Thursday, 15 December 2011

UK leads Europe in TV innovation

A study released by Ofcom this week has shown that the UK is Europe's most screen addicted nation.

The UK leads the way in Europe when it comes to digital innovation, particularly in the TV space, you only have to look at the success of the BBC iPlayer to see why the rest of Europe keeps a close eye on the latest UK developments. So it’s no surprise that Brits are the most screen addicted nation. However, this is just the tip of the iceberg. In 2012 the entertainment experience is set to radically change as the explosion of online content hits our screens at home and TV addicts will benefit from a media revolution that has been brewing for some time. There are thousands of connected TVs sat in UK living rooms that need to be connected to the internet to benefit from the innovative new TV services in the pipeline.

2012 will see broadcasters and TV device manufacturers launch a wealth of new TV services. But it will be a balancing act between delivering more sophisticated online interaction and the traditional TV experience for broadcasters and manufacturers alike. As the TV is increasingly positioned as the hub of the connected home, broadcasters and manufacturers need to ensure they are providing the viewing experience consumers want.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Insights into the market drivers for TV in 2012

Lipstick sales used to be the bellwether for the economy. Now it seems, its televisions, as an evening at home in front of the widescreen connected TV has become the new Friday or Saturday night out.

Consumers are reigning in spending as a result of the tough economic environment. But according to the analyst community they are increasingly willing to invest in both large- and smart-TVs (perhaps the result of the need to create an engaging environment as they cut down on nights out to save on spending).

A recent study by analyst Frank N. Magid Associates found that 40 per cent of consumers are looking to buy a new TV next year, with more than three-in-five seeking internet TV features. Meanwhile, Digital Entertainment Group reports that US sales of HDTV sets with a 60-inches or larger screen are expected to have grown by 50 per cent this year to 1.3 million units.

Innovation is opening doors to new services for consumers. In 2012 we’ll see the emergence of more unified services connecting TVs to mobile devices, such as iPads and iPhones. Meanwhile we’re also witnessing greater levels of integration of TV services with gaming devices, such as Kinect for Xbox with its hand gesture navigation system shows the potential for future TV navigation.

Driven by the economic climate and growing technology innovation, the evolving TV experience is undoubtedly becoming an increasingly important feature in connected homes across the UK. As the industry casts its attention towards 2012, we’re excited to see what’s in store as this year draws to a close and a new one begins.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Adobe abandons Flash for TV

Much has been made of Adobe’s recent announcement that it is halting development of the mobile and TV versions of Flash, but it’s worth looking a bit closer to see what this really means for the TV market.

While some pay-TV operators have used Flash, they have been in the minority. HTML, Java and native solutions have been the most common approaches to UI development. Most Flash content on the web is not suited to TV displays or TV remote controls, and so Flash has often been a “tick list” feature in the TV market rather than a must-have. This becomes especially obvious when you start asking the question “what revenue stream will cover the costs of licensing Flash?”

Many people have asked what this means for YouView: the answer is probably “not much”. What Adobe have actually stopped supporting is Flash Player for web browsing: the focus has shifted to AIR and to applications. This is the category the YouView user interface falls into, so is likely to be unaffected by the announcement.

This is probably a wise move by Adobe: it enables them to concentrate on their key products (AIR and development tools) while minimising the pain of supporting companies with porting Flash to new platforms and integrating with new browsers. As HTML 5 and related standards have become almost ubiquitous, the demand for Flash has decreased in the Web world. This announcement lets Adobe strengthen their position in the world of app stores and in the changing mobile market. Flash-based technologies will still be a force in the TV world for some time to come.

By Steve Morris

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Connected TV goes global with new industry body

This week saw the launch of the Connected TV Marketing Association (CTVMA), a new marketing body for the worldwide connected TV industry. The CTVMA is an international body, which will bring together the equipment manufacturers, operators, advertisers and broadcasters working to develop connected TV content and services.

It’s a welcome move in the promotion of internet ready TV sets and STBs, and hopefully a significant step towards helping the connected TV market reach its full potential.

With a fifth of TV sets to be connected in five years and the digital switchover upon us, as an industry we need to embark on a programme of significant consumer education in order to boost market performance. Consumers need to have the most up to date technology and be made aware of the innovative services that are actually available to them.

We’ve already seen that marketers are missing a trick by leaving IPTV devices out of their marketing campaigns. It’s a catch 22. As marketers wait for consumers to demonstrate interaction with brands on TV sets, without providing the content, consumers have nothing to interact with. As the CTVMA gets to work, we look forward to seeing the next generation of broadcast content and marketing campaigns across all devices in the connected home.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Increase in demand for personalised TV services

A recent report, has found that over 70 per cent of UK consumers want to be able to watch what they want, when they want. 39 per cent wish catch-up content was available for longer and 45 per cent would like to be able to watch all the episodes of their favourite shows back to back.

It seems that on demand is in demand, as 74 per cent of viewers claim that they can’t find anything to watch on live TV. Many are feeling overwhelmed by content. The fusion of broadcast and broadband has provided a wealth of new TV services but the result is a content maze that viewers are finding increasingly difficult to navigate.

The survey goes on to say that 39 per cent of those surveyed felt that there were technology and film brands that could do a better job than the existing TV channels. This means that the pressure is on for broadcasters in the coming months, as companies such as Netflix launch in the UK.

As increased connectivity transforms the way we consume and interact with TV, operators and broadcasters need to deliver more choice and a variety of services that enable the viewers to shape how they consume content.

Viewers are ready for the next generation of TV. As we move into 2012 there is a real opportunity here for operators and broadcasters to look ahead and develop personalised services for their viewers so they can get the most out of their TV viewing experience.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Google TV updates – heading in the right direction?

Discussing the Logitech Revue saga with brutal honesty in a recent investor day, Logitech’s CEO has made it obvious that Logitech have no plans for future Google TV products. With Sony hinting at doing the same, the recent announcement of an updated Google TV may not have as much traction as hoped, despite LG’s hints of a Google TV product.

There’s no need to re-hash the criticisms that have been levelled at Google TV. However, there’s one important point to note: the presence of a mouse pointer, the “lean forward” experience of searching for content and the complicated remote control all point to an experience that’s designed for the PC rather than the TV. Google’s focus on “apps” for version 2.0 may not correct this, and potentially repeats their earlier mistake: TV is a “lean back” experience for the vast majority of people, as we’ve commented previously

If people do want to interact with their TV, are the apps on offer compelling enough? While there’s only a small number of apps available at present, this will not be about having vast numbers of apps to choose from: it’s about having the right apps that work in the right way for a TV audience. With nearly 50% of people now using a companion device while watching TV, apps-on-TV may not be enough to review Google TV’s fortunes given the prevalence of companion devices with richer user interaction models.

Both Logitech and Google failed to read the TV market. Logitech have admitted that and learned from it: the question is, has Google learned the right lessons?

Monday, 7 November 2011

Fifth of TV sets to be connected in five years

Digital TV Research has predicted that connected TV sets will represent a fifth of global TV sets by 2016. But despite infiltrating the mass-market, many of these connected TVs will not actually be connected to the internet.

There’s no doubt that the connected TV market is set for seismic growth in the coming twelve months and beyond. But the thought of millions of connected TV sets sitting isolated in living rooms across the country is a gigantic waste! It accentuates a critical flaw in the success of the connected TV market to date. Simply having the ability to connect is not enough – because if the consumer doesn’t know how, the technology is rendered meaningless. What’s the use in technical progress if viewers aren’t able to reap the rewards?

We must embark on a process of significant consumer education if the market is to truly succeed. Manufacturers must take responsibility for ensuring that set up is simple and efficient, while retailers must ensure that the consumer has all the necessary information to go home and get started on their connected TV experience. All too often consumers are confronted with the complex, laborious process of returning home with a device that looked great on the shop floor, but a nightmare install.

If the connected TV market is to realise its full potential, it’s critical that the industry takes the reins on this mammoth education job now, to help consumers understand the true value that a connected TV experience can bring.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

The future of French terrestrial Pay-TV?

