Monday, 31 December 2012

Real time second screen viewing analysis arrives

We’ve been saying it for some time now but it seems that the popularity of second screen viewing is now so popular that media companies and brands now want to measure its relationship with other services. This week Twitter and ratings company Nielson announced a partnership which will monitor the amount of social media activity directly related to content being broadcast on the main screen.

It’s hoped the new tool will allow networks and advertisers to access real-time metrics for understanding TV audiences and social activity. With tablets set to be the number one present this Christmas, the entire tablet market is expected to shoot up 112% compared to last year. It means more people will have a screen sitting on their lap whilst settling down to watch their favourite shows, leading to more interaction with the content they will be watching.

With this trend now clearly established, the digital TV market must adapt to changing viewing behaviour to ensure it meets consumers’ needs. The link between social media and TV viewing highlights the benefits of linking tablets and smartphones directly to TV devices to provide relevant information based on what the consumer is watching.  

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Twitter spikes demonstrate links between TV and social media

After a year of sport which saw the Olympics come to the UK, a Brit win a tennis major,  Chelsea win the European Champions League and a Briton claim cycling’s Yellow Jersey Twitter has revealed that seven of the top ten trending stories in 2012 were related to sport.

As the nation was glued to their screens by a compelling year of sport, 2012 also became the year when viewers truly interacted with the content they were witnessing. At one point, fans were tweeting so much while watching a sports event it even impacted the coverage carried by the BBC.

For the connected TV market, 2012 has shown the potential for companion device applications. It’s something we’ve believed in for a long time, and that we’ve continued to develop in our own product range by adding new features such as Twitter integration to ANT Galio Move. New viewing behaviour is driving the development of new TV applications that will enhance the overall experience, which can only be good news for consumers.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Would Twitter be 'poorer' without TV?

Twitter’s sales director, Bruce Daisely, recently said that Twitter would be “poorer” without TV.  Up to sixty per cent of Twitter users in the UK use it while watching TV, with 40% of peak-time twitter use being related to TV. These figures reinforce the view that social media can coexist with TV and add value to it.  Mr. Daisley is right to say that Twitter complements TV, rather than competes with it, but his claim that Twitter has become an EPG is a little far-fetched.  While Twitter may be good at spreading word-of-mouth recommendations about certain shows, this is very different to the social media network actually acting as an EPG.

Despite that, there is a point to be made here, and it’s one I’ve made on this blog before: while content is still king, finding the right content is becoming more difficult as the number of channels and sources of media grow. Traditional recommendation engines can only help this to a limited degree, because they are typically designed to cope with the viewing habits of one individual and not a household of people with different tastes and demographics.

Social media services like Twitter offer the potential to give real-time recommendations from a group of people that you trust, although there are still limitations to this: of the people in your Twitter feed, how many do you really care about in terms of their TV-watching habits? There are ways of addressing this by having circles of friends, in the way that Google+ does, but the current social media services don’t really handle this well.  There is potential here, but that potential hasn’t been realised yet.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Smartphone growth provides Connected TV and second screen opportunities

Nearly half of the UK now owns a smartphone. What’s interesting about the smartphone adoption rate is the pace at which it has accelerated (31 per cent in 2012). An increasing number of us are using these devices to access online content and we’re using them more often. This increase also represents an opportunity for the Connected TV market.

One of the longstanding criticisms of the Connected TV market is that these devices are often purchased and then not used to their fullest extent. Connection rates of TVs are slowly increasing although this remains an industry challenge, better consumer awareness, improved OTT content and better user interfaces are all needed. The growth of the smartphone market also presents opportunities for the Connected TV market; second screen applications can significantly enhance the Connected TV experience.

Touchscreen Smartphones are ideal for searching TV listings, scheduling recordings and managing the main TV without disrupting what’s being viewed. Live and recorded content can also be streamed to these devices as we’ve shown with our own ANT Galio Move.  

At this year’s IBC we demonstrated a range of new ANT Galio Move features that enable consumers to interact with social media and access additional associated online content such as iTunes, YouTube and Wikipedia based on what the consumer is watching. As smartphone and tablet adoption rates continue to grow so does the second screen opportunity for the connected TV Market.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Deutsche Telekom considering cloud TV move

At the OTTtv World Summit recently, Deutsche Telekom confirmed that it’s planning to push ahead with its launch of multi-screen services. With subscriber numbers for its Entertain TV service up 40% this year, offering a multi-screen solution as part of that service is an indicator of an aggressive growth strategy for the future as well.

Most interesting, however, was the statement that Deutsche Telekom would look at becoming an over-the-top (OTT) service provider in its own right.  Deutsche Telekom already plans to offer existing channels as OTT services, as well as having partnerships in place with companies such as Spotify and Deezer, so this isn’t entirely new. However, a bigger move into this area would show it following Sky’s lead in moving from being a network operator towards being a content provider that is more network-agnostic.  This offers some major opportunities for growth, and helps avoid large, upfront capital expenditure such as the need to provide set-top boxes to subscribers.

The way that people watch TV is changing rapidly, and by offering their services on a wide range of devices, network operators such as Deutsche Telekom can reap the benefits of this.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Russia prepares for HbbTV

We’ve seen strong growth in HbbTV over the last year, not least in Central and Eastern Europe. Poland and the Czech Republic have both launched HbbTV services this year, and Russia has just announced that it plans to launch HbbTV in the first quarter of 2013.

Each of these deployments shows a growing trend towards the harmonisation of digital TV markets, especially in free-to-air systems. The fragmentation that has been endemic in the industry finally seems to be abating, with more broadcasters and network operators choosing to follow HbbTV as a common standard.

There is still some fading debate about whether HbbTV is the best choice for interactive TV services because of supposedly “advanced” features that are missing. However, this debate is now largely irrelevant.  HbbTV was always envisioned as a pragmatic solution that offered rapid time to market while meeting the core needs of broadcasters and device manufacturers. The value of this is being recognised in an ever-increasing number of countries.

Ultimately, the best solution is the one that is widely deployed that also provides off-the-shelf products and economies of scale for consumers, service developers and network operators. As more and more countries adopt HbbTV, the value of HbbTV as a common solution becomes more and more evident.

