taken an incredibly long time for music listeners to change Apple's outlook on DRM, but it looks like the music executives are finally starting to understand and accept that in fact DRM fails to prevent piracy - indeed it only really serves to penalise and annoy law-abiding music downloaders.

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Yahoo lands full on TV Widgets

Yahoo has re-emerged with yet another strategically important partnership in the TV space, as it announced that it will be offering a TV Widget service in partnership with Samsung.

It was revealed that the service will be offered on Samsung’s new internet-connected HDTVs with content feeds from Yahoo! news channels and Flickr, where viewers will be able to browse news and photos on a large screen. The widget service will provide updates on localised content such as weather forecasts, the stock market and shares information.

With the emergence of large HDTVs, services like this will help content providers to push both existing and new content through easily accessible widgets in real time. However, whilst TV widgets can’t be interacted with in the same way as a PC or lap top, they will give new media content providers a great opportunity to tie the widget, or application, more closely to the content.

The real value of widget technology can be achieved when it’s extended to multiple devices from games consoles, to set-top boxes and mobile phones further enabling end-to-end peer interaction. Here at ANT we’ve already experimented with similar services on the STB and will be launching more in the future so watch this space!

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Wii bit of TV from Nintendo

Nintendo is set to offer TV on the Wii game console, the move marks an interesting development in the IPTV and broadcast industry, as it’s reckoned that 40 million households worldwide use the Wii and almost half are connected to the internet. Nintendo will be looking to build on advertising and content revenue with the new service. It is expected to begin in Japan this spring and will be rolled out globally by the end of the year with exclusive content including cartoons, cookery programmes, brain-training quizzes and lifestyle shows.

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Tiscali cuts Italian IPTV service

On the eve of New Year, Tiscali announced that it will no longer continue its IPTV service in Italy, much to the surprise of its 50,000 customers. Already, Tiscali's exit has caused remarks about the state of the company’s position in the IPTV and broadband market and whether it will seize significant stronghold in the highly competitive UK market. Both Telcos and ISP operators like Sky, Virgin and Vodafone are increasingly towering over with better integrated network bundles.

Monday, 5 January 2009

Dead kangaroo?

Project Kangaroo has been well publicised in the past year or so as the three main terrestrial broadcasters in the UK attempt to team up to deliver an iPlayer-type service that will aggregate content and serve it up on demand via broadband.

The Competition Commission put a halt to the project in December claiming that it simply isn’t fair to other retail and wholesale content providers.

The Commission has tasked the terrestrial trio to examine its structure and to specifically examine “the terms of exclusivity between the joint venture and its parents.” It’ll be interesting to see how they respond to this, failing that the future of the project is uncertain.