Frédéric Mitterrand, the French minister of culture and communication, said recently that allowing the information channel LCI to become free-to-air would send a “very bad signal” about the future of pay-TV on French terrestrial networks. The channel’s owners, TF1, had mooted moving the channel to a free-to-air model if an updated carriage deal with Canal Plus could not be reached. The news channel BFM also opposed LCI’s move to free-to-air, saying that “there is no place on the free DTT market” for three news channels.

While recent developments mean that LCI will remain a pay channel, it does raise questions about terrestrial pay-TV in France. The free-to-air market is changing in many countries due to reduced advertising spend and due to new opportunities offered by connected services. The recent entry of Canal Plus into the free-to-air market may also affect the relationship between the pay-TV and free-to-air sectors. Through its plans to launch the new Canal 20 channel and its proposed acquisition of Direct 8 and Direct Star, there are concerns that Canal Plus will have an unfair advantage in the French market.

With the CSA pushing for the adoption of DVB-T2 and the European Commission evaluating the plans for the attribution of “bonus channels” following analogue switch-off, the picture for digital terrestrial broadcasting in France gets especially complicated.

While the LCI situation may be resolved, there are still a number of issues that may affect the delicate balance between free-to-air and pay-TV services. All parties need to be aware of the unintended consequences of the changes currently taking place.

Friday, 28 October 2011

NHS on your TV

The NHS in Scotland recently launched a new TV channel and interactive TV application that provides health information and advice to the public. NHS 24 is also using this to pilot a TV-based booking scheme for doctor’s appointments, indications are that this scheme is already reducing the number of missed appointments amongst people using it.

These services are all available over the Web already, so why make them available as interactive TV apps? Many people, especially the elderly or those in rural or deprived areas, have far better access to these services via their TV than they do via the Internet. While a website makes it far easier to offer a wider ranger of information and services, a digital TV service such as this gives much wider access to the basics and this is often enough to meet people’s needs.

Many commentators have already pointed out that the government’s plans to provide online access to more services risks widening the “digital divide” not only in Scotland but elsewhere. Offering some of these services via televisions as well via the Web can help reduce the impact of this, but only if those services are easy to use. Application developers need to carefully consider the audience most in need of these services – the elderly, those in rural areas and those in deprived areas – if they are to succeed.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Is this the tipping point for connected TVs?

Netflix announced plans on Monday to launch its online movie streaming service in the UK and Ireland, in early 2012. The new service will put it in line with Amazon’s LoveFilm and the recently launched YouTube Movie channel. Netflix shelved the plans for a UK launch several years ago after an initial failed attempt. But, as we see a ramp up in activity surrounding connected TVs and STBs for 2012, a re-launch isn’t much of a surprise.

2012 signifies a tipping point for the connected TV market. Manufacturers and retailers have been talking about the connected TV experience for some time, but in reality, the benefits are yet to be realised by the majority of consumers. 2012 is the year where this is set to change – and we’re expecting a host of services like this one to be launched in the coming twelve months as the market responds to growing consumer demand.

As TV technology becomes more intelligent and more interactive, consumers are looking for services and applications that deliver opportunities to explore and discover richer content, while staying true to the traditional TV viewing experience. As consumers become more au fait with the potential of connected TVs to enhance their experience, services like this are set to revolutionise the way we consume TV – an exciting time for both the industry and viewers alike.

Monday, 24 October 2011

D-Book goes connected

The UK Digital TV Group (DTG) recently announced the publication of version 7 of the D-Book, the interoperability specification for digital terrestrial TV in the UK. This is a major update for the D-Book, bringing connected TV to the forefront and aligning the UK’s work in this area with activities in other industry bodies.

The DTG has taken the approach of building on existing standards, but extending them where necessary to meet UK-specific needs (such as interoperability with MHEG) or to add features that were not stable at the time HbbTV was published. Although based on HbbTV, D-Book 7 adds support for additional parts of the OIPF specifications, for advanced graphics capabilities defined in HTML 5 and CSS 3, and for smooth media streaming over IP.

ANT has been heavily involved in this work , and we see this as a huge step for connected TV in the UK. This not only gives manufacturers and application developers a common standard to work to – it gives them a standard that’s aligned with other HbbTV deployments in Europe. D-Book 7 goes beyond HbbTV in terms of features and functions, enabling it to offer more advanced services, but also remains compatible with basic HbbTV applications.

While the UK’s early adoption of digital TV put it ahead of many countries, the choice of MHEG-5 did leave the UK as a “digital island”. D-Book 7 offers the UK TV industry a chance to resolve that and gain from further economies of scale, while retaining its leading position in the development and deployment of interactive TV services.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

IAB identifies missed opportunity as marketers find themselves in chicken and egg situation with IPTV

Research from the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) has found that a massive 88% of marketers don’t have an IPTV strategy. And, a third of those surveyed, felt that only a budget of £50,000 should be allocated to IPTV campaigns. But with global sales of IPTV devices set to reach 100 million by 2014, this is an opportunity marketers can’t afford to miss.

Connected TV and marketing campaigns is a chicken and egg situation. Marketers are waiting for consumers to demonstrate interaction with brands on TV sets, but without the content, consumers have nothing to interact with. However, consumers are slowly interacting. Take popular TV shows like X-Factor where viewers can vote from their sofas via the red button, interacting with content on the TV like never before.

Marketers have an opportunity to capitalise on this new medium as an innovative way to connect with their audiences. It’s all about social interaction now and as the home becomes more connected, consumers are looking for a complete multiscreen viewing experience. Marketer’s can’t afford to miss a device out of the loop.

The intelligence behind the ‘pane of glass’ that is a TV set, is phenomenal. The next generation of STBs are able to deliver interactive, personalised services enabling brands to interact with consumers whilst they watch their favourite TV shows. Marketers have an opportunity to work with STB device manufacturers to develop killer TV apps as well as mobile and tablet apps to deliver a complete marketing strategy.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

YouTube delivers online movies on demand

YouTube has now launched its online movie rental service in the UK. It’s a welcome addition to YouTube’s online video services, bringing premium media content to consumers in just a few simple clicks.

The launch follows in the footsteps of Amazon and Apple, and could be a serious contender to LoveFilm and the iTunes store as it’s proved itself to be an online community, rather than just a portal for video streaming.

YouTube is bringing the service to the UK after launching in the US and Canada. This is only the third market that YouTube has launched the service in, highlighting the increasing demand for digital content in the UK. By hosting this content online these services not only deliver access to a huge archive of media content, but also give viewers the freedom to watch what they want, when they want.

These services have also embraced the ‘app’ providing the ideal format for multiscreen viewing. By downloading these apps to the TV, tablet or smartphone viewers can watch movies, TV shows and music videos on the go. And, with technology like our own ANT Galio Move application, viewers can stream live and recorded programmes from their TV device direct to their tablet or smartphone anywhere in the home.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Half-time for digital switch over

The UK is more than half way to digital switch over. Consumers that receive their TV signal via an aerial rather than cable or satellite will be able to access more than 15 channels and as many as 40 depending on their proximity to a transmitter.

The switch to stronger digital signals means extra channels, including high-definition Freeview services, and much improved reception.

In the last two weeks transmitters in the Midlands, Oxfordshire, Stoke and Newcastle-under-Lyme and Yorkshire have been switched over. By the end of 2011 include 11 out of the 15 TV regions, 80 per cent of transmitter sites and 65 per cent of the population.

But despite the investment in regional awareness building campaigns research conducted by ANT shows that consumers face confusion when looking to buy a new TV.

For example Freeview HD has been promoted ahead of digital switch-over but when asked whether an HD television with built-in Freeview would deliver Freeview HD, not one member of staff identified that in order to take advantage of this the viewer must live in a HD-enabled area.

Many retailers stopped the sale of analogue TV sets in 2010 with the launch of the digital switchover but it’s essential that retailers take responsibility for the education process as well, helping consumers understand how these new devices work, to ensure they are getting the most out of new digital TV technologies. We need to get the building blocks in place to so we can look to develop more personalised TV services to the consumer.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Hunt urges telecom firms to put aside rivalries in bid to roll out superfast broadband

The RTS (Royal Television Society) Cambridge Convention took place here in Cambridge, UK, last week. The event at Kings College called TV Everywhere: Paths to Growth brought together executives from across the broadcast industry.

Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt addressed the conference and issued a call to action to telecoms firms to put aside rivalries to roll out superfast broadband.

The Government’s ambition is that the UK should have the best broadband network in Europe by 2015, with 90% of homes and businesses having access to up to 40MBps superfast broadband.

Superfast broadband will be critical to the mainstream adoption of internet services that require high bandwidth such as connected TVs.

Hunt warned that disputes between BT and rival telecom operators over the price of renting BT ducts were delaying the roll out of fibre. Watchdog Ofcom has promised to intervene but it’s unlikely that the issue will be settled until 2012.

Hunt also called for a cross-media approach to fighting anti-piracy. He said that advertisers, credit card companies, and ISPs should cut ties with web sites that serve illegal content.

A full copy of Jeremy Hunt’s speech is available on The Guardian web site.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Onwards and upwards for HbbTV – IBC 2011

Whilst delegates at IBC may be a little less certain than usual of the show’s core theme this year, one thing’s for sure – HbbTV is continuing to attract the attention of the industry as a means of open delivery of combine broadcast / broadband TV services

In addition to the debut of ANT Galio Move which we blogged about yesterday, we’ve also been showing Rovi’s TotalGide, running on the ANT Galio Platform for the first time. Rovi and ANT have joined forces to demonstrate how an HTML version of Rovi TotalGuide, a metadata- and multimedia-rich entertainment discovery solution, can be deployed on HbbTV-compatible CE devices via the ANT Galio platform. The ANT Galio Platform, in combination with Rovi TotalGuide, enables HbbTV users to view extended programming information on TV shows and movies, select channels to view and in future releases, will allow the user to schedule recordings directly to the TV device.
This year we’re also showing a TechnoTrend STB using the ANT Galio HbbTV Platform to deliver a range of German HbbTV services and portal applications.

As with previous years, HbbTV continues to be a popular topic on our stand. ANT is proud to be a founding member of the consortium which has strong support from across the delivery chain. Earlier this week the HbbTV consortium announced that it has now reached 50 members.

If you’re at the show and would like to see our HbbTV demos for yourself, please come and find us in hall 4 (stand 4.C98).

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Hello from Amsterdam…IBC so far

As ever, it’s been a very busy few days here at IBC in Amsterdam – and it’s not over yet! Our main observation from the show floor this year is that there doesn’t seem to be one clear theme. Whilst in previous years specific technologies, like 3D for example, dominated discussion, this year there doesn’t seem to be one clear ‘leader’.

Connected devices are continuing to attract attention. So perhaps the thing we’re most excited about are our show demos. Over the last couple of days, the ANT team has been busy demonstrating our new TV companion application, ANT Galio Move, which delivers companion device functionality with Apple iPads. It’s the first time we’ve showcased it and we’ve seen a great deal of interest from device vendors, broadcasters and operators.

ANT Galio Move enables consumers to stream live and recorded TV direct to companion devices anywhere in the home using a Wi-Fi connection. Without disrupting the main TV viewing experience users can navigate the EPG, manage recordings and change channel all in a natural, rapid and intuitive touch screen user experience.

If you’re at the show and would like to pay us a visit, please come and find us in hall 4 (stand 4.C98).

Thursday, 1 September 2011

TV Apps - keeping the user’s attention

It was announced last week that android users would be able to start developing their own apps for Google TV, TV Apps are really starting to come into their own and are proving to be a useful way to get viewers to engage more with TV content.

A recent poll by Harris Interactive earlier this year indicates that as many as one third of all Americans multi-task while watching TV. While this may seem like bad news for advertisers, another recent survey by Nielsen has some good news for them.

The Nielsen survey indicates that interactive TV content actually encourages viewers to pay more attention to TV programmes and ads. Given the number of distractions faced by consumers, applications can play an important part in keeping the attention of viewers and in retaining their interest. There is a downside to this, however: viewers tend to stick to well-known brands in their choice of applications and are reluctant to try out new content, according to a recent report from Strategy Analytics. Even brands like Facebook are struggling to capture the attention of TV viewers with their TV apps.

So while there is a real struggle for brand owners to increase the use of their TV applications, there is real value if they manage to succeed. This may be an area where TV content providers with strong brands have a real advantage – successful TV applications will not only increase the reach of those brands in new media, but can also help retain the value of their content to advertisers by keeping their viewers engaged and interested.

Friday, 26 August 2011

How real is the death of linear TV?

With the growth of PVR devices and the increased use of on-demand services, the death of linear TV has been widely predicted for several years. These predictions seem to ring increasingly hollow, however. Recent research from the IHS Screen Digest TV Intelligence Service predicts that by 2015, non-linear content will still account for only 15 per cent of people’s viewing time in the USA. This is in line with several other recent surveys indicating that linear TV is still very popular with consumers and likely to remain so.

The digital switchover and the increased choice it offers, combined with the growth of HD and 3D content both play a part in this – even with fast broadband connections, reliable on-demand delivery of HD content still has a number of scalability issues to address. Another important factor is the effort required to find something suitable to watch: people who are in the mood to watch TV don’t like working for it.

Over time, the growth of high-speed broadband and innovations in user interfaces will undoubtedly improve the take-up of non-linear content. We can already see this beginning with Virgin Media’s Tivo service, where 25 per cent of all viewing is originating from search or other discovery mechanisms rather than from the EPG. As more people connect the different devices in their homes to share media, this will also encourage the consumption of non-linear content as the concept of finding content outside the home merges with finding content inside the home. Growing use of tablets and smartphones as companion devices for viewing content only drives this further: our recent announcement of ANT Galio Move as a companion device solution for Galio-enabled platforms shows that this is something we believe will be a major part of the way people consume content in the future.

Without a doubt, linear content still has the edge for viewers in terms of convenience, and this is a powerful force to overcome. On-demand content providers will make inroads, but “more of the same” will not be enough to tip the balance.

By Steve Morris

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

ANT brings ‘TV everywhere’ experience to your home

Today we’re really excited to announce the launch of our new companion device functionality, ANT Galio Move. ANT Galio Move allows consumers to take their TV experience beyond the living room, by streaming live and recorded content directly from the STB or TV via Wi-Fi to a companion device anywhere in the home. Users can also manage recordings, view the EPG and search for additional programme information, all without interrupting the main TV experience.

Industry analysts recently stated that 70 per cent of device owners use them whilst watching TV; we’ve developed ANT Galio Move in response to this growing demand for a ‘TV everywhere’ experience.

ANT Galio Move supports the development of new business opportunities for STB and TV vendors by introducing application sales and advertising revenues. For broadcasters and operators it enables the delivery of additional valuable content direct to the companion device, signalled from a live broadcast stream.

We will be demonstrating ANT Galio Move for the first time at this year’s IBC show in Amsterdam, 9 -13 September 2011. So come along and visit us in Hall 4, Stand Number 4.C98.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Gearing up for IBC 2011

IBC 2011 is just around the corner and free registration for the event closes at the end of the day, so if you haven’t already, it’s time to register here.

ANT will be exhibiting in Hall 4, Stand Number 4.C98. We’ll be showing an exclusive demonstration of a brand new product as well as a live demonstration of the ANT Galio HbbTV Platform. Watch this space for more information…

We’re keen to discuss the latest hot topics in the broadcast industry and the future of the connected home. We’ll be there from the 9th – 13th so come and visit the stand and say hello.

We’ll be updating the blog throughout the show so let us know your comments and what your show highlights were.

Monday, 15 August 2011

Connected TV: early insight from Virgin Media in changing consumer habits

Connected televisions are changing not only viewing habits but how we interact with televisions.

A report issued last week by Virgin Media gives insight into how consumer viewing habits are changing to embrace connected television.

Consumers are exploring new ways of finding the programme that they want to watch and are using apps to engage with television content according to Virgin Media.

Users are discovering programme content via search rather than from the Electronic Programme Guide (EPG) and almost 80 per cent of all TiVo set-top boxes were used to access an app and, on average, each box launched apps 4.5 times a week.

Enabling viewers to access content via search that would otherwise be buried down the EPG increases the audience for content that is popular via word-of-mouth.

The Virgin Media Entertainment Index is based on the viewing habits its 50,000 TiVo customers.