Friday, 16 November 2012

Smart TV Growth but North America Still Slow to Adopt

A recent study from NPD DisplaySearch points towards an encouraging increase in sales of connected TVs, with growth of over 15% predicted for Europe and Asia in 2012.   The picture in North America is slightly less rosy, however, with sales remaining flat at around 20% penetration. These forecasts for Europe and Asia seem reasonable, given that most large-screen TVs sold today are connected TVs.  But what’s happening  in North America?  I suspect that there are several different drivers behind the trend we’re seeing.

One opinion is that content remains king: the issue is one of how that content gets delivered to the end user.  The growth of free catch-up services in Europe helps drive the growth in smart TVs, because these services can easily be built into the TV.  Even support for paid content via the TV is growing: in the UK we’ve seen deployments from LoveFilm and Netflix, and Sky’s strategy of moving its content to other devices via Sky Go will undoubtedly pay off in time. Asia is seeing similar trends, but here, free content from the web is the main driver.  In both cases, though it’s access to free content that’s getting people hooked.

It’s a different story in the US, where you have on-demand services provided by cable operators through their set-top-boxes or through a separate device such as an Apple TV.  This means that these services are less of a differentiator for TV manufacturers, and so people are less likely to upgrade their TVs specifically for the connected TV experience.

Ease of use also plays a part, in a way that’s often overlooked: the need to switch devices.  If I have some services built in to my TV and others in a set-top-box, switching between them is more effort and inserts a mental barrier (albeit a small one) into the process of finding something to watch.  In my case, this reduces my use of iPlayer on a games console – I’m more likely to turn off my Sky box and pick up a book or use iPlayer on an iPad instead. If these services are built in to the set-top-box in American households, why will people spend the mental effort required to use them on the TV instead?

One other factor that may or may not be important is the adoption of HD TV.  Historically, North America has been at the forefront of HD adoption, with sales in Europe lagging behind.  This could mean that more European consumers are in the process of replacing their TV sets as analogue switch-off approaches, while the reasonably long replacement cycles for televisions (and the current economic climate) mean that many US consumers aren’t replacing their existing HD TV yet.  If this is correct, we may see an increase in the sales of connected TVs in North America over the next couple of years.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Spotify moves into connected TV world with Samsung deal

Samsung announced recently that the Spotify music streaming service is now available on their smart TVs.  While Spotify already has a strong presence in the PC, tablet and smartphone markets, this is its first foray into the TV world.  So what does this mean for Spotify and for Samsung?

Both brands are very strong in their respective areas, but it’s unlikely that Spotify on its own will help Samsung to sell more TVs.  As part of an overall “connected entertainment” offering, though, Spotify is potentially a strong addition.  Exactly how strong may well depend on Spotify’s business model.

Streaming audio services on TVs are nothing new – US customers have been able to enjoy the Pandora streaming service on their TVs and set-top boxes for a couple of years already.  Given this, how will Spotify help Samsung? The most obvious answer is that Pandora is only available in the USA, so customers in Europe and elsewhere can’t use it.  Another reason is that Spotify lets you build your own playlists and select exactly which tracks to play. It seems like Spotify should have a major advantage.

As with other services that move to the TV, though, Spotify will face a challenge in building a user interface that works well on a TV screen with a TV remote.  They seem to have been successful with this on Samsung devices, but if Spotify is to become available on other TVs and set-top boxes then a lot of care needs to be taken to minimise the amount of effort needed to support a consistent user interface on many different platforms.  As services like iPlayer have found, this can be a huge challenge given the current level of market fragmentation.

The second challenge will be the business model for Spotify on connected TVs.  While the (ad-supported) PC version is free, the TV version costs £10 per month - the same price as the mobile version.  The question is therefore; how many people will be willing to pay the extra £10 a month to access this service on their TV, when other entertainment services are available for free?

Thursday, 8 November 2012

What impact will Amazon’s monthly option on Prime have on the movie rental market?

Amazon is testing a new monthly option for its video-streaming service, Prime.  Prime already offers free two-day shipping, free video streaming and access to Amazon's Kindle e-book lending library. The company is now offering a monthly option for the service on its website, which is more comparable to Netflix's streaming video subscription.

Whilst the move signals Amazon is stepping up the competition against main rival Netflix, it’s also a sure sign that much like the music market, streaming and digital downloads are coming to dominate the movie market. Given Amazon’s strong position in the online media market, it’s not surprising it’s added another string to its bow with its monthly Prime service. It’s thrown down the gauntlet to the likes of Netflix and Hulu and we’re likely to see an influx of similar services as the acceptability of digital rights management to both content owners and consumers grows.

But it’s not just about quantity. Broadcasters looking to capitalise on this digital trend would be wise to take a leaf out of Sky’s book. Content has always been king with Sky, and broadcasters need to do in the movie space what Sky’s done with sports. High quality content that consumers actually want to watch will persuade more viewers to subscribe to these online services. Not only this but it’s important to make them device independent so viewers can enjoy the movie experience on the go, wherever they might be.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

UK digital TV switchover signals the end for Ceefax

The final analogue transmission in the UK took place last month. A decade into the new century, Britain’s airwaves are finally a digital domain. Ceefax was switched off as the final analogue signal was turned off in Northern Ireland.

This UK TV landmark highlights how much has changed in the 38 years since Ceefax launched. At its peak Ceefax had 20 million viewers a week and its switch-off will be greeted with some sentimental sadness. Many will fondly remember anxiously waiting for a Ceefax page to change to get the latest football scores for example.

Today’s TV user experience is very different, football updates are available instantly across multiple devices and goals are streamed straight to mobiles and tablets as soon as the football hits the back of the net. Rather than waiting for a match report after 90 minutes, sports fans have access to social media providing minute by minute updates live from grounds around the country. Consumers have the ability to tailor their service to meet their personal needs.

Connected TVs along with tablets and smartphones are undoubtedly improving the way consumers watch and interact with live sports although we’ll miss Ceefax a little bit too!

Friday, 2 November 2012

Moving the EPG to the companion device, a natural evolution

One new development that was commonplace at IBC this year is the use of companion devices such as an iPad or smartphone for navigating the EPG. Over the last year there have been lots of demos of these services, but now it’s becoming a commercial reality. ANT Galio Move, the companion device offering from ANT, is available to consumers today under the View21 brand in the UK and recently won an award at the awards for its approach to using a second screen.

