We have entered the 2nd phase of the Companion Screen business with Synchronisation being the next step in the equation. The DVB organisation has need of a chairperson for the new DVB-COS (Companion Screen) group that will look to standardise the communication protocols between the Companion Screen and the STBs/Connected TVs. This in itself is a very touchy subject as raised by the iTV Doctor in his recent post and he mentioned a Company already offering such protocols. This may see another IPR issue at the DVB but that is another story…Lets concentrate on Companion Screen issues – As we have progressed through the business of Interactive TV it is clear that there needs to be a marriage of many brides (parts) to make it successful. The list is something like this: Content-Technology-Broadcast Media (DTT, DTH, Cable, IPTV, WebTV) Receiver Hardware and of course Tools and Services. It has been rare that we have seen them come together in a global sense. We have tried many times, with a variety of solutions. The pockets or Islands of interactive (UK’s MHEG5, Italy’s MHP etc…) have managed in a small way, however the marriage has not been so successful overall which has resulted in multiple attempts to engage in Interactivity over and over again. The latest attempt in the old world is of course HbbTV which moves into the arena with another ’embedded’ product that requires some genuine engineering intervention by a variety of people, content needs to created, tools and testing for compliance and conformance are needed – The wedding party is a long affair, it may yet again all end in tears.
Companion Screen on the other hand can synchronise with TV and in some new technology cases does not need certain members of the party to engage in a technical sense, as is required in embedded systems. There are technologies that allow for the full synchronisation without the need for touching the transport stream or the STB. These systems work on a SaaS basis using the ‘Cloud’ as the connectivity channel. The reason I mention this particular form is that this makes the business of Interactive Second Screen easier. If you work with the Content producers and the Broadcasters on Content and cut out some of the middlemen this eliminates one of the barriers for interactivity to flourish. The old chicken and egg – Broadcaster = I wait till the population of receivers is sufficent until I broadcast interactive. Consumer = I will not buy an interactive STB because their is no content! Remember those days? They are still here! A Companion Screen is already in the home…it was bought for other purposes but can be used for TV. Broadcaster/Operator CAPEX reduced immediately.
The OPEX aspect for the Broadcaster is also in a sense reduced as they make use of already installed video servers and server side equipment used in the delivery of catch-up TV. Yes in Companion screen new content formats need to be created to make use of this new system, but we can see that this is on its way. So very soon we will enter a 3rd phase where bespoke Companion Screen Content will appear. The BBC RnD are working on this and there is a call for content in a wider sense as this new marriage starts its honeymoon period.