Across its entire subscriber base Virgin media said that customers made 484 million on demand views in the first half of 2011 – an increase of 19 per cent on the same period last year.

Friday, 29 July 2011

European standardises on connected TVs

Internet-connected televisions are set to become a standard feature of European living rooms according to German trade association BITKOM.

More than 10 million television sets with integrated internet connection will be sold in the European Union in 2011, rising to 13 million sets in 2012.

Sales in France, Germany and the UK are roughly doubling year-on-year according to a report in Telecom Paper.

You don’t need to look very hard to see where the growth is coming from; each week brings a fresh announcement from a regional teleco operator signing up new customers or building out in its network to support IPTV services.

Dutch telco KPN announced this week that it signed up 56,000 connected TV subscribers in the last three months to reach a total of 416,000 subscribers.

In Ireland Eircom has announced that it will spend €100m on the first phase of a roll-out of fibre technology to 100,000 homes and businesses before rolling out IPTV by mid-2012.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

IPTV – ready for take-off?

As a company with its roots in IPTV, we’ve seen a lot of predictions in the past about how IPTV will grow rapidly in the future – and it’s often been “in the next couple of years”. However, Digital TV Research’s recent prediction that homes paying for IPTV will more than quadruple to 155 million by the end of 2016 is rather more likely to come true due to to changes in the market and in the growth of IP connectivity.

As expected, it’s the Asia-Pacific region, home of ubiquitous high-bandwidth Internet, that’s likely to drive this growth. But Asia-Pacific is no longer alone in deploying this kind of bandwidth; more and more operators are deploying gigabit networks to the home, with a large amount of this reserved for media services. This trend plays a large part in the growth of pay services, as the viewing experience improves to the point where more people will pay for it.

While we here in Europe are seeing over-the-top content as the most popular driver for connected TVs, in the USA pay-TV services dominate. A recent report by Sandvine indicated that, at its peak, Netflix accounted for almost 30% of internet traffic in the USA, with real-time entertainment as a whole making up almost 50% of the Internet traffic. Not all of this is paid for, of course, but as more and more companies offer their content online there will be more attempts to monetize this. We’re already seeing Apple offering streaming TV shows to Apple TV devices, and Google offering movie rental services to Android devices.

This isn’t “traditional” IPTV, but that’s not a bad thing. The growth in Connected TVs, broadcast digital TV services, and independent media services such as Netflix has meant a move away from the subscription-based IPTV service offered by telcos. IPTV is now less of a substitute for broadcast TV and more of an additional service alongside traditional TV services, pay-TV or otherwise. A recent DisplaySearch forecast indicated that half a billion connected TV sets would be shipped by 2015, indicating that this trend will only continue. People are having ever more choice in the content they consume, and where they get it from. We may finally have found a business model that enables IPTV to reach its true potential.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Connected TVs set to disrupt ad market

In the discussion about the future of connected TVs it’s the revenue opportunity that most broadcasters and CE device vendors have in their sights. But to date it has been too early to take bets on the size of the market opportunity.

Until last week that is when GigaOm published an upbeat article about the future of the TV ad market. It claimed that connected TVs are set to disrupt the $160 million global TV advertising market, by combining the reach of TV with web-style engagement and analytics.

According to GigaOm advertising for video content on mobile devices is going to grow significantly in the coming year but will be dwarfed by the opportunity that emerges as the connected TV market takes off.

Ad networks have the opportunity in their sights.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

3D TV proves that content is still king

Although I’m not a tennis fan, I did spend some time following the Wimbledon Championships this year – mostly to see how well the live 3D broadcasts worked. The conclusion seems to be that it was not as successful as it could have been. Technically the BBC did a great job of broadcasting 3D at Wimbledon but as is often the case, the issue is not the technology so much as the content.

Content is still king, and 3D doesn’t change that. 3D hasn’t been successful in the past because it was often used as a gimmick rather than as a tool to drive compelling stories, and there is still a risk that this will continue to be the case. While we can now convert movies filmed in 2D to provide a 3D experience, that doesn’t mean the results (or the movies) are any good. John Cassy, channel director for Sky 3D pointed this out at the recent Intellect Consumer Electronics 2011 event:

"It's very easy to make bad 3D … At Sky we only make native 3D programmes, and our first stage of production is always to forget about the 3D altogether. Because first and foremost, it's a TV programme - and if the story isn't right or it doesn't make any sense or it's not compelling, it's not good enough and we won't buy it."

Andrew Denham from Panasonic agrees: "Hollywood damaged 3D by rushing so many badly converted films out in the Avatar's wake."

It’s easy to get caught up in the technology and forget what the end user wants. 3D is still “appointment viewing” for most people – you’ll watch a special event in 3D, but not your regular evening’s TV. A glut of poor (or poorly-converted) content, coupled with the continuing expense and inconvenience of 3D glasses, could stop this being special enough for people to justify it. It still remains to be seen if the industry has learned the lessons of previous 3D fads.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Connected TV sales show strong trend worldwide

Sales of connected TVs are set to boom. That’s not just our view but it’s an opinion shared by analysts at DisplaySearch in a new report published this week.

According to the DisplaySearch Quarterly TV Design and Features Report a quarter of all flat panel TVs shipped this year are expected to be internet ready. That number is set to grow to 138 million units by 2015. DisplaySearch predicts that within four years connected TVs will account for almost half of all flat panel TVs shipped.

It’s a trend that is common to both developed markets as consumers upgrade their televisions, and emerging markets, which typically have good broadband services. The common motivation for consumers is a drive to access the best content and services.

Source: DisplaySearch Quarterly TV Design and Features Report

Monday, 4 July 2011

Cloud and the Connected Home World Summit 2011

At the Connected Home World Summit last week there were some interesting discussions on what comes under the heading ‘connected home’. We tend to think of digital media sharing. But there are more features out there that can be added to the chains of connectivity in the home, such as: automated lighting and power control, security and heating control and even some aspects of health care such as panic alarms and other monitoring.

The issue of wireless around the house was discussed in depth, during one of the early morning briefing sessions. An example of where the construction industry needs to meet the connected home industry, as homes are still being built with aluminium backed plaster board, meaning WiFi doesn't stand a chance between one room and another. A prime example of inertia and how many things simply do not move in "Internet time".

Cloud computing was one of the hot topics at the summit this year, especially as Apple has now announced iCloud. There were many discussions around how the cloud relates to the connected home. Is data stored in the cloud, the home network, or both? Should each device try and stream from the cloud or some form of p2p network around the house, as one audience member provocatively suggested? I can see tremendous amounts of data from the home moving to cloud storage and cloud processing in the long term (10 years – maybe 5 years at best), but I just don't see this as realistic over the next few years. Why?

• Users are being asked to place absolute faith in the reliability, security and privacy of cloud storage – but not even Apple is making remotely strong enoug statements to convince me that this area is adequately addressed to be considered appropriate for 95% of Internet users. Could I have absolute confidence telling my parents' that it is sensible, safe and fast enough to have the only of all their photos in the cloud today? Simply put - no

• Upload bandwidths are still not comparable to download bandwidths. Even though it may only be comparatively short term pain, I don't think the vast majority of users are at the point where uploading 100 GB (say their music and photo collection) is going to be viewed as trivial. On top of this there would be a distinct absence of "instant gratification" that the Internet services are generally promoted as. If home video is included, 100 GB can easily become 1 TB or more

So what are the implications? Data originating in the house will tend to stay in the house – at least as far as the master copy is concerned. Data (video) that originates outside the house (broadcast and other content owners) can move to the cloud much easier. Music collections, a la iCloud, are probably the hybrid for the next few years.

By David Fell, CTO, ANT

Monday, 20 June 2011

BBC News gets connected

The BBC has launched a BBC News app for connected TVs. The new product will combine video and text content from BBC News Online that will enable users to seamlessly access the BBC’s news content, from whichever device they are using. Initially it will be available on Samsung’s Smart TVs with plans to extend it to other ranges.

The launch follows the BBC’s plans to unveil a connected TV strategy, outlined in its workplan released earlier this month. We expect to see a trend of similar services emerge in the near future as other players begin to push the envelope and deliver more and more new connected TV services.

