Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Come Dine with Me

Just spotted Channel 4’s live online play-along, for fans of Come Dine With Me. By logging onto, when the programme is scheduled for live viewing, fans can score the Come Dine With Me contestants while they're watching the show on TV at home.

Viewers can try and predict the outcome of the show and rate each night's contestants on food, personality and atmosphere. This level of interactivity when viewing TV programmes is a signal of what’s to come in the future. But, not on the web, but with content shared through the television.

The question is, which TV programmes, do we want to get interactive with? Top Gear, Who wants to be a millionaire, Ten Years Younger... Anymore?

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Five things I like about the new Wii iPlayer

First thing yesterday morning, before I'd even had breakfast, I downloaded the new iPlayer from the Wii shop, eager to try it out. I haven't given it a lot of testing yet, but so far there are many things I like about it:

  1. It now appears in the top-level Wii menu, which makes it obvious how to access it. Previously it was four clicks away.
  2. The interface is similar in style and function to the one I'm familiar with on my PC, but adapted to the context of use.
  3. It's fine if I start it up knowing specifically which programme I want to watch and also has the beginnings of some recommendation elements in the "Most Popular" and "More Like This" functions, which is good if I'm just looking for something to watch.
  4. The frame-rate is better than the old version, which was uncomfortable to watch for more than a few minutes. The resolution isn't quite up to standard definition, but that's less important.
  5. Navigation is by pointing the Wiimote, which rumbles as the pointer moves over clickable things. It's a subtle but important bit of tactile feedback that I suspect helps to subconsciously tune your movements to steer the pointer efficiently.

A few things I would like to see in a future version (tut! Never satisfied eh...?):

  • I'd like to see still-frames as I drag the play-position slider. Buffering for video playback takes several seconds each time the slider is moved. If I want to skip to the part of "Later..." where Norah Jones sang for example, it's a tediously slow process.
  • The ability to watch live channels. I know there are technical reasons why that would be a bad idea, but let me talk about wishes for a moment, and forget technical feasibility. I'd like live channels to be included so that everything is in one place, and I only have to learn one style of interface. I'd like to see the broadcast schedule displayed in the same UI, and for the programmes in it to contain links to previous and related episodes.
  • A recommended viewing schedule. Programmes aren't available forever in iPlayer, so to help me organise my TV-viewing time I'd like to indicate which programmes and series I'm interested in, and have the system recommend to me what to watch next and by when, so that I don't run out of time to watch anything.
  • Finally, I'd like more to help me find new things to watch - for example, user-provided ratings, and editorial content about programmes and series.

Dr Rob.

Twitter on TV

Orange announced earlier this week that it has struck a deal with Twitter to enable users to send messages direct from their TV’s. As a consumer it’s great to see new applications being added to a TV service to enrich the offering.

On screen chat is a use-case that we’ve supported at ANT for some time, in March 2008 we demonstrated a new concept called ‘Footie Friends’ at the IPTV World Forum, which also used a Twitter style application. This enabled viewers to chat to each other both on screen and via mobile while watching football on their TV’s.

I expect to see further social networking applications appearing on our TV screens as the industry experiments further. I’m keen to see how this can be tied to the content that’s being viewed such as the X-Factor. This has proved a popular topic in social media forums providing a great opportunity for broadcasters.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Details of the new Wii iPlayer

Last week, Rahul Chakkara posted some details about the new iPlayer for the Wii on the BBC Internet Blog.

We tried the old Wii iPlayer (before it broke) in our household a few times, but we haven't used it much because we found the lower-than-normal framerate was uncomfortable to watch - I'm hoping the new version will do better.

Rahul mentions some technical challenges including, "limited processing power and memory available on these types of devices," which is interesting given that the Wii is far more powerful than most STBs...

I'm looking forward to trying the new version tomorrow.

Dr Rob.

Sky moves into the mobile market

Following the recent launch of Sky Player for the Xbox, BSKYB has also been busy targeting the mobile market with the launch of the Sky Mobile TV service. The app is available on both the iPhone and the iPod Touch and will allow users to stream live TV through a wifi connection.

Sky says there has been 2 million downloads to date, so the service is proving to be popular. So far they have targeted live events with a selection of news and sports channels available. Will this open the way for further mobile TV apps?

It will be interesting to see what the long term impact of this service will be on SKY’s traditional subscription model and if the new service will drive new subscribers to Sky or will current customers opt for the cheaper Mobile TV subscription instead?

Friday, 13 November 2009

Two screen viewing

The NBA Digital (National Basketball Association) has launched a new two screen approach for viewing live games. Viewers watching live NBA games on their TV will also be able to access live data on their PC’s in the style of a press room where they’ll have real time access to player and team statistics. There are some nice touches including being able to personalise the homepage so you’re favorite teams stats appear every time you log on; and access to an instant messaging chat room.

You can see a demo of the application here: .

NBA refers to some Nielson Media Research that found that 57 per cent of Americans, with access to the internet at home, use the TV and internet simultaneously. 27.9 per cent of the time online is spent simultaneously watching TV so this move is a good response to consumer behavior.

I can’t help thinking they’re missing a trick though, shouldn’t this all be done via the TV? This is exactly the type of application that can enhance a viewing experience, delivered via a widget on the TV screen.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Giving IPTV the X factor

This series of the X Factor has generated a huge buzz online. Facebook launched an app for each finalist, whilst Twitter enables users to add a ribbon to their profile to show their support for their favourite finalist.

ITV has been busy too, launching a dedicated website to aggregate the show’s content, such as photos, videos and comments about each performer. However, much of the progress to combine the online buzz with the TV programme has been focused on tapping into people that tune into their favourite programmes via the web.

The question is, when will broadcasters bring social media to the TV screen? The technology is already in place. IPTV can facilitate Twitter conversations into live programmes via OTT widgets, which would allow viewers to have conversations and interact with each other.

One concern about hosting online content through the TV is the effect public conversations could have on the brand. If this move is to happen, broadcasters will need to be careful how they publish viewer comments and what filters if any, they put in place.

Whilst the industry debates how to make this a reality, can we now put rest to the claim that watching TV isn’t sociable?

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Risky business

The same characteristics of the web that allow new services to be launched at the flick of a switch can also lead to services breaking at any moment. Witness the update that has broken access to iPlayer on the Wii:

“Why am I unable to view BBC iPlayer on my Nintendo Wii?

The latest Nintendo Wii software upgrade has caused BBC iPlayer to stop working. Users that have not upgraded can continue to use the BBC iPlayer website.”

The lesson here is that although technically it may be possible to launch a new service that builds on something provided by another company, if you have no commercial agreement in place with the other company to maintain compatibility with your service, an update could break it at any time and without notice. If it breaks, an awful lot of users could be pounding your help-lines or returning products as “faulty”...

I wonder how many of the vast array of mobile and TV devices with access to YouTube, Facebook, etc, have been built with commercial agreements with the service they access, and therefore can continue to work faultlessly for the lifetime of the product?

Dr Rob