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.