This isn’t just a “we won an award” blog entry, though.  What I really want to talk about is how this kind of app has changed my use of the EPG.  

Moving the EPG off the main screen on to a second screen does more than just give me a better way of navigating around a grid-based guide. It changes how the guide gets used as a browsing tool and a content discovery mechanism, and affects the whole dynamic of watching TV. Many tablet owners are already used to multi-tasking while watching TV, and having the EPG on a companion device means that browsing the guide simply becomes another part of that multi-tasking.  Most importantly, it means that it’s not interrupting other people’s TV viewing.

Having the guide on a companion device, with its own connection to the Internet and a richer interaction model also opens up new possibilities for what the guide looks like.  Imagine “zooming in” on a programme to find out more about it, as if the detailed information about the programme is just another part of the main guide grid.  Imagine having that tied in to a recommendation engine, or personal recommendations from friends via Twitter that suggest programmes you’d like.  Imagine having it integrated with catch-up TV services, or VoD services, or the iTunes store so that you can buy the movie or TV series to keep.

With the rich metadata that is now available, the combination of advanced TV services and a companion device with an easy-to-use user interface means that are we now in a position to make the best use of that new data to improve our EPG and help us to more easily find what we want to watch.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Integrating catch-up services into the EPG

The recent high-profile launches of YouView and Freesat’s new Freetime service in the UK have shifted focus back on to the role that the EPG plays in finding what to watch. Both platforms feature a “backwards EPG”, where users can scroll “back in time” to find programmes on catch-up services as well as seeing what’s on in the future.

There is much to be praised for this approach: a large part of the population still finds it difficult to use the traditional type of catch-up service, because it’s not how they’re used to choosing what to watch. By integrating catch-up services into the guide, that mental barrier gets reduced and makes catch-up TV part of their normal viewing experience.

However, the question that then starts to emerge is “will the grid-based EPG soon have had its day?”
There’s a lot of inertia behind the use of the grid-based EPG (among users and manufacturers), as the amount of available content increases. But, it’s still not really clear if the traditional EPG is the best way of displaying this much information to the user in a way that’s actually useful to them.  The traditional EPG will still be with us for a long time, because linear TV is also going to be with us for a long time.  However, I doubt that the grid-based EPG will remain the primary means of finding something to watch past the current generation of user interfaces that we’re seeing from companies like Freesat and YouView. 

This brings us full circle back to the integration of catch-up services in to the guide, because familiarity is a powerful tool, but sometimes our current tools just aren’t powerful enough to face the demands of the future.

Friday, 26 October 2012

Smart TVs Help TV Overtake PC For Online Video Viewing

A recent study from the NPD group in the US has revealed that the television has now overtaken the PC as the preferred device for viewing over-the-top (OTT) media. The rapid adoption of smart TVs obviously has a large part to play in this, but we’ve also seen that many smart TVs have ease-of-use problems and so the growth in smart TVs alone may not be enough to account for this trend.

Smart TVs have some obvious benefits over the PC for viewing media content – the large screen and the “lean back” user experience are pretty much essential for watching content that’s longer than a few minutes.  As a regular user of iPlayer, I much prefer to use it on the Wii (for those times when the entire family wants to watch something) or on my iPad (for when I’m the only one who wants to watch something) because they’re more convenient and comfortable to use.  While I could connect my laptop to the TV and use that, the difference in resolutions and the hassle of getting audio set up properly means I simply don’t bother.  I’d rather watch a standard-definition version of the programme easily than deal with the messing around required to watch the HD version on the big screen.

As online media services become more widely deployed through smart TVs and set-top boxes (with both YouView and Freesat doing this in the UK, and various HbbTV-based catch-up TV services available in Germany), viewing OTT content is eventually going to become just another part of the TV experience, in the same way that PVR functionality already is today.

At the same time, there’s still a long way to go – recent figures have revealed that three quarters of YouView boxes sold so far have been used to view on-demand content for more than three minutes per session.  Given that the current purchasers are by definition the early adopters, who are more likely to be familiar with catch-up TV services, this is not a very impressive set of numbers.  Seeing how these numbers grow as YouView and Freesat’s Freetime service become more widely deployed will give a good indication of how this trend will develop in the UK.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

What impact will the iPad Mini have on the multi-screen TV viewing experience?

Apple’s much anticipated gadget, the iPad Mini was unveiled last night, but what impact will it have on the multi-screen TV viewing experience when it becomes available to the public on the 2nd November?

The launch of the iPad Mini could send Apple’s dominance in the tablet market into overdrive. The smaller, cheaper tablet isn’t just a device for holidays; it has the potential to extend TV services every day. Multi-screen TV is becoming increasingly popular with services including search and recommendations being combined with the ability to watch shows away from the TV set. Compact and portable, the quality of the screen hasn’t been compromised, meaning users will be able to enjoy TV content on the go at ease.

Whilst it’s launching with a slightly higher-than-expected price tag of £269, it’s still cheaper than Apple’s £300+ flagship 10-inch iPad. This means consumers will be able to take advantage of an enhanced connected TV experience at a lower price.  Both the TV industry and consumers are becoming increasingly savvy in using tablets and smartphones to enhance the viewing experience. It’ll be interesting to see what new services will be tailored to the new enhanced range of iPads to extend TV experience even further, and whether these new devices change the way people multi-task while watching TV.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

BBC scales back Red Button video ahead of connected TV service

The BBC has recently announced that they’re scaling back their use of “red button” video ahead of a wider deployment of their connected TV service.  Given the success of iPlayer, this isn’t entirely surprising.  The use of broadcast services for delivering alternative video streams is both expensive, because you have to pay for the spectrum to broadcast it, and inherently limited because there are only so many alternative streams that you can carry at any time.

The BBC’s excellent coverage of the Olympics showed the value of alternative streams, by allowing everyone to choose which Olympic events they wanted to watch.  While this is feasible as a one-off for high-profile events such as the Olympics (if you’ve got a satellite or cable subscription that can handle all of the extra channels that are needed), it doesn’t work so well in day-to-day situations because of the limited number of streams that you can carry.  Broadcasters end up having to make a choice of what alternative streams to provide - not only to fit them into the available channels, but also to maximise the use of those channels.

