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/

Why Many Medium Sized Middleware Software Companies Fail


snakes-laddersHow difficult is the business of Digital STB/iTV middleware?  How many attempts have there been to create a long-term sustainable business in this field, only for it to fail?  Middleware is expensive, requires huge engineering resources, long implementation cycles, onerous testing and in-field evaluation.  This makes middleware a difficult sell into the market because apart from any technical requirements there are many other players in the value chain that need to align beforefore there is any deployment and ultimately a middleware success.

Whilst this is the case, since TV went Digital,  it has not stopped companies trying to make big business in this market segment.   Since the 90’s many companies reached a certain maturity; their Middleware tenacity paid dividends and they seemed to be on the crest of a wave – then Kaboom!  It was all over.   This has been due to, in the main,  a technology or market requirement change.  In fact the Television Middleware market has seen a lot of these changes over the years with a plethora of new technologies appearing every few  years.   Embedded technologies such as MHEG5, PowerTV, Liberate, MicrosoftTV, OpenTV, Mediahighway, MHP, OCAP, ACAP, GINGA, EBIF, On-RAMP, Tivo, Moxi, GEM, HbbTV, Flash, HTML5 and others have all been put through their paces, struggled and have either failed or have been ousted by another.  The Broadcast/Operator Markets get bored with middleware after a few years.   Naturally new software and services evolve, new companies emerge in the form of young, hungry and agile businesses that are able to distract those middleware customers.  The latest is SECOND SCREEN/COMPANION SCREEN and the CLOUD interactivity which is a cheaper ‘non-embedded’ solution much more favourable in terms of CAPEX & OPEX considering many Broadcasters and Operators already have On-Line services as part of their business today.  However, once again alignment of many players is going to be the key to its success.

For those Middleware Companies who have not invested and merely followed the trends see their failure to innovate shrink back their business opportunities quickly.  They fall behind by selling their Slideware.  The answer is really quite simple and that is to have an innovation team in place, but this rarely happens if there is weak management in place.   A significant disruptive issue is that the cost level of new-software royalties demanded by new players is radically changed downward and the middleware business teams start to feel the pressure.   As the Business Development manager presents this market issue to a bemused Senior Management team he is told that He and Sales must sell what they have and stop complaining about the company portfolio!  The deals actually slow down then the actual customers you have play with this market phenomena working you harder for less money.  It is brutal!  I have lived it twice now!  The following is a list of things that happen when weak management fails to innovate…

  • Management starts to bury its head in the sand, blaming the workers on the coal-face for lack of sales
  • You are forced to  focus on short-term results which drives out all ideas that take longer to mature.
  • Changing a new technology direction evokes fear of cannibalisation of current business and this fundamentally prevents investment in new areas.
  • Most of your resources are devoted to ‘day-to-day’ business so that few if none exist for innovative prospects.
  • Innovation becomes someone else’s job and not part of everyone’s responsibility.
  • Ideas are often quashed as outlandish and there is a retrenching by the old guard of the company.
  • An efficiency focus eliminates free time for any fresh thinking.
  • There is an avoidance of responsibility and therefore no process to nurture the development of new ideas.
  • We look internally as we panic rather than starting with the market changes and customers’ needs and problems
  • Try to sell people technology that you have, which is not what the customer wants so they go to your competitor.
  • All incentives are geared towards maximizing the present business and reducing risk although it is not possible.
  • Senior managers immediately look for the flaws in new ideas rather than teasing out their potential
  • Budgets are squeezed, marketing is reduced, cost cutting is the answer.
  • You start to sell what the customers want to hear; it become Slideware selling.
  • You can excite the market but cannot deliver the technology in the time-frame required.
  • Competitors overtake you, squeezing you out of new deals.
  • When you do finally have the technology it is too late as the market has already chosen.
  • The managers that speak up and highlight the inneficiencies are quashed and replaced with yes-men.
  • The company struggles and the inevitable happens.