We are in the middle of a content and technology evolution, as the TV industry moves towards integrating content across all connected devices. We’ve had glimpses of connected services before but this is the first to provide seamless content across multiple devices. It’s not about making a leap into the unknown; it’s about making small steps and delivering on them. The BBC has launched a service that brings us one step closer to the truly connected home.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Cord cutting? Not yet…

A recent CEA survey has shown that despite the hype surrounding “cord cutting”, most consumers in the US are not looking to give up their pay-TV services any time soon. While terrestrial TV services are becoming much less popular (only 8% of US households relying on them), the pay-TV companies are still in a dominant position when it comes to delivering people’s entertainment.

It’s the younger consumers who are more likely to move to completely online viewing, but this research shows that pay TV is still strong. Good news if you’re a pay-TV company, but it also reinforces the fact that content is still king. Pay TV providers invest a huge amount of money in content, and while some of this is available online, if you want to watch a major series like the recently launched ‘Game Of Thrones’ then a pay-TV subscription is the only way to do it (legally).

Most people won’t pay just for technology, no matter how much it’s hyped. But they are prepared to pay for the ‘must have’ content, and at the moment the companies best placed to deliver this are the traditional TV providers. TV is also a social experience, with people discussing last night’s shows over a coffee or around the water cooler, and traditional linear TV, helps maintain this experience. We are increasingly seeing this social aspect online as well, the #apprentice is a popular hashtag on Twitter each week.

On-demand is great for catching up on shows you missed (or forgot to record), and for watching extras about your favourite shows, but linear TV makes it easy to watch good programmes without much effort. At the end of the day, this is what most consumers – me included – are really looking for.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

4G mobile services could disrupt digital TV

The launch of 4G next year will bring some great opportunities to the mobile and tablet industries. However, it seems as though what is good news for mobiles, could well be bad news for digital TV. 4G will provide faster browsing and download speeds but it seems as though these new high speed signals could interfere with digital TV reception in the UK.

Ofcom, the government-approved regulatory authority for the telecommunication industries in the UK has produced a briefing document on the ‘Coexistence of new services in the 800 MHz band with digital terrestrial television’, which outlines how signals from base stations handling 4G might interfere with local STBs. The problem has arisen as 4G sits next to terrestrial TV signals in the spectrum. It is thought at the moment that around 3 per cent of UK viewers could be affected. And although filters should solve the problem for some, others may need to use different ways to get TV signal. Ofcom has started a research programme to investigate the problem and to find out to what extent viewers will be affected.

Although it’s still unclear as to where the responsibility lies for minimising the impact on TV viewers, this is something that could have a potentially large impact on digital TV services in the UK.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

People want to watch TV, not search

According to a recent report from Strategy Analytics, one of the reasons consumers haven’t taken to Google TV is the need to search for content. Content discovery has been a hot topic in the industry for a long time – it’s considered a key part of YouView, for instance, and is generally one of the major factors in trying to monetise “long tail” content. What’s surprising about this report isn’t that people don’t like having to work to find something to watch; it’s the fact that Google didn’t pick up on this.

Part of the reason, undoubtedly comes from its history as a search engine provider, but there’s also a different understanding of how people behave when watching the TV. The Google TV approach (and the traditional PC approach) is a “lean-forward” model of interaction, requiring active participation by the user – one that’s common in the computer industry, but much less so in the TV industry. By comparison, T-Bone, the new company launched by ex-CTO of YouView Anthony Rose, is taking a “lean-back” approach, which is much closer to a traditional TV experience and has been christened “veg 2.0”.

Many people simply want to simply sit back and relax when watching TV, not scroll through reams of content to find what they are looking for. As one of the participants in the Strategy Analytics survey said: “I don’t want to come home and have to search for content. It is too much effort. I want a Smart TV to know me. Smart TV, to me, is not me doing more work but me doing less”.

Making content easy to find is key, and search is not always the answer to that. Can Google overcome this? Maybe – but other providers are already working hard in this area, and some of them have a big lead. Search is one approach, but having a strong editorial voice that people can trust may prove to be the best long-term solution.

Monday, 6 June 2011

About-turn for government plans to make TV local

Jeremy Hunt has announced a major policy shift in his plan for a new generation of local TV services, moving from the idea of a national network “spine” in favour of a series of individual stations. But what does this mean for the TV industry?

The biggest challenge faced as a result of these government plans is not how the service will be deployed, but what they will deploy. Times are changing for the TV industry, with consumers expecting far more from their viewing experience.

If approached in the right way, these local TV services will open new doors for content providers and advertisers alike. But whether it is delivered via a national network spine or individual stations, content providers must look beyond broadcast to deliver a truly localised service. Connected TV’s and set-top boxes, combining access to broadcast and broadband content in a single user experience are the future of TV, allowing viewers, to not only pick and choose what they want to watch, but when they want to watch it.

Friday, 27 May 2011

Changing times for TV – Europe leads the way

New research has found that broadcasters are increasingly taking the reins when it comes to developing over-the-top (OTT) video services in Europe. The study by SNL Kagen shows that the popularity of catch up services, like BBC iPlayer, is at the heart of how content is being distributed and viewed online.

It’s further evidence that the way we absorb TV content has made a fundamental shift. The ability to tune in anytime to our favourite programmes shapes our TV behaviour today. Open standards, like HbbTV, are creating a competitive landscape for broadcasters – and by default, an increasingly rich content library for TV viewers, as technology opens the doors to brand new features and personalised functions.

Broadcasters in the UK, France and Germany have established standards that open new doors for consumers. Spain is also beginning to address this demand with Mediaset España and Telefonica recently announcing a strategic agreement to launch a pilot for HbbTV services in Spain.

So, it seems that open standards are proving their metal in Europe. And, ‘TV Everywhere’ is becoming the name of the game. But as this adoption grows, the content bank for consumers gets richer, and instant access to content becomes the status quo, the pressing question now is how users will access all of this content? A multiscreen TV experience, it seems, is just around the corner.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Video streaming drives data growth – but who pays for it?

Once again, we’re hearing reports that multimedia traffic and video in particular, will drive a massive growth in Internet traffic. ABI Research has calculated that Video and TV streaming could surpass web and internet traffic by 2015, driven by the increasing use of laptops, tablets and other connected devices.

While this isn’t anything new, the increase in the amount of services delivering over-the-top media (and more importantly, the upsurge in the number of devices that give consumers access to those services) indicates that this growth can’t be ignored.

Rising internet traffic will require increased investment from both data carriers and service providers. While the net neutrality debate isn’t yet over, it’s clear that consumers will end up paying for this investment in one way or another. However, who they pay will be an important factor and if service providers can’t monetise their content they will face an uphill struggle in the face of increasing costs for content delivery. We’re already seeing YouTube moving to provide pay content, and other service providers are likely to soon follow, but it’s unclear what will distinguish their services from the likes of Netflix and LoveFilm.

Services operated by broadcasters, such as Sky Player, often have an edge in the quality of content they can offer - not to mention revenue from broadcast programming that can help offset the cost of an online service. For this reason, pure online services will have to do more than simply provide video in order to convince end users to pay. Without offering something unique, these services will face stiff competition from traditional broadcasters and TV service providers offering online content.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Connected TV Summit 2011

Videonet’s second annual Connected TV Summit took place in London this week. Attended by over 360 delegates, with representatives from across the connected TV delivery chain, it proved to be a strong industry event.

While there was very little talk of 3D TV, the leading TV manufacturers ar clearly committed to increasing their connected TV offerings. According to Informa’s Senior Analyst, Giles Cottie the main driver for this is simply to keep up with the competition.

As you’d expect, Video-on-Demand remains key, as viewers enjoy the freedom of watching what they want, when they want. Ian Mecklenburgh from Virgin Media stressed that TV still remains the most important aspect of the connected TV, he also told delegates that if on-demand was a channel it would be its third most popular.

We also saw an increasing number of services for companion devices such as the iPhone and iPad as the connected home takes shape. NDS, Philips, Samsung and Sky were all talking about new projects along with Siemens showing a slick new demo using a cloud based service.