The success of catch-up services on smart TVs has shown that customers will accept streamed video, and services such as the “Tagesschau” service in Germany (which provides news on demand) show the advantages of a connected approach, especially as the adoption of connected TVs grows.  The flexibility of connected TV services offer a big advantage over broadcast-based alternative video streams, and over time users will see real benefits from this through the increased availability of alternative content.

Friday, 12 October 2012

DTG releases connected TV spec version two

The UK Digital TV Group (DTG) recently released a new version of its connected TV specification – D-Book 7 part B.  ANT has been heavily involved with this version of the specification (I’ve been chairing the HTML work in this activity) and so it’s good to see it finally released.  This is an important step in the evolution of the D-Book, for two reasons.

First, this version of the D-Book is much more closely harmonised with the HbbTV specification, meaning that three of the main HTML-based specifications for connected TV (from the Open IPTV Forum, HbbTV and the DTG) are now closely aligned.  This makes it much easier for all of the digital TV specialists to get economies of scale from the development and deployment of HTML-based products and services.

Second, D-Book 7 part B is publicly available.  Until now, the D-Book has only been available to DTG members. While this may not seem very important, D-Book 7 part B adds some advanced web technologies over and above those currently adopted by OIPF or HbbTV.  While there are still questions about how widespread the deployment of these technologies is in smart TVs at present (and how usable they are on the current generation of receivers), that may not be the most important aspect of this.  Having this specification publicly available makes it much easier for HbbTV and OIPF to make sure that future versions of their specifications are aligned with the DTG.

Increasing harmonisation is not only good for the industry, it’s good for consumers all over the world, so the closer alignment of all three specifications – and the ability to easily align even further in the future - is a big step in the right direction.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

It’s Official: Sport is Social

The British public is embracing second screening as part of their everyday viewing habits. According to Sky, 75% of people now watch TV with a second connected device in hand. During the Olympics, over 150 million tweets were posted, making it one of the most talked-about events ever on Twitter. It confirms that big sporting events trail only breaking national news for stimulating social networking.

Now, social networking sites are not only being used to discuss programming, but to choose what to watch too. 24% of 18 to 24 year-olds use Facebook and 9% use Twitter to find something to watch on TV. Remarkably, over one in ten of us are now turning on TVs because of what we’ve seen on social media.

According to Broadband TV News, BBC’s iPlayer received a record 196 million views over the Olympics, with almost a fifth coming from mobile and tablet devices. This, along with the Ryder Cup, has given sport 30% of the online viewing market.

Sport is reacting to this too. The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is the world’s fastest growing sport, and this could well be down to social media and second screening. For example, Head of UFC’s parent company, Dana White, has over 2.2 million followers, and before the main fight, on pay-per-view, supporting events are shown live on Facebook. Sport has always engendered debate, something which second screening and social media can only help to grow. In the weird and wacky world of professional wrestling, WWE recently acquired social networking site Tout, and now regularly uses content from Tout in its broadcast programming.

All of this means sports fans and content providers are using multiple platforms to source, consume, and enjoy more entertainment at once. In this regard, sports content is ahead of the market, but it will surely only be a matter of time before other content providers start to integrate further in this way.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Umbrella Apps

Apps for the TV is fast becoming a hot topic. A recent survey by Appcelerator has found that more than 80 per cent of developers felt they would be making apps for televisions by 2015. The survey of more than 5000 developers shows that the number of apps for the TV will soon be equal to mobile and tablets.

Our own app, ANT Galio Move, has already received an excellent response from customers who recognise that tablet and smartphone applications can really enhance the viewing experience for viewers, whilst providing significant product differentiation and new revenue.

At IBC last month, we showcased a range of demos, to show how broadcast metadata can be used to provide integrated content from Twitter, Facebook, Wikipedia and iTunes. Viewers can follow tweets about the programme they’re watching, watch a movie trailer on YouTube or buy the soundtrack on iTunes.

John Moulding has described this type of application as ‘the Umbrella app’. An app that takes the usual campaign screen functionality like channel change and recordings and adding social media content, which is usually thought of as ‘second screen’ experiences. This gives Pay TV platforms the opportunity to become the gateway on tablets and smartphones within which individual programme-related experiences are accessed.

We’ve seen with ANT Galio Move that this type of functionality can be just as compelling with a free-to-air platform when the application has direct access to the TV device and its accompanying metadata. Companion applications will continue to evolve but we’re starting to see how combining traditional TV functionality such as streaming, navigation and control with online content can really improve the overall TV experience.

Friday, 21 September 2012

Will iPhone 5 increase multiscreen viewing in the home?

So the dust has settled on the launch of the new iPhone model. There was no great new feature that stole the headlines. It was simply more of the same that has made the iPhone so popular. With improved maps, a panoramic camera, 4G, and a new digital dock, the latest iPhone is set to be a worthy replacement for the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4s. But what stood out for us was the introduction of a larger screen.
The new model is getting a display larger than the traditional 3.5-inches. The screen measures 4-inches diagonally and will maximise the Retina display technology that was introduced on the iPhone 4. The new iPhone is just a little bigger than earlier models but with a width the same as the 4S.
Why has Apple done this? Well the success of the Samsung Galaxy and its bigger screen might be one reason. But perhaps Apple has picked up on the growing trend of consumers using their smart device to watch TV on.

This habit is something we’ve observed in the past, and it’s more than encouraging to see giants such as Apple developing products recognising this trend. The tablet is still maturing, but smartphones are already in most homes. As tablets become more popular, it seems larger smartphone devices are where we are headed.
This will be music to the ears of the connected TV manufacturers to see better companion devices to interact with, to highlight the functionality of their products. It’s now up to digital TV software specialists such as us to provide products, like ANT Galio Move, that will maximise this development.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

ANT wins at ConnectedWorld.TV Awards

Last night at the ConnectedWorld.TV Awards we collected the prize for the best native app for a portable device for ANT Galio Move. The awards ceremony took place at IBC 2012 and was hosted by Spencer Kelly (middle), presenter of BBC Click. It was great to see the product recognised by the industry as one of the leading applications on the market.