Playing into the CFOs hands with Quantifiable Digital Marketing – ROI


Playing into the CFOs Hands with Quantifiable Digital Marketing – ROI

People are hailing ‘Digital Marketing’ as the new paradigm for Marcomms.  The inevitable search for quantifiable marketing results in companies that want to make sense of their marketing spend is clear.  I will however argue that Digital Marketing has already started to ‘expose’ the marketing theories of the world’s digital marketing gurus and the plethora of Social Media experts who are committing to it with all of their might, even boldly claiming Traditional Marketing is dead!   They are  merely all shooting themselves in the foot because the truth about marketing ROI is perhaps best left buried under the carpet.  Sometimes it is better not to ask for quantifiable results because you may soon find out that you are exposing yourself to unwanted CFO scrutiny, followed by budget slashing and potential job loss.  When it comes to tangibles in finance nearly ALL  CFOs are heartless and cold towards the world of Marketing (a certain intangible).  With measurement comes accountability and as such you are all playing into the CFOs hands with your fabulous Marketing ROI claims.   Cutting the marketing budget is the first thing that happens when Revenue drops n’est ce pas, fighting for marketing budget each year is an uphill battle isn’t it?  I have read many an article on the work lifespan of a modern CMO,  which is now, on average, 2 years,…why?  Perhaps it is due to modern marketing accountability!

In this saturated digital media world the majority of digital marketing campaigns fall on stony ground.  OK some will be successful but the % is tiny…ROI is generally negative.  Studies of Facebook campaigns and  ‘Likes’ highlights this and it is only the tip of the iceberg.  If you were to use finance driven Project Indicators, Rates of Return,  NPV, IRR and Payback calculations in Marketing you would soon stop all projects before they start. ( The PI > 1).

Digital Marketing can be equated to our attempts at the introduction of Digital Interactive Television – i.e. Not many people really cared and did not click on the buttons as we first expected.  I suggest that the ‘new’ Social Media gurus do a psychology and sociology course as part of any marketing course in order to understand human beings.  Why?  Because people are actually NOT interested in this ‘engagement’ aspect in the main, as you are interfering with the task in hand (Surfing the web, looking for something, facebooking, blogging etc.).  In digital TV we were/are able to monitor, gathering deep information from this Digital system long before it was called Social TV.  Analytics was our new business, or was it?   We actually buried the results across the industry (still do) because whilst it is obviously the way we are all heading in Digital Media it is unjustifiable in terms of spend.  Yes it will grow, change,  and we will see positivity but not for many years to come.  Interactivity/Engagement = Perseverance and Re-Education (Changing Habits).

What people fail to understand is the bigger picture in Marketing.   The fundamentals of any Corporate Marketing initiative is ‘Presence’ and that should embrace both Traditional and Digital Marketing.   Traditional message generation or Brand Exposure is only a brainwashing of the masses who are in general doing ‘other things’ when you offer up your Brand.  Making them engage when they are in Facebook is not what you should be trying as it is distracting from the fun of Facebook so the mental state of the recipient is not tuned in.   The need for ‘presence’ in the market is paramount and a marketing cornerstone for all the marketing mix.   So what if 1000 people click on your Ad, so what if a 1000 people send a tweet does it really matter?  It is only a miniscule  % of the amount of people who have probably consciously and subconsciously  registered your ‘presence’ without interaction,  which therefore does not mean that you have failed in your campaign.  It does however if you do the math’s.

Here is something you can convince the CFO to do as a Marketing ROI exercise – Stop your Traditional Marketing and see where you head – I know that your  Company will suffer and lose market share, possibly fold and collapse.  Presence is primordial!  I  also suggest that Social Media gurus work in Companies where ONLY Digital Marketing is done to see how long they last…I furthermore suggest that they stop telling us that Traditional Marketing is dead because they do not know what they are talking about!

The VCR/PVR was supposed to kill advertising … it didn’t!  TV killed the radio star… it didn’t!   Just remember this: Web Pop Ups which annoyed people so much and disappeared were the sign that Digital Marketing is in the main an interruptive, distracting nuisance that is heavily ignored.   All Digital Ads are just a new form of  popups that I have called Popins.  Uninvited guests!

Is There Really A Loss Of Allure To CES 2013?


200px-The_Bubble_British_PosterWhen you don’t go to a Trade Show that you have been regularly visiting for the past 8-10 years it is a slightly uncomfortable feeling.    It sort of feels like you are missing out on something…but are you really?  CES is after all a gadget show and do we need to go if we are not Retailers of Consumer Electronics?  What a lot of people do not know is that there is a lot going on behind the scenes in more of a Business-2-Business nature; especially in the Television world that I move in.   A lot of networking takes place, and a lot of  ‘private suites’ allow for plenty of businessmen to gather, show of their wares in private, discuss and potentially deal-make!

