Friday, 26 June 2009

Julian Clover on the progression of IPTV

As I mentioned last month, I was keen to start a monthly Q and A with IPTV industry insiders to discuss what’s hot and what’s not in the IPTV world. This month Julian Clover has been kind enough to share his views.

Julian Clover is a media and technology journalist based in Cambridge, UK. He has two decades of combined experience in online and printed media.

He is currently an editor of Broadband TV News and New Television Insider. He has contributed to The Channel, the magazine of The Association for International Broadcasting; Cable and Satellite International; Euromedia and the consumer title What Satellite TV.

He is also a committee member of the Broadcasting Press Guild and the IBC Conference.

Julian, as Editor of Broadband TV news, you have a strong involvement in the digital TV space, are there any areas of IPTV technology you are particularly keen to see advance?

The use of hybrid boxes is particularly beneficial to satellite broadcasters to bring in on demand content. Canal+ already have something in this area with Le Cube and you could reasonably expect other operators to be thinking along similar lines.

Widgets and applications for the TV are becoming increasing popular, how important do you think open standards are to the evolution of these applications?

You don’t necessarily need open standards, but providers do need to make their technology available to those with the know-how. The problems start if the leading platform becomes a closed shop.

The convergence of web and TV is now really coming together, what is the future scope for these services?

Ultimately, it is complete convergence, or at least close enough. It has already been proved that the family will not gather around to view the bank statements. However, it is entirely reasonable to be able to check the listings at the local cinema, and be able to get a review that has not been influenced by studio or cinema chain. The iPlayer always gets the glory, but there are many similar services from overseas broadcasters where not all the content is copyright protected. We could reasonably expect to see some of these available. The challenge will be for operators to provide convenient access while not discouraging people from taking their own paid for content.

Personalisation has become a hot topic associated with IPTV; do you think this is something essential for the progression of IPTV services?

It applies to any television platform but we have been promised personalised EPGs for over ten years, with the technology now seemingly only just catching up with the PowerPoints.

You’re based in the UK, what are the good and bad aspects of the TV Service that you receive?

The broadcasters do little to promote anything more than eight or nine programmes at any one time. There’s a lot to be said for a programme trail listing the complete night’s line-up, even if you end up ignoring half, or recording it for viewing another day. Programmes at the fringes of the schedule are ignored, and alas the same can often be said for those featured programmes on the iPlayer.

Do you think VOD will dramatically change the way we consume digital content, how have your viewing habits changed in recent years?

VOD will clearly erode the schedules, but the human need for a shared experience will ensure the big entertainment and sports shows get something resembling a mass audience. The PVR (Sky+ in my case) means that I jettison whole series, preferring to watch a series from start to finish, rather than missing episodes through not being at home.

Do you think the digital switch over will lead to an increased demand in additional IPTV services?

There’s no reason why there will be more of a demand for IPTV than any other platform. By now most people who are interested in a pay-TV option will surely have signed up. The fun starts as the pay-TV platforms attempt to attract customers from their rivals.

You work in the TV industry, so you must spend a good amount of time watching it yourself. What’s your favourite TV show and why?

I’m a complete news junkie, so can happily watch the news channels for several hours, though I’m still not sure the UK stations have the polish of their US counterparts. Coast, which has gone around the British Isles and is now venturing into Europe for the next series, has sparked an interest. But I also get lost in series that seemingly have no purpose and are allowed to meander until their US audiences tire of the format. Lost at least has an end date, but after five episodes I’m longing for Dollhouse to find a direction.

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