ANT Galio Move was launched at IBC 2011 and allows consumers to stream live and recorded TV to tablets and smartphones anywhere in the home. You can view the device in action on ANT’s YouTube Channel.

The award has come as we have been demonstrating the latest social media functionality of ANT Galio Move at this year’s IBC. We’ve had excellent feedback from visitors who have had a hands-on demonstration of the new features. 

ANT Galio Move now enables viewers to update Facebook or Twitter while they watch TV content on the companion device, or access additional related associated content on Wikipedia, YouTube or iTunes. It’s this interaction with the content, and being able to engage with what you are watching, that has hit the right note at IBC this year.

With these new features added, we’re already looking forward to innovating further as the fast moving second screen market continues to gain momentum.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Socialising at IBC 2012

IBC 2012 marks a year since the launch of our unique multiscreen TV app, ANT Galio Move. Over the last 12 months the app has continued to evolve as connected devices have presented a massive opportunity for the TV industry. With the foundations of the connected home in place, it’s clear that consumers want to be able to interact across multiple devices. Now with the ANT Galio Move app, viewers can access Facebook and Twitter on the same screen as their favourite TV shows.

ANT Galio Move was developed to meet the growing demand for the multiscreen viewing experience. It enables viewers to watch both live and recorded TV on tablets and smartphones anywhere in the home. People can watch either the same or different TV shows without interrupting the main TV screen. The app ‘talks’ to the TV or STB over a Wi-Fi connection, any tablet or smartphone device can also act as a remote control. So viewers are also able to manage recordings and access programme information.

Now viewers can update Facebook or Twitter whilst they watch TV content on the same screen. Not only this, but because the app analyses programme metadata it can also provide links to additional associated online content. ANT Galio Move can provide links to Wikipedia for additional programme and actor information, movie trailers on YouTube, or a soundtrack on iTunes. It can even suggest the right hashtags for the viewer to follow on Twitter.

We’ll be at IBC until the end of the show so pop our stand 4.C98 in Hall number 4 to see ANT Galio Move in action. Or you can view a video demonstration of the new features below.

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Second screening becomes big business

24% of people are using second screens whilst watching TV, and almost half of all 16-24 years olds use social networks such as Facebook and Twitter to discuss what they’re watching, according to new stats in Deloitte’s new report.

Viewers are interacting directly with the programmes they’re watching, but they’re also increasingly talking about the content within the programme with their friends on social media networks. There is a real opportunity here from those broadcasters and advertisers that react quickly to this growing trend. Advertising specialist YuMe, has stated there is a window of opportunity for them to pitch their wares to a growing connected TV audience, as for now they will interact with the ads out of a simple curiosity.

To make of the most of this, advertisers should therefore be leading the way for consumers, providing interesting and personalised content so that when they do go online using their connected TV, they have something compelling to interact with.

There’s also a huge opportunity for manufacturers to get involved here, and we are seeing a growing number of companion apps becoming available that consumers can use to interact with their favourite TV shows. Integrating social media networks into the viewing experience for example, means viewers can be more engaged with their favourite TV shows, following the relevant hashtags on Twitter and discussing with friends online. 

These latest stats show viewers are becoming more accustomed to using second screens and interacting directly with the programmes that they’re watching. So faced with a more switched-on connected TV audience, the onus is firmly on the TV industry to create a converged first and second screen experience so compelling that it could potentially have more impact than a single screen experience.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

ANT Galio Move shortlisted for Connected World awards

Good news! As well as being shortlisted for the CSI awards last month, ANT Galio Move has now also been shortlisted for the Connected World TV awards! We’re in the running for the ‘Best native app for a portable device’ category.  The judging will take place by a panel of experts over the next month and the winners will be announced during this year’s IBC event which runs from the 7th – 11th September.

Launched at last year’s IBC show, ANT Galio Move is an application that allows consumers to stream live and recorded TV direct to tablets and smartphones anywhere in the home. Using ANT Galio Move, viewers can watch the same programme as the main TV, stream a different channel or watch a programme previously recorded on the STB (Set-Top Box). The app connects directly to the STB meaning it can manage recordings, access additional programme information and quickly navigate through the EPG (Electronic Programme Guide), extending the capabilities of today’s STB beyond the living room. All of which can be done without disrupting the main TV experience.

It’s been really well received by the critics and we’ve spent the last 12 months in development, preparing to launch a whole range of new exciting features at IBC 2012. If you’re attending the show this year, please feel free to visit our stand to see ANT Galio Move in action.

We’re delighted with the results of ANT Galio Move’s latest features and testament to its success in the market is the fact that we’ve been shortlisted for two highly prestigious industry awards in as many months. We’ll be keeping our fingers crossed for the Connected World awards ceremony, but please do wish us luck!

For more information on ANT Galio Move please visit the ANT website.

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

ANT Galio Move shortlisted for CSI awards

We’re pleased to announce that ANT Galio Move has been shortlisted for the Cable & Satellite International awards in the ‘Best interactive TV technology or application’ category.  The judging is to take place by a panel of experts over the next month and the winners will be announced at this year’s IBC event on September 7th.

Most people now live in a connected home with 70 per cent of tablet owners and 68 per cent of smartphone owners using their devices while watching TV. ANT Galio Move uses these additional screens to complement and enhance the viewing experience.

ANT Galio Move is an application that allows viewers to stream live and recorded TV direct to tablets and smartphones anywhere in the home. The app connects directly to the TV device using a WiFi connection, meaning that the companion device is able to carry out a wide range of second-screen functions, which haven’t previously been possible. For example:

  • When watching a football match, for example, you can take the game with you while you make a cup of tea, meaning you never miss a kick. Simply press the ‘Watch Here’ button on the companion device’s touch screen UI. The match will continue to play on the main TV as the rest of the family continues to watch while you can watch it in parallel on the companion device
  • Perhaps you’re not interested in the football at all, and if that’s the case, simply select another channel and stream it to the companion device instead. The main TV remains unaffected and you have access to the same selection of live programmes to view on the companion device
  • As well as all of the live programmes, the application can also be used to watch programmes recorded onto the STB or connected TV hard drive

Since its launch at the IBC show last year, ANT Galio Move has been extremely well received by the market. We have continued to develop the application and are looking forward to showcasing new exciting features again at IBC 2012. We’re delighted with the results and will be keeping our fingers crossed at the CSI awards ceremony.

