INTX is dead – Is this the beginning of the end of trade shows as we know it?


 

The International Broadcast Conference 2016 ended a few weeks ago. IBC is but one of many trade shows of 2016 very full TV trade show calendar. It is, I am afraid, an anti-climax to be back in the office, having toiled for the best part of a year to have a presence that was worthy of a large multi-national in the TV technology space. Don’t get me wrong it is a buzz being there, with great products and great people, meeting comrades in arms from all facets of the industry – But at what cost to the business, our health, and the environment? Naturally, on the first day, there is the anticipation of getting the show on the road; the doors open and in they all swarm – from the serious businesspeople to the tire kickers who are merely sent to look at the competition’s wares or the many amongst them who are looking for a job. We live the noise, the hustle and bustle and aching feet: Then suddenly it is all over – WHAT! All that work and suddenly back to the office … Yes, an anticlimactic end to the high of a trade show.  Let’s get ready for the next.

ATTENTION: Then out of the blue INTX (The NCTA Cable Show) was culled, and we were all stunned by the news! Is it the start of the demise of the traditional Trade show?  What next? How will this work out?

That led to some reflection.  Perhaps we are just kidding ourselves with this form of ‘peacock tail presentation’ of our wares because if we were to condense the actual ‘real-opportunity-for-sales’, we would see that the ROI is at best a little light from most if not all trade shows when they have gone on for far too long. Those of us who have done multiple TV trade shows will understand what I mean. It goes like this – A whole bunch of companies spend thousands of hours (and millions of dollars) organizing pop-up buildings to house technology presentations to have customer meetings and prospect for new clients. We ship the demos from around the world to that pop-up location (a place very unlike where they would be used) – They are expected to faultlessly work as if installed at a consumer’s home or an operator’s plant (for the back-office stuff). Booth ‘staff’ stand there in their corporate colors hoping that the sales team bring them prospects to see the TV offering. Yes! TV programs accessed with a remote control or tablet, which is the same as or similar to all their competitors in the same and adjacent halls. Oh! But wait, this is different it is from the ‘Cloud,’ you can get rid of your cable/satellite costs now, isn’t that wonderful? – Are you looking for such a solution? Oh! There is an RFI out. Great! Here’s my business card. INTX have called out the trade show in the quote below.

From the INTX website – “We believe large trade show floors, dotted with exhibit booths and stilted schedules have become an anachronism. Contemporary venues emphasize conversation, dialog, and more intimate opportunities to explore and interact with technology. Ending INTX gives us a clean slate, and we are excited to explore presenting our industry in new and different ways.”

Coming back from a trade show is quite an anti-climax because having crammed in hours of meetings throughout the year it all seems over too quickly. So much time to organize – so quick to end.  Remember those hundreds of international calls to decide on people, product, and placement. The ideas garnered for storytelling; the designing of phrases to capture the attention of prospectors who may want to buy some TV technology, and all of the stress of deadlines. There are so many heated debates and petty arguments that take place on the way, all over many minor things before the show even begins, such as shelving or no shelving, screen sizes, story sentences and then BAM! It is all over in a flash, torn down with mountains of carpets, cable and crap dumped in the trash. Am I the only one that finds that disappointing? What happens to all the people that fill the IBC halls full of intellectual phrases such as; ‘World Leaders in …, Best in Class Providers of …’ Well they all go home and prepare for the next event that is right around the corner.

The question is – In 2017 and onwards do we need to spend millions of dollars on steel girder structures, carpeted concrete floors and millions of megawatts of expensive electricity for TV, 4K UltraHD, VR, HDR demos that only live for a week? It is not ecological, sensible or healthy for humans, let alone the planet. The NCTA thinks not.

N.B. In the USA alone Tradeshows generate an incredible 600,000 tons of trash every year, just to show-off ‘product and services’ to the 60 million people who attend them. Ironically we even have trade shows around Waste & Recycling!

All of this wasted money and mountains of trash that we pour into landfills and incinerators is especially troubling when the poor are still starving, and the world around us is a bubbling hotbed of xenophobia and warmongering.

