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.