For more information on ANT Galio Move  please visit the ANT website.

Friday, 20 July 2012

Households getting smarter with their TVs

Internet connected 'smart TVs' are growing in popularity with 5% of UK households now owning one, according to stats in Ofcom’s new report.

As smart TVs grow in popularity, so does the physical size of the average TV screen.  More than one third (35%) of TVs sold in the UK in Q1 2012 were either 'super-large' (33" to 42") or 'jumbo' sized (43" and over). In addition, smartphone and tablet ownership are also up, 39% and 11% respectively.
The connected home is no longer just a pipe dream. Smart TV sales are steadily increasing and more importantly the number of consumers actually using the internet enabled features is increasing too. Over two thirds of people are now using the internet capabilities of their smart TVs - a result of more engaging, relevant content being provided for viewers combined with improved consumer understanding of the benefits of plugging an internet cable into the back of their new TV.

The rise in smartphone and tablet ownership presents an opportunity to not only watch TV on these devices but to join the TV and the connected devices together for a converged TV experience. Tasks such as scanning the electronic programme guide or scheduling new recordings should take place on the touch screen user interface of a smartphone of tablet device to avoid disturbing what the TV is best as – displaying great television pictures.

By Simon Woodward, CEO of digital TV specialist ANT Software

Thursday, 19 July 2012

The Sky’s the limit for brand new Now TV service

This week we have seen another contender enter the arena to battle it out for our on-demand attention. BskyB launched its own streaming service – Now TV – challenging the dominant players in the market, Netflix and LoveFilm. Now TV will be made available on PCs, Macs, smartphones, iPads and YouView. Consumers will be given the option to either watch unlimited films for £15 a month or pay up to £3.49 for individual films, with the "pay and play" option. With the launch of the new internet service, Sky is going beyond its pay-TV subscription roots. It’s a smart way of maximising its premium catalogue.

Having seen LoveFilm and Netflix make a huge splash this year, the launch of Now TV is a bold step for Sky to take. The move is a sign that Sky’s looking to get more from what it already has. More bang for essentially the same buck.

Whilst the launch is exciting news for consumers who don’t want to subscribe to Sky’s packages but do want access to Sky’s content, it’s also an interesting development for the digital TV industry overall. The launch is another sign that the market for on-demand services is rapidly growing.

Monday, 16 July 2012

It’s good to share as the connected device market prepares for growth spurt

A report by the analyst group IDATE reveals connected TVs will account for 63% of the new over-the-top services market by 2020. In addition to that, the global TV services market will amount to €355 billion by 2020, up from €233 billion in 2011. On average, over the next eight years, it means the market is set to grow by 4.7% annually. When you consider the wider economic climate, that’s an ambitious target to reach.

The driving force behind this however will be what the report calls the 'rest of the world' countries, including China, India, Russia and Brazil. These countries will increase their share of the global TV services market from 20% in 2011, to 42% in 2020.

One of the reasons for this growth is the development of on-demand-video services. IDATE’s deputy chief executive, Gilles Fontaine, believes "new on-demand services will increase their share of the global video market from 3% in 2011 to 12% in 2020.”

China and the Asian markets will be of particular interest as they continue to develop. Burgeoning middle classes in China and the modernisation of other economies in the region means there is, in every sense, a whole new market to explore.

We’ve said in the past that we expect to see a sharp curve on the adoption cycle of connected TVs. Consumer take-up stagnated in the early years, partly because the consumer education piece didn’t run parallel to the technology innovation. This is now being addressed and the benefits of connected TVs are already starting to light up living rooms. It’s now up to the industry to continue to develop additional, relevant, TV services to meet the forecasted demand.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

A big “phew” from the people behind YouView

YouView is finally set to launch. Chairman Alan Sugar and Managing Director Richard Halton showcased the new television service backed by territorial broadcasters (BBC, Channel 4, Channel 5 and ITV) and three communications companies (Arqiva, BT and TalkTalk) to the press for the first time this morning. While trials continue, YouView has committed to the first STB’s being available to buy at the end of the month, around two years later than originally planned.

YouView is some four years in the making having been known initially as project canvas in 2008, with a view to launch in 2010. It will allow viewers to access 100 digital TV and radio channels as well as a selection of on-demand content from BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, 4oD and Demand 5. Today’s launch focussed on its EPG that enables users to scroll backwards in time as well as forwards, so they can catch up on shows they may have missed in the last seven days. You can see some glimpses of the EPG here.  Subscription packages are yet to be announced and may hold the key to whether the service is able to offer anything that isn’t already available in the market today. Subscription free STBs will cost £299, meaning it’s very much a premium product. 

After some technical delays, the product is now ready to go to market. Crucially, it will miss the anticipated pre-Olympics surge in TV device sales. But it’s thought the new TV service will also provide film studios and TV production companies with the ability to set up their own channels, an interesting development for the UK market.

Friday, 29 June 2012

Will Google TV learn the lessons from 2010 launch?

Sony and Google have got together to launch Google TV beyond North America for the first time. It’s an interesting development and another reason why 2012 has become the year of connected TV devices. Whilst it’s an exciting development for consumers, people may still be a little wary about investing in the product given the reputation Google TV garnered when it first launched in the US.

When it launched in the US in 2010, Google TV had its share of critics. The initial release was derided for being too expensive, and perhaps more importantly several TV networks blocked the service from access to its content. Google’s launch partner, Logitech, pulled out after an unsuccessful launch, CEO Guerrino De Luca later told investors that launching on "beta" software was "a mistake of implementation of a gigantic nature" the software simply wasn’t ready for commercial deployment.

The UK launch, which will also be rolled out in Canada, Australia, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Brazil and Mexico in the coming months sees Sony provide the hardware. We saw some early implementations at CES in January. Consumers will be able to browse the internet, play games and access other applications as well as watching TV. There appears to be a limited amount of European TV content available at launch, which, as we saw in the US may prove to be a barrier.

