Friday, 10 July 2009

Justin Lebbon on television and technology

The latest industry member to take a few minutes to answer some questions is Justin Lebbon. Justin has recently launched videonet ( which aims to bring together the best aspects of multiplatform online information sharing and networking. Videonet will also be hosting the official IBC blog.

Tell us a little bit about your new project, Videonet

Videonet is a new online publishing and events business for pay-tv professionals. Videonet incorporates the best aspects of web 2.0 – video, blogging, social media – while mixing in online events that offer audiences an interactive and engaging information sharing experience.

Widgets have become a hot topic in the TV space, what types of widgets would you like to see on your TV?

I think aspects of pay-TV can get complicated and I’m satisfied viewing my pre-recorded content and skipping ads. I do think social media widgets will be successful – linking twitter, facebook, Instant messaging – to create a social TV experience. For me, simple widgets supplying news, sports and weather RSS headlines would work but I have an issue with mixing too much of the internet with pay-TV. I realise combining the two offers a galaxy of opportunities but it complicates the service (for me) as television is my medium for switching off and relaxing. That’s not really conducive to having “friends” pop up wondering whether I thought the goal was offside.

What do you like and dislike about the TV service you receive?

I’m very much a time and place shifted TV consumer. I love PVRs and I’ve had one for several years now and I could never go back to standard linear television. The days of mindless channel hopping are, thankfully, over. I’m generally satisfied with my TV service but, without naming my provider, I do get frustrated with how slow it is; general channel changing, selecting on-demand programming, recording items, simple EPG navigation, etc. The delay is almost intolerable. I firmly believe my provider offers the best pay-TV (and triple play) package in the UK but the feel of the service, which is so important in my view, is incredibly tired and laborious.

You’re launching a new website dedicated to the pay TV industry, what fascinates you about the industry?

Pay-TV combines two areas that interest me: technology and television. My nerdy fascination with technological developments is married with a subject that is relevant to me. Additionally, the industry is often led by the technology so there’s a great rapport between technology vendors, operators and the consumer.

As a consumer how have technology advances impacted on the way you consume content?

Technology has massively impacted the way I consume content. I now only watch the TV I want to watch and I chose when and where to watch it. Now web-based content has become more reliable and better quality, I often chose to watch live events online – like Wimbledon – over sitting in front of the television. Feels like I’m still working using the PC! I’m really looking forward to true service, platform and device convergence. Personalised and quality guaranteed content services across multiple devices around the home and beyond thrills me far more than it should. Now I have to mess around getting shows on the iPod but having content immediately accessible on my handheld, as instructed by my online EPG, is utterly thrilling for me. Apparently all of this is quite possible today and we’re a couple of years from it being commonplace.

Many consumers skip adverts when watching from a PVR, would targeted advertising or rewards based advertising encourage you to sit through an advert break?

I do skip ads but I don’t get overly annoyed by them. Some adverts are more engaging and creative than some of the programming we’re watching today. Targeted advertising has become a big area and the Holy-Grail is targeting individual households. A couple of vendors claim to achieve this but it’s yet to be seen. What I like about this approach is that you and I can watch the same programme and then brag about what was advertised to us. TV advertising, though, definitely needs to move with the times. Marketing has become far more targeted and measurable and television advertising has failed to deliver those metrics. It’s moving forward in the right direction as we’re now seeing success with on-demand advertising and operators will soon be able to target devices and subscriber profiles to hit certain demographics. As consumers we receive hundreds of marketing messages a day and the more relevant they are to you, the more likely you’ll respond.

Before launching Videonet you spent a number of years working on the IPTV World Series – How has the industry evolved since the first exhibition?

The pay-TV industry has evolved spectacularly since the first IPTV World Forum exhibition in March 2005. To begin with, that event was about TV over DSL; telecoms push into pay-TV. The event evolved year-on-year to incorporate all networks (IP over Cable, hybrid, etc) as other platform operators move to deploy IP-based video services over their network. Now we’re in a situation where telecom companies are ahead of the game being able to offer converged IP services over high bandwidth fibre networks. Meanwhile, cable is responding with DOCSIS 3.0 (supporting unrivalled bandwidth capabilities) and they can now deploy IP services around the home through the cable gateway. DTH providers are enjoying success with hybrid deployments. Just by scratching the surface you can see how quickly the industry moves and that’s what makes it such an intriguing industry to work in.

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

Unlike a lot of other people in this industry, I rather enjoy watching television although I’m incredibly fussy about what I watch. I like comedy programmes including Flight of the Conchords, The Office, Green Wing. I do enjoy US big hitting dramas, such as: Lost (shameful, I know), ER and Hereos. I find most reality TV shows offensively contrive and awful, although I can’t help but love The Apprentice. I also watch a tremendous amount of sport, especially football and tennis.

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