Edd Uzzell from Sony had some interesting points about connected devices, notably that demonstrating their full capabilities continues to be a challenge as the majority of retailers aren’t even ‘connected’, making it impossible to showcase the full range of benefits to consumers. As we’ve discussed on this blog before we mustn’t forget the consumer in all of this, retailers and device manufacturers need to help consumers understand how they can make the most of these new services, so they don’t get left behind in these exciting developments.

Monday, 16 May 2011

Connected confusion for TV viewers

Another week, another UK region gears up to make the big digital switch – and this time it’s the turn of viewers in the South East! This project signifies an exciting time for the TV industry, as digital viewing transforms the way we receive and consume our content.
As the broadcast industry goes digital, device manufacturers are keeping pace with the introduction of exciting new TV services. Consumers increasingly expect more flexibility from these services and personalised viewing remains a priority. Connected TVs have the potential to transform the way we interact with this new content. Worryingly though, there’s a missing link in the chain from industry to consumer.

Whilst there is a host of connected devices in the market and in consumers’ homes, there’s not enough being done to help to educate consumers on how to get the best from them. Connected devices with features that can enhance the TV experience are sat in living rooms across the UK unused. The onus is on the industry as a whole – broadcasters, device manufacturers and retailers – to ensure that when a consumer invests in new technology, they’re able to appreciate all of its features.

ANT CEO, Simon Woodward, discussed consumer confusion when it comes to connected TVs here:

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

D-Book 7 released

The UK Digital TV Group (DTG) has recently announced the release of D-Book 7, the latest version of the technical specification for UK digital terrestrial TV services. This version is a big step from previous versions, including a whole new volume covering connected TV services. It won’t come as a big surprise to learn that D-Book 7 now supports both HTML and MHEG applications.

HTML support is based on the Open IPTV Forum specifications, using the HbbTV profile as a baseline but adding extra features to meet additional requirements for the UK market and adding more advanced graphics capabilities based on the HTML5 canvas element and CSS3.

What’s needed now is for service providers to start using this specification to develop services; while releasing the specification is an important milestone, the next steps are even more critical. We need real-world services and devices using and implementing the specification in order to identify any gaps and ambiguities and get to the point where the spec is understood well enough that we can deploy services that run on a range of receivers. We’ve already heard that YouView will be using this as part of the basis for their technical specifications, and I’m sure other service providers will also be looking at using some or all of it.

ANT has been heavily involved in the development of D-Book 7, and I’ve no doubt that we’ll see more and more services making use of it in the near future.

Monday, 9 May 2011

US television homes set to decline

The number of homes with a television set is expected to decline in the US, according to to a report from The Nielsen Company. Digital transition, economics and multiple platforms have been cited as the reasons for this decline.

The transition from analogue to digital has meant that consumers need to buy new TV sets in order to view digital content. The report suggests that consumers have been reluctant to invest in new TV technologies due to cut backs after the recession and the increasing amount of content available online.

In the UK we are currently seeing the opposite trend with the digital switchover and the desire for HD driving sales of over 9.5 million TV sets in 2010 alone.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

More HbbTV movement in Europe

HbbTV is driving momentum in Europe this year. Teveo interactive and Mediapool content Services have announced the launch of the first HbbTV-based platform for international TV-content . This means that viewers will be able to access foreign language programming on HbbTV compatible TV devices.

Today’s news is just one of many HbbTV announcements at the ANGA show this week and follows the French media authority’s (the CSA) decision to authorise trials of HbbTV services and news that the Czech public broadcaster, CT, will be speeding up its preparations for HbbTV.
Both of these are important steps: the French HD Forum has been heavily involved in HbbTV and so test transmissions will be a major milestone for the deployment of HbbTV in France. The Czech preparations indicate a growing knowledge of HbbTV outside the “core” group of countries involved in HbbTV.

With French, German and British companies involved in developing the HbbTV specification, it’s unsurprising that those countries were the first users of HbbTV. Having had less involvement in the development of the standard, the move by the Czech public broadcaster CT shows how awareness of HbbTV has spread and how other organisations are seeing the benefits of a common standard.

ANT has been involved in HbbTV since the very beginning, and so seeing this growth in HbbTV really vindicates our belief in the importance of open standards, and that HbbTV is the right standard at the right time.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

TV viewers have their say – social media and the Royal Wedding

Everybody’s talking about it, so it seemed like we couldn’t really avoid a mention of tomorrow’s Royal Wedding on our blog. With the nation gearing up to tune in to the nuptials of Kate and Will, how we’re all going to get in on the action has been a hot topic for discussion. Social media is set to transform the viewing experience, with a Facebook page and a YouTube channel giving well-wishers the chance to ‘watch and react’, post messages, and even upload their own videos.

When Charles married Diana in 1981, it’s estimated that more than 750 million people tuned in worldwide. So with today’s technology, and the huge amount of investment from broadcasters to give the public as much access as possible to the celebrations, it’s anyone’s guess as to how many people will be watching tomorrow. But what’s really going to set this viewing experience apart is the opportunity for people to get involved from the comfort of their living rooms. It’s a little bit of TV history in the making.

With our TV’s becoming digital entertainment hubs, and an increasing number of services converging from the web to our television screen, tuning in to an event like this is no longer a case of sitting back and absorbing. The rise of the connected television, providing users with access to more traditional ‘web’ applications like YouTube and Flickr and greater engagement with the content they watch, has transformed the TV experience from passive, to interactive. With TV innovation evolving at an exciting pace in an increasingly connected world, we wonder what we’ll be able to do from our TV’s at the next Royal Wedding!

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Over-the-Top a hit for all ages

Over-the-top (OTT) delivery is becoming increasingly popular for watching video content across a broadening range of connected devices. A survey carried out by Accenture shows that a growing number of consumers are choosing to watch video content over-the-top, on their TVs, smart-phones as well as PCs.

And it seems that viewers of all ages are increasingly accessing on-demand OTT content. It isn’t just the younger viewers who are driving this trend. The survey showed that 82% of participants aged 35-44 and 64% of participants over the age of 65 are also accessing OTT content.

Broadcasters and operators need to look to find ways to deliver the next generation of TV content, that will enable the viewer to engage and interact with the programmes they watch, not just on the TV but across other devices as well. Consumers are looking for a unified viewing experience across their connected devices.

TV Web surfing

Another interesting statistic from the report was consumers’ desire for Web browsing on the TV, just 14% wish to use this feature – an opinion we’ve supported many times in the past. Web services must be tailored for the TV viewing experience.

Monday, 18 April 2011

IP&TV World Forum 2011

IP&TV World Forum has been and gone again. As usual I spent some time at the show catching up on what’s new. It seems to be a year of consolidation for the industry: most of what I saw was more polished versions of products or demos that I had already seen. This isn’t a bad thing, in fact, it signals a positive shift in the industry.

In my experience, this kind of consolidation tends to indicate a move from “technology push” to “product pull” – shifting from a set of technologies looking for a problem to solve to an industry that has become more consumer-focused, concentrating on delivering products that customers really want. This is a sign of growing maturity in the market, and given the growth in connected TV services and over-the-top services marks an important step towards the mainstream for both.

HbbTV and iPlayer were well-represented at this year’s show, and these really demonstrate the two trends that we’re seeing here at ANT. The uptake of HbbTV as a standard solution for web-based TV services, and the spread of iPlayer as a service that is hugely popular with consumers, could indicate a turning point for the IPTV industry.

Monday, 11 April 2011

Advertisers set to increase spend on digital video advertising

We’re likely to see a huge increase in digital video advertising this year, according to a survey by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB). The results show that the majority of marketers and agencies are increasing their spend on digital video advertising by up to 22 percent over the next twelve months.

It’s no surprise that marketers are looking for more interactive solutions for advertising content. The explosion of online media content is pulling the consumer in different directions and traditional advertising methods are no longer grabbing the attention of the viewer in the same way. The availability of on-demand content means that viewers are now able to skip TV adverts or miss them out altogether.

It’s important to extend beyond the TV screen but not to cut it out altogether. Marketers and advertisers need to look to develop interactive and engaging content that can be rolled out across multiple platforms.

Last Christmas Waitrose took its TV advertising to the next level with its series of adverts that encouraged the viewer to take a photo on their mobile of the Quick Response code, which appeared at the end of each advert. The barcode allowed them to download a new app for free, to access recipes, an advent calendar and other tools.