However as a ‘tech journalist’ you might think that things have a different allure.  Certainly the BBC’s writer David Pogue has just publishd a very poignant article from his perspective.  It can be found in full here: http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20130104-does-ces-have-a-future

His outlook is that there is mostly years of repetition of  technology along with what I call ‘catch-up’ Companies there ‘en-masse’ with cheaper but the same gadgets from the year before and therefore swamping the floors, the industry and the news with old stuff in effect.  There is also a decline in the Big Companies with Microsoft having pulled out!   Apple is not there either and if Apple is not there how can it truly be called THE Consumer Electronic Show?  Qualcomm even did the keynote speech this year – Qualcomm?

Another journalist from our immediate industry Leslie Ellis pointed out that the the trending products were waterpoofing gadgets for your smartphones and tablets.   I suspect the Hunting Knife Company and the Mini Flying Helicopters will still be there in the South Hall and that Spearmint Rhino will still get its CES clientele.  Ummm, so what is it I miss?

Well in all honestly I do miss it as it kicks off the business year with a hectic, manic traipse around Vegas!  Therefore life without an early dose of CES certainly makes for a less-tired more calculated start to 2013.

Is Linear TV, Recorded Shows on A PVR and the odd Blu-ray Film Enough for Most People?


I recently discussed the world of TV amongst my entourage one afternoon during a BBQ party at home.  In the main, my guests stated that they watch either DTT, Satellite or an IPTV service (Cable does not exist in these parts), also the odd DVD or Blu-ray for stored media.   I showed them (mostly the men) my set-up at home which is a FTA STB for French Terrestrial, a Satellite+PVR, also a Blu-ray and an IPTV service in the front room – All via a single screen via an HDMI splitter – AppleTV and WebTV in the den through a projector, an IPAD for WebTV.  The first questions were … why do you have so much TV in the house and do you watch it all?  The answer is a sort of ‘because’ and ‘it’s not really that simple’: For IPTV, I have no real choice as it is a bundle from Orange … however I have not turned on the STB since over a year…I still pay 3 Euros/month rent – Duh!  The satellite is because we have a multi-language family so I need access to other language programmes.  The den is because we wanted a system with an ad-hoc (pay-as-you-go) movie channel and AppleTV seemed the way to go, at the time.  They looked bewildered at all the kit!

If I had my way the’ sum of the whole’ would be a huge Gateway that would take all the inputs and then send them to ‘slave devices’ in the home…which is ‘on the way’ in the market-place, but not from Orange as they have not followed Bouyges or Free who offer a combo (media-centre) devices; the Orange IPTV service has in fact have simply chosen to go for a new interface in 2012 from Orca Interactive (who they now own) which will be a huge step out of the 1990s interface they presently have; but not enough to make me watch the content.   I would actually like to use the iPAD and some Companion Screen interactivity but that is a long way off in this region!

My friends … who range from both retired and working businessmen, to engineers, artists, artisans, restaurateurs and more – a diverse crowd … are amazed at my explanation of what is available in Digital TV … this is because normally watch several programmes – thier favourites, and are suprised by the odd new show they fall upon…they have what they need, which is actually basic linear TV!

However for people like me, and there are others, we need the industry to solve the complex modern digital TV system offering (something that is not tied to a single operator):  It needs to cater for diversity in a ‘multi-service’ environment, it needs to be intuitive i.e. easy to navigate and switch between devices that can offer multi-content in a TV Everywhere scenario.  However is it really possible to have an extraordinary Viewing Experience and Simple Navigation system when you have such a diverse number of providers and a principal screen of 42″.   It would seem unlikely.   From what I have seen the business of TV is fragmented, cluttered and simply getting more and more complex as Google and the rest try to usurp traditional broadcasters.

We finished the party and cleared up settling in front of the TV with a ‘digestif’ – We searched and searched the late-night channels eventually falling upon the recorded shows on the PVR – Raymond Blanc and the delightful show the ‘Hungry Frenchman’.   With our friends we had talked of many things that evening, including the demise of quality content, and it was an interesting insight into the reality and perception of the common man.  I did lend out a couple of Blu-ray disks too.