Why Does the UK Think it Governs the Digital TV Landscape?


Many people in the TV world seem to think that the UK, which is most certainly a well developed Digital TV landscape,  is somehow important in the rest of Europe nay rest of the World and those people are especially concerned with what the BBC thinks or does in technology…Hybrid is a Business issue as well as a Technical issue so that makes it more of a challenge.   Is the technical part of the Canvas project of major concern to the rest of EMEA or just a curiosity in this complex world of Internet and Broadcasting…Methinks a curiosity as someone has to look at this rather perplexing overly developed technical portfolio TV is faced with.  So let’s look at the BUSINESS problem highlighted by the BBC themselves – The BBC delivers “Free To Air” Content (created with money derived from a License Fee)…So in a multi facted, complex multi digital landscape theirs is an issue of cost of re-purposing  and re-authoring of Content and any associated Applications in this new world.  They themselves complained about more than 14 different codecs and multi DRM to deal with…that was their gripe and the reason for the intiative: To reduce Cost.  The BUSINESS model is also an issue and it is as Trender research puts it based on a principle of FREE and that is upsetting PayTV Operators in the UK market as other content is leaking onto the internet and is Free.   This was the Music industries issue and the Publishers issue…now its Videos turn.  A Standard cannot solve that it can only aid greater, wider distribution of the same FREE content.

So the Canvas we all talk about goes towards trying to solve a particular TECHNICAL problem for the BBC however when it comes to technical matters and choosing 1 Video Codec and 1 DRM, 1 middleware, 1 GUI, in what SD or HD with 1 Font etc. the initiative may stall even die…anyone who has any Standards work experience will know that Companies who are stake-holders will try to have their technology included.  Choosing a path or direction and technology is not a Standard its a business choice.  And I keep saying  OTT Content is only VOD so is it really feasible to even think we can Standardise VOD in a Retail Horizontal market-place where OTA broadcasters operate?  On a country by country basis Europe is full of its own digital islands and will need its own flavour of Canvas. e.g.

  • The French certainly do not think Canvas matters all that much…they are doing their own OTT joint venture.  France is as equally large in terms of TVHH (Television Households) and has many other countries bordering it and other territories that are still dependent on the French language programming which could make it actually a greater TV power than the UK.   No arguments please…just a hypothesis.  Spain would argue this too.  So how will the more central European countries manage – will we finally see one Europe because of  OTT TV?

In the USA a large Digital Island – TV Everywhere:  A finger in the Dyke of “Content Leakage” – The Content Providers are doing deals in a shotgun distribution fashion and harming the core business as they do it (FREE CONTENT IS ATTRACTIVE TO CONSUMERS).  Now very much “Content is King” but they never knew it was going to be such so Regal…TV Everywhere is at least looking at it in a PayTV model manner with subscription.  An extension of the Cable Operator boundary….This does NOT solve the OTT FREE CONTENT BUSINESS MODEL ISSUE.

Then their is another TECHNICAL solution to Hybrid a la CE manufacturers and STB manufacturers in Retail under HbbTV – One CE manufacturer and backer of HbbTV recently announced in a public convention that the Broadcasters will have to compete with them for Content (They are all doing deals to get what the Broadcasters get)….So the CE manufacturer sees only a WEBTV Portal and will (damn it) have to put a DTT tuner in the box because the Broadband Cable might not be connected and they cannot have a TV on the market that cannot capture TV signals now can they.   So they look at it from an Internet perspective with Browser back to delivery but have not looked at standardising the OTT content aspect as that will be left to each CE manufacturer to choose a partner…HbbTV has not concerned themselves with the real issues of Multi Codecs and DRM ( or how do you upgrade your software in your TV?) so the Content Provider (a la BBC) problem is not solved…Fragmantaion is increased at Equipment level.   HbbTV is really a new broadcast middleware as the Internet part is NOT mandatory thus if there is no Broadband connected then there is NO video or interactive services available other then OTA…If the Internet is so key to the business model then it would/should be made compulsory…however in a Retail Market you cannot force the customer to connect the return channel/broadband pipe just ask Sky!

So all in all this is a very complicated situation:  I feel that Viviane Reding and Neely Croes will step in soon and start to look at legislation and competition issues surrounding this TV Problem.  Then we will see the fun begin as the Stake-Holder Lobbyists creak into action…

Vive la Revolution.

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