It remains to be seen how the device, called the NSZ-GS7, will fair. However, with plans to launch a Blu-ray version at £300 later this year, it suggests Google and Sony are going to be throwing their considerable marketing weight behind it. The encouraging thing for all of us in the industry is that the connected TV market continues to grow.

Monday, 25 June 2012

Multi-screen is the way forward for our sporting summer

This weekend, we watched in disbelief as England crashed out of Euro 2012, yet again on penalties. So as we enjoy, or rather endure, this sporting summer, it’s interesting to note that one fifth of Europeans will be using connected devices to ensure they don’t miss a single sporting event, according to research carried out for Logitech by Opinion Matters . Whilst the Euros are now over for England, we still have Wimbledon and the Olympics to look forward to; and it’s looking likely that this sporting summer will be the tipping point for bringing the multi-screen experience into our living rooms.

The survey also revealed that 66 per cent of men control the remote. But by using new tablet and smartphone apps such as ANT Galio Move, arguments over the remote will become a thing of the past. Using a Wi-Fi connection, ANT Galio Move lets users stream live and recorded TV direct to tablets and smartphones anywhere in the home. This means that fans can watch the match on an iPad as they get refreshments from the kitchen while everyone else continues to watch on the main TV - no-one need ever miss a single kick again. Alternatively those that don’t want to watch the game can use the iPad to watch a different live channel or recorded programme. The app can also be used to manage recordings, access additional programme information and control the TV, all without interrupting the big game.

So with increasing numbers of consumers turning to multiple devices to watch all the sporting events over the summer, one thing we can be certain of is that the multi-screen experience looks set to stay. Perhaps slightly less certain however, are Great Britain’s chances for the rest of the sporting summer… For now, the pressure is firmly on Andy Murray to deliver a British victory at Wimbledon!

Monday, 18 June 2012

New services needed to capitalise on connected TV sales boom

More than every third flat-screen TV set sold this year in Europe (37%) will be Internet-compatible, according to recent figures compiled by the European Information Technology Observatory. But with connected TVs now set to boom across Europe, manufacturers and retailers are constantly having to up their game. One way to do this is to offer the consumer market more innovative features so that they remain ahead of their competition.

These latest figures show that connected TVs are becoming increasingly popular, and as a result, everyone wants a piece of the pie. This year, we’ve already seen the entry of Netflix into the UK market, the launch of Google TV 2.0, and an Apple TV is rumoured to be hot on its heels. So in an increasingly crowded marketplace, manufacturers are having to become more savvy by harnessing developments in new technologies and offering consumers a greater range of digital TV services. For a glimpse of future connected TV services it’s worth tracking the connected set-top box market: with a shorter development cycle it’s often where TV innovation can be seen first.

Multiscreen TV is set to shape the viewing experience of the future, with connected devices talking to each other to deliver truly personalised TV. By embracing new services such as tablet and smartphone viewing, connected TV sales will continue to thrive.

By Simon Woodward, CEO of digital TV specialist ANT Software

Friday, 8 June 2012

Tablet video views continue to grow

The latest report by online video company Ooyala is out and once again provides an excellent insight into how people are consuming video content on PCs, smartphones, tablets and connected TV’s.

The report includes some great statistics around the increase in long-form content viewing (videos longer than ten minutes) on tablet devices. This accounted for over half of the video content consumed. The iPad remains the dominant tablet device, accounting for 95% of tablet viewing.

We’ve seen strong industry interest in this area seen since the launch of ANT Galio Move, an application that allows consumers to stream live and recorded TV direct to tablets and smartphones anywhere in the home from connected TV’s and STBs. Tablet sales continue to go from strength to strength and new product releases have enhanced video content usage, Ooyala’s report states that following Apple’s March release of the iPad 3, the amount of video watched on tablets jumped 26%. 

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Broadcast content is still king

Digital Spy carried out a survey of 3000 UK consumers this week highlighting that 75 per cent still prefer to watch broadcast content live. With broadcast content still king, what does the future hold for more interactive TV services, such as on-demand content?

Whilst on-demand content is increasing in popularity as it offers viewers the chance to watch what they want when they want, broadcast programmes will always have a place in our living rooms. Viewers will always want to experience and share important events in real time but increasingly, viewers are multitasking whilst watching the TV.

Now, advances in TV technology are giving viewers the opportunity to interact directly with this content using phones, tablets and the TV itself. Social media is already being used by viewers to enhance their viewing experience, and broadcasters are responding to this, with Twitter hashtags becoming more prominent during programmes. There is a real opportunity for the TV industry here. But you can’t just transfer the PC browsing experience to the TV, it’s essential that both broadcast and broadband content are developed together to provide a seamless viewing experience.

By Simon Woodward, CEO of digital TV specialist ANT Software

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Interactive TV to boost retailers’ sales

eBay released a report earlier this week highlighting that Interactive TV services will have an increasingly positive influence on retailers’ sales. eBay predicts that by 2014, new technologies will boost revenues by a huge £235m.  Interactive TV will have the most influence with a quarter of people set to use it regularly to shop by the end of 2014.

But the impact of interactive TV on online shopping sales isn’t a given. Instead, it will be dependent on whether consumers become more comfortable with the concept of connected TVs in their living rooms.  On the one hand, there is the potential to open up new revenue opportunities, whereas on the other hand, consumers need their eyes opening to the new role that television can play in the home.

For retailers to cash in on the £750m worth of potential direct sales, they need to avoid getting caught-up in the chicken and egg situation. Consumers won’t rush to shop through their television; they need to be shown how it works and the benefit of shopping via that medium.

We’ve seen slow adoption of the new functionality available in connected TVs, largely due to the poor education around how plugging the internet into the back of your television can enhance the viewing experience.  New technology adoption doesn’t just happen, technology is embraced when people are educated and excited by it.

By Simon Woodward, CEO of digital TV specialist ANT Software

Friday, 11 May 2012

Streamed mobile TV users set to soar

This week, Juniper Research released a survey highlighting the increasing popularity of streaming TV services directly to smartphone devices. Juniper predicts that the number of users will rise to 240m by 2014. The report found that this dramatic growth would arise from a combination of both increased smartphone penetration and, critically, an increase in the usage of live and on-demand Internet TV and IPTV services.

