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.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Advertisers look to connected TVs to develop new campaigns

There has been lots of talk about the connected television and how the advertising world can take advantage of the possibilities presented to them. Advertising revenue has been on a downward spiral and there is a feeling that the current method of advertising on the box isn’t cutting the mustard anymore.

Media buyers are probably most aware of this and are keen to promote new technologies to help stabilise this trend. Carat recently held an event which brought together key figures from the advertising world to look at what technology can do to help advertisers to think of new ways of getting their content to the consumer.

With connected TVs, advertisers are only just beginning to get to grips with what they can do in terms of interactivity and weaving in new functions, offers, or promotions into the standard advertising campaigns that we are all familiar with.

In some quarters, the convergence of the two is being seen as The Holy Grail for advertisers. Not only does it provide them with the ability to interact with the viewer, but it can also push them towards further information and even the opportunity to buy the product directly.
Of course for this to be fully realised, the technology needs to be in place to allow for the industry to use its well-known creativity and ingenuity to the fullest. This is where the hardware and supporting software is going to be so important, and already we are seeing companies experimenting with what they can offer the market.

The TV App Agency recently launched its TV App Agency engine which allows brands to deploy multiple platform-ready apps from a single source code. This is allowing advertisers to deploy a range of creative executions that will help to draw in the consumer and utilise a multi-screen platform.

We’ve got some way to go before connected TV features are fully utilised by the mainstream, however it’s interesting to see new campaigns trialled leveraging these new technologies.