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.