Advertisers need to follow this example and look to develop content that stays with the viewer after the TV has been switched off.

Friday, 1 April 2011

The BBC, YouView and Connected TV StandardsThe BBC, YouView and Connected TV Standards

Roly Keating, director of archive content at the BBC, spoke recently at the UK Digital TV Group (DTG) summit about how the company is approaching the delivery of content to multiple devices. While some reports have picked up on his comments that YouView is only one part of the BBC's strategy, I’m not sure how surprising this is. With iPlayer being rolled out on more and more devices, and with a huge library of Web-based content, the BBC can’t afford to put all their eggs in the YouView basket – either politically or in terms of their public service remit.

Like many organisations, the BBC is wrestling with the problem of delivering content to multiple devices. The approach to connected TV being taken by the DTG and other industry bodies can offer significant advantages here, by bringing together standards from the web and TV in a pragmatic way: one that that brings the two worlds closer together while recognising the differences between them in business models and product lifecycles. Similarly, the BBC is in an excellent place to help shape that, work by providing concrete examples of where the gaps are today.

The BBC has a long history of involvement in standardisation, and this is another example of where they can take a leading role in standardising an approach to multi-screen delivery of connected TV services based on today’s connected TV standards.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Going digital in Paris

Now that Paris has switched off its analogue TV transmitters, many Parisians may be wondering what exactly that should expect, from going wholly digital. In the short term, the answer is probably not much: figures indicate that only a small proportion of homes were relying on analogue transmissions before switch-off, so for many households it will be business as usual. Just like in the UK, viewers may need to re-tune their set-top boxes or TVs, but that’s probably all for now.

Looking forward, though, the analogue switch-off has the potential to drive some real change. Radio spectrum is so valuable that some of it will undoubtedly be sold off for purposes other than television. But more high-definition and interactive services are probably on the cards, as new digital services are able to re-use some of the spectrum currently used for analogue services. Given that French operators have demonstrated HbbTV-based services, there is already some movement in this direction. As France and the UK both move towards support for HTML-based interactive services in their terrestrial TV networks, it’s likely that we will see a range of new content appearing on TVs in the near future.

Based on experiences in Germany and the UK, catch-up TV services will probably be the first to appear. While not necessarily innovative, we have to remember that most people don’t regard interactive services as the “killer app” for their TV – the experience of actually watching TV is still far more important. Services that make it easier for people to do that are likely to be the winners in the short term. The combination of a standard platform and more broadcast bandwidth will help broadcasters deploy a wide range of new services, but service providers will still need to rely on “customer pull” rather than “technology push” to make those services a success.

What does iPad 2 mean for the future of multiscreen TV?

The iPad 2 is now available to buy, providing consumers with new features such as front and rear facing cameras, faster internet browsing and access to Apple’s famous appstore. But what impact will it have on the way we watch TV?

The rise of tablet devices is changing the way we consume content and could potentially have a huge impact on the future of TV. By providing broadcasters and advertisers with a new platform for exciting new TV services, content will no longer be confined to the TV screen. As the latest piece in the connected home puzzle, tablets are part of a chain of connectivity leading to the convergence of media content and interactive services. So content we would once associate with the web, is now appearing on our TV screens and vice versa.

Content providers need to look to deliver these interactive services across multiple devices. If consumers can download interactive TV content to a device such as an iPad, they can engage with exciting interactive TV services as they are broadcast in real time, without interrupting their viewing experience. The challenge is to deliver a consistent user experience across these platforms, whether the viewer is watching broadcast content on the TV or on the move with an iPad.

Monday, 21 March 2011

TV viewers want more personalised content

Sky has announced its commitment to using targeted advertising to give viewers a more personalised marketing experience when watching TV. With Sky AdSmart, viewers will give permission for Sky to take customer information such as postcode, age and viewing packages to divide viewers into segments, meaning they get the content most relevant to them.

Consumers are increasingly comfortable in personalising their viewing experience with the use of on-demand content. The advertising proposition is also evolving and remains an important part of this personalised TV experience.

Personal TV is the next TV - ANT’s CEO, Simon Woodward discusses this topic further in the video below:

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Twitter and TV

Twitter’s chief executive has spoken recently about its value for live TV shows, hinting that this may result in a tie-up with some TV advertisers. The theory is that tools such as Twitter enhance the experience of watching certain kinds of TV shows live, particularly sports events, by enabling people to communicate with their friends while they’re watching the show. While this may be the case, is it enough to make any tie-up with TV advertisers worthwhile?

Like many other people I’m often tinkering with my laptop while I’m watching TV – but I’m probably doing that during ad breaks when I’m less interested in what’s on the screen. I expect many other people do the same. People may interact with their friends using Twitter, Facebook, or instant messaging during TV shows, but the reality is that while they’re doing this, they’ve taken their eyes off the TV screen and are busy using another device. From the point of view of the advertisers, is this really very different from people watching the ads on fast-forward? If nothing else, they’re still looking at the TV when they’re fast-forwarding through the ads and may actually be paying more attention than otherwise.

The social aspects of watching TV shouldn’t be underestimated – just look at the number of people who watch sports events on TV at bars and pubs – but there’s no guarantee that a social media service can tap into this in a way that helps the advertisers.

Friday, 4 March 2011

Bridging the app

The launch of the iPad 2 has created yet another wave of talk about apps for consumer devices. With its faster processor and dual cameras, the iPad has been hailed as the device that will change the face of applications. And the app store is clearly here to stay.

But what impact does the ‘app store’ have on TV? Currently, viewers can enjoy a range of new services on their TVs, through apps enabled by connected TV sets and Set-top boxes. As the TV app market develops, apps need to be designed with the TV viewer in mind. It’s not simply a case of reformatting existing PC and mobile applications for the TV. At the end of the day, the ‘killer app’ for TV, is TV; consumers want a passive viewing experience, where they can sit back and relax, while absorbing high quality personalised content.

We are likely to see an increase in social media applications for the TV as social networking becomes more prevalent and viewers want to interact instantly with their friends about what they’re watching. But other apps will need to deliver value added content for the viewer if they are to get a look in.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

How will product placement impact traditional TV advertising?

This Morning became the first UK TV show to feature product placement, when Nescafe’s Dolce Gusto coffee machine was featured in This Morning’s kitchen set this week.

This follows OFCOMS recent unveiling of its new warning symbol for programmes containing product placement Commercial broadcasters and the advertising industry will obviously welcome this move, given the challenges facing the more traditional forms of advertising in the UK. What may not be so clear is how this could affect the revenue flow between broadcasters, advertisers, and production companies. Where advertisers were traditionally working with broadcasters, will product placement lead to production companies such as Endemol getting a bigger share of the advertising pie?

The restrictions on where it can be used, and the logo for shows that feature it, seem to be a reasonable compromise between slowing the decline in advertising revenue and maintaining the public’s trust. Along with differences in TV culture between the two countries, it is unlikely that the UK will go as far down the product placement road as the USA.

While some people consider product placement to mean TV shows are “selling out” to advertisers, the reality is that less advertising revenue means fewer new TV shows getting produced. As PVRs have become popular, we’ve already seen the content of TV ads change so that they’re still effective when played at 8x or 16x normal speed. This is just the logical next step for the advertising industry in overcoming the challenges introduced by technology. The trick for advertisers will be to make sure it’s noticeable enough to have the desired effect, but not so noticeable that it makes people change the channel.

Monday, 28 February 2011

W3C Web and TV Workshop – Connecting TV and the Web

While many TVs in the market today are making use of web technologies to provide “connected TV” services, historically there’s been very little communication between the major players in the TV and Web worlds. Last week I spent some time at the W3C’s Web and TV Workshop in Berlin, which is one of a series of workshops organised by the W3C to try to improve this communication. I was presenting on behalf of the UK DTG, but there were also presentations that discussed the work of OIPF, HbbTV and other TV standards bodies.