Of course, TV content is no longer confined to a TV screen in the home, and mobile TV adds another exciting dimension to consumers’ viewing experience. Mobile TV allows viewers to access real-time content whenever and wherever they want, meaning consumers can watch events, such as sports or breaking news stories, as they happen, and interact with that content as they watch. As the likes of Sky invest more in mobile access, the TV industry will be encouraged to see the rising mobile TV usage figures. 

Content providers would however, be wise to ensure that in offering consumers a multiscreen experience, each of the devices used are able to interact with each other. At present, devices are all too often treated independently, with mobile devices receiving cut-down services via the cloud. Content providers and device manufacturers need to work together to enable companion devices to ‘connect’ to TVs and STB’s to achieve a fully converged user experience.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Getting connected

Connected TVs are being woefully underused at the moment. This week YouGov released a survey showing only one third of connected TV buyers are doing so to connect to the internet. Most are currently being bought by early adopters looking to have the most up to date gadget. Picture, sound quality and screen size are cited as the most important factors, rather than the interactive web content.

YouGov suggested the results are more to do with future proofing the TV, likening it to when HD ready TVs were sold before HD channels were available. But that argument doesn’t really stack up as connected TV content is already available. It has been somewhat limited as content providers wait for consumers to show more interaction before making the leap themselves. But we are gradually seeing content owners and broadcasters become more media savvy. Content is now being distributed across a variety of IP-connected devices such as games consoles, smartphones, tablets and laptops. There’s a huge opportunity here to transform the TV experience from just simply viewing to interacting.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Ceefax – time to switch-off the much loved yet underused service

Ceefax, after nearly 40 years, has finally been shut down. Many have lamented the fact the text service has had its plug pulled, and some even wrote a love letter to Ceefax to thank it for all the memories. But the fact is it had become little more than a piece of nostalgia from a by-gone time.

We should all remember Ceefax for what it was – a forerunner to modern day interactive services. It was the basis for the innovation we’re seeing in the market at the moment. Services such as BBC sport’s internet connected TV app can trace its origins directly back to what Ceefax had to offer. 

Most adults grew up checking Ceefax for the latest news, sports and cheap travel deals before the internet took its place. Now we’re seeing the next step in that development with internet connected TVs.

Such is the nature of technology, something new and better eventually comes along to replace it. As connected TVs and set-top boxes become more commonplace, it will be interesting to see what people think of Ceefax in five or ten years’ time. Our hope is that it will be held in high regard for paving the path for more interactive services and functions to be made available whilst pushing the boundaries for what the analogue platform was able to deliver.

By Simon Woodward, CEO of digital TV specialist ANT Software.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

BBC throws its weight behind connected TVs

Last week saw the launch of the BBC Sport connected TV app which has been designed to augment the coverage of Formula 1 via internet connected televisions. It will initially be available via Virgin Media TiVo with plans to roll it out across other platforms. The BBC has also launched a smaller news service that will run alongside the sport app. The broadcaster plans to use the new service during its coverage of events such as Euro 2012, Wimbledon and the London 2012 Olympic Games.

At launch the app will focus on Formula 1, allowing people to watch key moments from recent races, as well as content from the race that hasn’t been transmitted during the main broadcast. It means fans of the sport will be able to watch full coverage of the practice sessions, qualifying heats, and multi-feed coverage of the race itself.

It’s an important development for the BBC and one that we’re likely to see more of in the future. Internet connected TV’s give broadcasters an opportunity to deliver additional content without disrupting the broadcast schedule with very little extra cost. For consumers, F1 enthusiasts in this case, connected TV’s provide the ability to receive in depth on-demand content. As the host broadcaster for this year’s Olympics, the eyes of the world will be trained on the BBC and by embracing connected TV’s the BBC is maintaining its industry leading reputation which has been established by the development of world class services such as the iPlayer.

For the connected TV market, the fact the world’s largest broadcaster is beginning to embrace this technology is a very positive sign. By having the driving force of the BBC championing connected TVs, it can only help manufacturers to convince consumers to upgrade to the new generation of TV devices and even more importantly, to connect them to the internet. 

Thursday, 5 April 2012

The big digital switchover – spreading the word is key

London was the latest region to flip the digital switch this week. Analogue BBC Two was turned off in Crystal Palace on 04th April, with the rest of the terrestrial station signals set to be stopped over the next week.

The campaign to raise awareness of the switchover has been running for some years now, but there is still some confusion about what the switchover means for consumers. In fact, it’s estimated that 1 million homes in London are not ready for the big switchover.

The initial switch to digital began in 2006 and since then an ongoing campaign has been led by Digital UK. Their aim has been to get the country up to speed on what they need to do to be ready to take advantage of what digital has to offer. So far the campaign has cost £630million and has set a target of getting 98.5 per cent of the UK population switched over to digital.

For viewers that haven’t retuned their televisions or invested in the next generation of connected TVs, they might be wondering what exactly all the fuss is about. Well, there are a whole host of benefits to be had from HD content to interactive services. In addition to this, having connected TVs and set-top boxes allows consumers to access a range of premium on-demand content. Since the beginning of the year, the competition in the connected TV industry has really ratcheted up. With Netflix joining LOVEFiLM in the UK market, there are some great deals to be had for consumers wanting to gain access to the latest films and TV shows.

Digital UK has made some good progress in getting viewers ready for the change, consumer guides showing what is on offer help, but there is still more work to be done. While there has been a lot of noise about the digital switchover itself, consumers still aren’t receiving the education and support they need to make the most of innovative new TV services. Many are investing in new devices, like connected TVs, but the key features remain unused.

We’ve only scratched the surface of what the connected TV can achieve and it’s important the consumer buys into it. The broadcast and retail industry need to undertake a significant education process, working in sync with new technology developments as a result of the digital switch, to ensure the viewer gets the most out of new connected TV devices. With that consumer base in place, we’ll see more and more interactive content and features made available that will enable viewers get more from their favourite shows.

It’s been a good start so far and we hope to see more positive media coverage in the months to come championing digital TV. It’s up to all of us working within the industry to help inform consumers and spread the word to ensure everyone is able to take advantage of new technology advances.