Meanwhile, back at base, there is the post trade show autopsy that discusses how it went, were the goals achieved, what can we do better? Of course, there are good points to be had at all of these events. Some people/companies will have maximized their presence with press, analysts, customers and prospects. We have the positives and the negatives from all corners of the enterprise, we do write it all down, share it and get on with business. Then in a very short space of time we brush off our dusty last show personas and look towards the next show, which is the BIGGY – CES2017 … Where it all starts over again in a more gigantic and irrealistic manner.

p.s. Who has a better idea of how to get all these worldwide industry executives to your people, to your stuff? That is not an easy question. Because if a show does not close down like INTX has, we will always be present the following year.  The reasoning is that if we are not then the Company must be in trouble.’

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An Industry in Denial – The Reality of STB Middleware


IMG_5257As RDK claims success and global dominance I would like to offer up this little piece of insight from the world of middleware having spent my career in this particular sector. Middleware is considered troublesome and not well liked. It is certainly misunderstood as a technology. When there is none in a device – there are no advanced services in TV.

In the present market-place what we do know is that that Mediaset Italy (despite the talk of change towards HbbTV in 2017) is still MHP as is Telenet in Belgium. Telenet have just added a Horizon style UI on their existing stack (so the underlying engine is not swapped out) – MediaHighway is still in the market as are huge deployments of OpenTV 2 and the others get TiVo. UM is looking to move to Horizon but we are not completely sure what the technology really is…some of you insiders at the heart of this will certainly not divulge.

There is no RDK compliance and conformance scheme so nobody can really claim that they have a fully compliant RDK product; especially considering that RDK is declared as part of a partial solution to advanced services.

HbbTV is still moving forward and there is no one-size fits all its just the same old mixed bag of systems all trying to do the same thing; just a little bit differently in each case…or we just pop backwards and then claim success when we catch-up with already advanced services as is the case in HbbTV with the recent 2nd screen announcement of ARD.  We are alway in prior-art denial in this part of the industry and talk about things as if they have just been invented.

There are some Android deployments also in the mix.

As in the past this new RDK acronym is looking to homogenise a variety of technology for the same old problem of interactive TV/VAS (Value added services) and there is a lot of hype for this set of partial building blocks that is absolutely ‘not deployed on a wide basis across the industry’-  despite the claims.  I feel we are in a snake-oil, cure-all sales pitch when it comes to this particular product and I wonder why this is necessary?

What we do need in the STB world is a FULL middleware stack with the flexibility, openness and versatility of today’s market that can also be supported by the stability of a partner that is well versed in the intricacies of the art of Broadcast as well as Internet interactive TV services, right across the board.

In fact if you were to actually look it appears that we already have this in the market place and it is making a big impact where it is deployed.  This technology is OpenTV 5, a ‘connectware’ not a middleware that is based on sound principles of device connectivity and interactivity with a plethora of advanced services that covers all the requirements of Old and New TV services. OpenTV 5 has a single entity responsible for its well being and I am sorry to say that this in this industry this is very, very important.

There is no such thing as being able to commoditise the software in a STB especially if you wish this device to function in a very complex, Multi-Service, Multi-Screen, TV Everywhere, Connected Smart-Home network environment.

Check out OpenTV 5 connectware at IBC this year at http://dtv.nagra.com/ibc/

Let us not forget that OpenTV has been in this area of technology since the 1990s which gives it huge credibility, expertise and a massive portfolio of intellectual Property in this particular sector of interactive advanced television services.

Open Source for TV – Does Canonical Hold The Key?


There has been quite a few initiatives around the Open Source aspect for Software in the Digital TV domain. Open Source is not Standardisation but in effect it is, if it becomes ubiquitous.

The lowest common denominator for the software is a decent OS stack and Engine. Canonical has the foundation upon which to build an Open Source model for the TV industry. Will ‘people’ allow that to happen? That all depends on the age old problem of ‘politics’.

