Wednesday, 29 April 2009

BBC reveals the Apprentice Predictor

Last week the contestants of the Apprentice faced hearing the F word from the British public for the first time, as the BBC launched a new website. Named the Apprentice Predictor, the nifty new game gives viewers a taster of what it’s like being Sir Alan Sugar, but it by no means affects the outcome of the programme as it’s only a just-for-fun online prediction game.

The service also has a chat element which allows viewers to comment on the contestants and their performances even before the programme starts airing (comments are moderated which is probably for the best).

On the whole The Apprentice Predictor is a neat little idea that is built with an aim to drive traffic to the BBC website and to encourage discussions around the programme. These types of games add an extra dimension to audience interaction by involving viewers and engaging them with additional content and if monetised, it could also be a new revenue stream

See below for a quick demo presented by the big moustache comedian Rufus Hound.

Monday, 27 April 2009

Is cable subscription model under threat?

At the Adage Digital Conference this year, high profile speakers including Verizon’s Chief Marketing Officer John Stratton discussed how IPTV is affecting the cable TV subscription model. Although the view was largely taken from a US TV market point of view, John Stratton acknowledged that IPTV is indeed forcing viewers to cancel their cable TV subscriptions and explore online alternatives such as Hulu, iTunes, Amazon Video and These fast growing online services are all based on non-subscription based models including transactional, premium, ad-supported models.

John says that the cable subscription model will continue to exist for certain distributors as long as content providers keep their costs down. On the whole, the general trend suggests that the subscription model for TV is being challenged by rapidly evolving online content providers, but forces are already at work for content providers, distributors and advertisers to start offering IPTV services that are built on simple and flexible model.

You can watch the full speech in below 3Minute AdAge video.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

400 mile longboarding challenge

A member of the ANT team is currently longboarding from Mizen Head to Malin Head in Ireland. Alan Smyth is taking on the 400 mile challenge to raise money for the British Heart Foundation and Irish Heart Foundation. Alan is now into the second week of his challenge, you can get updates of his adventure on his blog here and make donations here.

Good luck Alan!

Monday, 20 April 2009

Red Dwarf breaks non-terrestrial records

New episodes of sci-fi comedy Red Dwarf attracted over 2.6 million viewers over the Easter weekend.

The three-part 21st anniversary special "Red Dwarf: Back to Earth" pulled in the highest ever ratings for the UK TV channel Dave, which renamed itself to the Dave Lister channel for the duration.

Part 1, broadcast on Good Friday 10 April between 9pm and 9.30pm, attracted an average digital audience share of 11%, beating BBC2 and Channel 5 for the same time slot. A further 342,000 watched on the timeshift channel Dave ja vu an hour later, with 226,000 recording the show and then watching it from PVR within 3 days.

This makes the Red Dwarf revival the most popular non-terrestrial-analogue commission in the UK, beating the 2006 Torchwood launch episode on BBC3 and the first instalment of Terry Pratchett's "Hogfather" on Sky1.

Red Dwarf ran for eight series on BBC Two between 1988 and 1999 and remains the channel's highest rated show. At its peak, Red Dwarf pulled in around 8.5m viewers and has been broadcast in more than 25 countries.

Friday, 17 April 2009

Mozilla is to overhaul browser design

Mozilla's usability engineers are considering a complete redesign of the look and feel of Firefox as the browser slowly moves to become a complete operating systems. The most radical proposals could replace browser tabs with an interface that looks more like iTunes or a windows-based desktop.

Another idea that Mozilla are playing with is natural language searching. You can see the mockup here and in below video.

Taskfox Prototype from Aza Raskin on Vimeo.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Top TV listing guides by usability

Amongst other things this Easter weekend my family and I had some time to catch up on TV. It reminded me that there was once a time when everyone simply picked up a hard copy of the Radio Times to get an idea of what to watch and when. However, the way we choose programming and watch TV is hugely different to yesteryear.

I took some time out to compare some of the best TV listing sites out there and give a fair review on each of them. There are more than a dozen websites offering TV guides, but I think the following five sites fair better than others, purely because of the their ease of use and interactivity:

1. TV Guide Listing - a great site for getting a whole day’s worth of TV listings of all channels available in the UK, in a single page. Showing weekly and daily programme highlights in photos means you don’t have to read lots of details. The site also lets users view programmes by genre and provides a platform for viewers to discuss programmes.

2. Sky TV Listing – on Sky TV Listing all programmes are tagged by genres, which means you can easily search and browse programmes suited to your interest. Brilliantly designed, the site gives users the option to change viewing format from a simple list to a grid view. If you’re a subscriber already you can also remotely record your favourite TV shows through the website.

3. Tiscali TV Guide – really easy to use, this site offers user ratings on all programmes. It also allows users to fully customise their listings by channel, a feature that other TV listing sites don’t do well.

4. Radio Times – is practically the same as all of above, but it offers fewer and more structured channel listings. It also lists radio programmes and films on a separate tab. In addition, you can also view exclusive behind the scene photos and features which what makes it worth revisiting.

5. On the Box – works similarly to all the aforementioned services, but the site also provides independent reviews on programmes some of which are highly amusing to read. It's worth checking out.

All of above TV listing sites have great usability features. In a few years time, I can see these types of services becoming widely available on TV screens, giving viewers greater flexibility in accessing over-the-top (OTT) information and third party reviews, so you don't have to flick through pages and pages of TV listings with a pen in your hand.

Monday, 6 April 2009

‘Super simplicity’ will rein the Connected Homes

Interesting research emerged from Ericsson ConsumerLab last week on the future of connected TV. The report titled ‘IPTV and the Connected Home' examines digital content consumption in the home and found that there’s growing consumer interest in IPTV services.

Although the research talks about some of the evident trends in the consumption of connected TV, I found the following tidbits worth digesting:
  • One third (33%) of the internet population in the UK are interested in creating ‘connected home’ environments, but the early adopters are still having to rely on DIY solutions to create home entertainment systems
  • 64% of UK consumers would like to have wireless connectivity between all digital media devices to facilitate the quick and easy sharing of digital content
  • Over half of UK consumers would like greater freedom and flexibility to access digital content from any device, from anywhere, combined with wireless connectivity between all digital content devices
  • The operators need to deliver 'super simplicity' in order to drive mass-market take-up of advanced IPTV-based and connected home functionality

There’s no doubt that the demand for advanced TV and connected features are shifting from early adopters to a much wider user base. However, as the research rightly suggests, TV viewers are increasingly expecting connected TV through a simple and seamless delivery platform. However, simplicity shouldn’t get in the way of innovation. In fact, both should go hand in hand when implementing IPTV services.