While there will always be differences between the two industries (the philosophy around software upgrades, requirements on the stability of specifications, and the attitude to patent licensing, for example), there is scope for collaboration and these workshops have been a good place for starting the discussion that’s needed. Both sides recognise the importance of this kind of discussion: as more and more content providers deliver media to TVs, PCs, tablets and phones, this kind of co-operation is going to become crucial over the coming year.

This co-operation may involve bringing existing work from the TV world in to Web standards, or making sure that work underway in the W3C is suitable for use by TV services as well as services on PCs and mobiles. It will most likely be a bit of both, since both sides have a lot to offer. Both sides will benefit most, if we can avoid trying to re-invent the wheel, and hopefully these workshops and their follow-up activities will help keep that to a minimum.

Friday, 25 February 2011

Getting personal

The Government is making plans to broadcast a daily “Community Minute” with the aim of encouraging people to get involved in local community projects. The 60-second segments will be shown on ITV, Channel 4 and Five, showcasing local projects that viewers can get involved in.

The announcement follows news earlier this year of plans to introduce a ‘yellow button’, to deliver more localised TV news services to towns and cities.

It’s clear that there is a growing level of awareness throughout the broadcast industry as a whole, for the demand for more personalised services. But it doesn’t need to stop at a local level. Recommendation engines can be utilised to suggest TV programmes and products to consumers, based on their viewing history, allowing them to cut through irrelevant content. As consumers we’re already used to this on the web when using websites like Amazon.

The convergence of broadcast and broadband content through connected TVs has opened the gates to a whole new world of media content for viewers. But both advertisers and broadcasters are at risk of overwhelming viewers with too much choice. It’s all about striking the right balance; enabling consumers to access a wealth of media content and enabling them to access it quickly, so they can get the most out of their TV viewing experience.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

BBC to develop permanent online archive

The BBC has been given the go-ahead to develop a permanent online archive of broadcast material. The archive will be accessed via a dedicated website and will offer content from BBC 4, Radio 4 and Radio 3. Initial content will mainly be documentaries on topics such as politics, business and travel.

The BBC may have unlocked the door to more broadcast content online, however it’s surprising that this initiative hasn’t targeted the TV as well. In my view it would be more potent for the BBC to also develop this initiative for the TV, accessed via a TV portal, it would allow viewers to access the archive TV content directly through a connected TV.

We have seen on-demand content take a leap from being an optional extra, to a ‘must have’ when it comes to what viewers expect from TV services today. In the past broadcasters have been restricted to offering limited amounts of content online, for a limited time but now the BBC have been given the all clear, others are likely to follow suite. Making this content available online is a step in the right direction but TV content in particular needs to be easily accessible on other devices as well, most notably the TV.

The long and the short of it is that, however content is made available, the viewer must be kept in mind. Viewers still want to maintain an element of the ‘traditional’ TV experience - to sit back, relax and watch. So it’s essential that the user interface of whichever device being used is intuitive. As more content is opened up to consumers this will be a key challenge for the industry to address in the next 12 months and beyond.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Humax Launches New TV Portal with ANT Galio Platform

Humax ran an over-the-air update to its HDR-FOX T2 Freeview+ HD set-top boxes in the UK over the weekend. The update included adding ANT Galio Platform to facilitate it’s new TV Portal, you can read the full announcement here.

The Portal includes a range of TV services including Flikr, BBC iPlayer, Wiki@TV and internet radio and will also be made available on Humax HD-FOX T2 set-top boxes soon. The team at Tech Radar got it’s hands on the new portal a few days early, you can read the review here.

Monday, 7 February 2011

Consumers get to grips with HD technology

Freeview has announced that around 642,000 homes are now watching high definition (HD) Freeview transmissions. Whilst consumers are clearly taking to new TV technologies, retailers need to give them a helping hand so they can get the most out of the wealth of TV services that are now available.

We conducted a mystery shopper exercise at the end of last year and found that the majority of the UK’s leading high street retailers had a distinct lack of knowledge of Freeview. A key concern was that despite the heavy promotion of Freeview HD last year, not one member of staff pointed out that the viewer must live in a HD-enabled area in order to receive HD content. And a third of retailers didn’t even have a staff member available to advise consumers on these new TV technologies.

There still seems to be a divide between exciting technology advances and what is being used and understood by the consumer. The building blocks have been put in place but the TV industry as a whole needs to focus on educating consumers so that they can get the most out of their viewing experience.

Monday, 24 January 2011

TV Applications Evolving in 2011

It's still early days but already it looks as though 2011 is set to be an important year for TV applications. There have already been several significant announcements following CES earlier this month. Samsung announced the two millionth download from its app store, which they say took just 53 days to reach. Although it took Samsung 268 days to reach its one millionth download, there is a clear benchmark that reflects the growing demand for TV apps.
Yahoo has also developed its widgets strategy by adding functionality that enables it to recognise programming. This enables broadcasters to develop and deliver content linked to what the consumer is watching, a prospect which is also naturally attractive to advertisers. It's something we're already familiar with in the European market with HbbTV services delivering similar functionality. At CES, Yahoo demonstrated multi-device connectivity, moving TV and widget content to and from a tablet device, something that Samsung also discussed during a keynote speech during the show.
Applications are fast evolving but content developers and service providers need to remain focused on the prime goal - to enhance the TV experience, not detract from it.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

TV gets connected

As I mentioned at the beginning of the week, connected TV and 3D TV have been heavily featured at CES this year. Today I spent some time looking into the various connected TV’s on show. What’s immediately apparent is that there is a great deal of similarity between many of the devices. This raises an obvious question which relates back to one of the main reasons that TV manufactures added connectivity in the first place – differentiation. If they all feature the same content they’re back to square one.

There are some good examples of VoD services such as Netflix and LOVEFiLM, where the revenue stream is clear. However, it’s harder to see how Sudoku style games will excite the consumer and generate revenue for an app developer or device manufacturer. Yahoo was demonstrating perhaps the most complete solution, confirming that its business model will rely on ad funding, although this was the one area that was not demonstrated.

There is certainly widespread acceptance of connected TV from device manufacturers, which is good news for the consumer. It will be interesting to see which of the device manufacturers will publically disclose its sustainable business model first.

Saturday, 8 January 2011

CES goes 3D...

Day 2 of CES has proved to be as hectic as the first. In between various press and analyst briefings I managed to fight my way through the crowds to see both Sony and Samsung’s latest 3D TV developments. Sony had invited ESPN to talk about its experiences one year on from the launch of ESPN 3D. In an impressive presentation, ESPN showed some stunning 3D content, not least the extreme sports. They also took the opportunity to announce that from 14th February 2011 they will be showing 3D TV content 24/7.

The majority of demos on both the Samsung and Sony booths required either passive or active glasses. However, I was interested to see the glasses-free (autostereoscopic) implementation that Sony had on show. While it was delivered in carefully a controlled environment – dark room, small viewing area etc it was far better than previous attempts I’ve seen in the past. Toshiba has a product in the field in Japan, however Samsung believes that this technology is still at least five years away from being ready for mainstream deployment and Sony did not disclose release plans.

3D TV remains a hot topic for the industry, along with connected TV. However when I’m asked by friends whether it’s time to invest in a new 3D TV set my advice remains the same – wait just a little bit longer.

Friday, 7 January 2011

Greetings from Vegas

Happy New Year and Greetings from Las Vegas, we’re at CES and those who have attended in the past will know just how big the event is and the broad range of technologies on show. First impressions are that it’s bigger than ever, I’ve yet to see official attendance numbers but it certainly feels busy – the three hour taxi queue at McCarren Airport was a giveaway. This, I hope, represents optimism for the market. It’s a big event for the TV industry with 3D TV and Connected TV sure to be heavily featured. I’m looking forward to seeing the latest developments from across the market over the next few days.

I was disappointed not to get the opportunity to see many Google TV implementations up close, after it asked TV makers not to show Google TV demos. But, I was able to see what Intel had to offer. My initial reaction was why had it included the on-screen cursor, URL and search dialog? The presentation stressed that the aim is not to bring the PC to the TV. However, it seemed to be doing exactly that. Do consumers really want to navigate their TV content with a cursor and keyboard? It seems to me that Intel and Google are missing the point here, the TV is not another device to surf the Web on – we already have laptops, phones and iPads that do this perfectly well from the comfort of the living room sofa.