People are the Problem in Connected TV, Companion Screen TV, NOT the Technology


Fluxx Connected TV White Paper (link below) is a supposed guide that explains how the industry can solve the Connected-Companion Screen buiness.  Page 18 highlights exactly why there is a problem and does not give a credible solution, it merely points out technologies and what technology punters need to marry, fix or invent.   For example the IPG – OK an IPG and Search – Which IPG, Which Search Engine there are lots of them and they are all different and they all claim to do the job!  The UI/UX has been the fight of 2011 with NDS, TIVO, Inview, Espial, and many others all claiming they have the best system.    A one size fits all is what is needed – harmonised, standardised system…but human beings will never allow that to happen.  You can have any colour you want sir as long as it is black! Hahah!

I have been in Interactive Digital TV since 2000 and the Future of TV has little to do with the TV technology industry but more to do with the people working in this industry and their inate inability to work together for the good of the industry and the consumer.  I have seen many a company representative overly complicate initiatives, work negatively in consortia so that initiatives fail, create situations that inhibit harmonisation, becasue they have a proprietary solution or preferred partner that they want to sell ahead of all others…and I have seen corporations get greedy when it comes to IPR and obtaining their slice of the pie to the detriment of these harmonisation initiatives.  All the available technologies are iready for today’s successful interactive, 2nd screen market,  however people are unable to make it happen.  CE Manufaturers want to go it alone, Broadcasters want to go it alone, Operators want to control it all, Vendors believe they have the winning technology,  Programme makers and Advertisers are lcaught in the quagmire of technology gurus all claiming they have the answer.

The Interactive Companion Screen jigsaw is being put together by people who are blinkered by their company loyalty.  Only an independent, neutral technology body could ever harmonise the future of TV.  If we can align the people we can create the environment and head in the right direction with the right technology.  The latest round of attempts with Tablets and Smart-phones interactivity are failing miserably as everyone invents a new mousetrap and the interactive TV mess repeats itself once again…this is one phrase fluxx managed to get spot on.

What is likely to happen is that a dominat force a lot like Apple  will be selected over all others as happened in the digital Music industry download debacle.  However it may be someone unexpected such as Intel Media who are gathering the right minds to put the right strategy together for this particularly complex subject.

http://fluxx.uk.com/2013/03/why-the-connected-experience-revolution-is-yet-to-be-televised/

Broadcasters and Operators can gain HUGE Savings in CAPEX and OPEX with Companion Screen Interactivity


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Companion Screen TV

 

This is one of the best articles I have read on the trials and tribulations of the 2nd Screen-Companion Screen and their role in Television interactivity.  As you might know I am a confirmed Interactive TV enthusiast, having been in this industry sector since its very early days.   The main dificulty in Interactive TV has always been the ROI.  How do you make money at it?   For the Broadcaster and Operator it is fast becoming more and more clear, but they have to change their thinking with respect to this area of Television and embrace a change in direction.  Why?  Cost Saving without cutting head-count, service reduction can be achieved and an actual revenue generating service can be implemented.  This makes sense for the long term financial health of teh Broadcasters & Operators.   Companion Screen Interactivity (SaaS based) is a natural CAPEX/OPEX ‘cost-saving’ exercise. We know that Embedded Middleware in STBs and TVs is a very costly exercise for advanced services and interactivity.  It is costly to License – Implement – Test – Run a Back Office and Pay to have Applications developed.  It needs constant Software Support and there are, in the main, run-time costs associated with most Middleware systems.   It is fragmented!   For the Broadcaster/Operator Interactive TV OPEX (SaaS model) can be amortised against the TV-Everywhere/Catch-Up Services Infrastructure already in place.  It makes sense to move to a SaaS based service as the Companion Screens are bought by the Consumer not by the Broadcaster/Operator.   STBs and TVs can also be cost reduced as they will require less intelligence.  Apps are/can be/will be downloaded for free.  Advertisers, Programme makers and the Channels can exploit this synchronised, always connected 2nd Screen in the home.    There may well be dedicated TV+Companion Screen sales at CE level in the future.  Although this will take time to evolve as a market I believe it is a natural path for Interactive Services.   Please read the Article linked below to get a good overview of the already fragmented market, the dificult marriage of many players and the reluctance of the Broadcasters/Operators who have not seen the obvious route they should be taking.

http://www.digitaltveurope.net/25348/good-companions/