TV Fragmentation Reigns


Some years ago, it was plainly evident to anyone who has any common sense that the world of media and entertainment content would fragment. In the transition from broadcast to online, the opportunity seemed clear to content owners that a global reach for their content was as simple as putting it all online and direct-to-the-consumer. However, the business, at the time, just wasn’t ready for this and quite frankly still isn’t prepared to allow that to happen ‘carte-blanche.”

I wrote on this topic in 2009 and an update in 2012. It is now 2020, and content rights, geo-blocking, and market dynamics all inhibit the passage of content from broadcast to over the Internet worldwide. Like websites, there is a myriad of Apps all purporting to offer the same content, but in reality they do not. Still, the truth is that national, regional, and content licensing remains an industry sticking point – there is not going to be a central repository of content that we can dip in and out of.

Sports are the most affected in recent years and coming up against the complexity of the industry. Pay-TV has been able to keep sports as one of the mainstays of its premium tier offers and, in some instances, they offer less popular sports (lower tiers), often at odd times of the day i.e. not prime time. This causes a dilemma for these sports as they sign-up to broadcast deals (often behind pay-walls), limiting their rights to show the games on other platforms such as OTT in particular. Happy to be considered good enough for broadcast TV, but then caught in the mouth of the lion.

The industry adage of ‘What I Want – When I Want – Where I Want’ still cannot be satisfied. Content owners have fragmented or gone vertical, leaving the consumer foraging for certain content across all manner of locations. The costs are mounting up and the consumer is becoming disheartened.

On a recent weekend, I wanted to watch Wales against Scotland and saw that it was not on my NBC Sports Gold app. I quickly went hunting and could not find the match on any platform that I was subscribed to. How frustrating! Very, very disappointing! Even the pirate sites that I found were asking for money (naturally) so its not an option.

At home I have a Cox subscription (it wasn’t being shown on any channel) … I also have a NBC Sports Gold rugby pass but it didn’t show it, Netflix – don’t do sport – Hulu – don’t do sport – HBO Max – don’t do sport … then there is DAZN purported to be the Netflix of sports – don’t do International rugby in the USA – Rugby Pass – geo-blocked … #WTF what’s the point? I am feeling hard done by and frustrated. I am tempted towards piracy – it is cheap and is available. Doesn’t the industry understand that they have an issue?

I’ll keep up my hopes of getting – What I Want -When I Want – Where I Want, but I don’t think that will be for quite some time, if ever!

TV Middleware – The long and winding road.


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The digital TV middleware/OS market has been in full and continued development since the early 1990s. For the last 28 years, the TV receiver software (digital) has remained a fundamental building block or foundation stone of Advanced Television Services. Middleware/OS continues to evoke strong opinion and is a much-maligned. Despite this, it remains firmly ensconced in the digital TV business, forming part of the DNA that is interactive digital television, whether we like it or not.

BTW: There is very little that has not already been tried in the TV domain and not a lot of ‘new’ inventions when it comes to the world of TV.

e.g. Voice made its debut back in the early 2000s. We laughed at it back then; now it is a must-have technology in a very packed content world. Gesture control came and went and now, according to many TV experts, it’s going to be micro-gesture going forward. There was face recognition capability, widgets, and Social Media on TV and good old 3D! Well, let’s not go there …

Along the digital TV software journey, there is one constant = the infamous middleware/OS, and we have seen many solutions come and go, with the resurrection of some technology blocks that were once tried, disliked and considered not fit for purpose. These solutions have a new lease on life now that the STB/CPE products have much faster chipsets and huge memory capability. Not to mention that the transmission medium, which has developed at an equally impressive rate allowing for the offsetting of services in a client-server arrangement. Flash, HTML, JavaScript, and Java are examples of once used, refused only to see a re-introduction into the TV landscape. Back in the 90s, a company called Liberate (part of Oracle) (Liberate Technologies: Taking Strange to New Levels, 2009) had championed an early web-like solution, only to see very expensive, clunky, slow, STBs that led to extremely dissatisfied customers. Flash for the STB/CPE came and went. We had Java as part of Open Standard initiatives right across the TV landscape but back then it didn’t manage to make enough headway to stick. Java is once again back under the umbrella of Android, with their 4th or 5th time out of the middleware/OS starting blocks. The finish line is a long way off before there can be a single winner declared. This is truly a long and winding road.

Here is a long and incomplete list:

  • powerTV
  • OpenTV Core
  • MediaHighway
  • MicrosoftTV
  • Liberate
  • NDS core
  • MHEG
  • DAVIC (MHEG + Java)
  • MHP
  • OCAP
  • ACAP
  • MHP-GEM
  • ARIB B23
  • JavaTV
  • EBIF
  • GINGA-J
  • ON-RAMP to OCAP
  • Various flavours of Linux Distee
  1. OpenTV 5
  2. Frog by Wyplay
  3. Espial
  4. Alticast
  • Boxee TV
  • Horizon TV
  • InView
  • Oregan
  • WebOS
  • Tizen
  • iOS
  • Tivo
  • FireTV
  • Roku Brightscript
  • Google TV
  • Android AOSP
  • RDK
  • Android TV
  • ATSC3.0

So what else do we have in store for the STB/CPE as we blend Broadcast & Internet and look to create new and exciting services for a future generation? Who knows where the digital TV middleware/OS industry will finally settle.

PLEASE STOP PREDICTING THE DEMISE OF TRADITIONAL TV – IT’S BORING!


tvoldHere we go again! … Old TV versus New TV … Because you can open a TV channel on the Internet you can make money and therefore traditional TV is dead!  Since the AWS announcement certain ‘TV Experts’ have declared it so.  There are so few people in the world that can predict the future (i.e. ZERO) but there are people who can look at the past and the present and then extrapolate ideas of how things MIGHT work out: Seldom are any of them right.

By the way, notwithstanding the progress of video content over the Internet (OTT) there is an abundance of closures:

Fullscreen, Afrostream, Sportflix, Go90, Vessel, SeeSo, Redbox Instant, Xbox Entertainment Studios, Samsung Video & Media Hub, Stickam, Flickr Video, Metacafe, Justin.tv, Veoh, Blip.tv, vidiLife

Can you make money in OTT Shelly Palmer? – You make it sound so easy … (Why not try starting a video business and see how it goes).  It’s OK here is someone who has done it: This is a real OTT story Afrostream Closes – This is an amazing insight into the $$$$$$$ that are needed to survive and it openly describes the full impact of what it takes.

If  a 2% Churn rate is an issue for a Pay-TV provider why is the following statistic not an issue to the on-line video businesses?

“OTT Churn Rates Pass 50%”

We do not know how this industry will pan out. Fragmentation, Churn, Net Neutrality, Content Investment and the Pay-TV businesses not just rolling over and dying is some, but not all of the things to be considered when predicting the future of TV … And touting Statistics does not make you an expert…

The Reality of the Lazy TV Audience


So let me start with a few extracts from a blog piece that was written by Mr. Will McKinley a New York writer and author. Why? Well, I want this subject matter (Streaming versus Linear TV) to not be seen as my opinion (because I don’t have the clout when it comes to people taking note of what I say … But I do say things that other more famous people say, often way before them – Sometimes that is frustrating. Sometimes it reassuringly delights.)

I love the convenience of streaming. It’s thrilling to have easy access to every episode of shows (and movies) I love, and have loved for my entire life. But, in a landscape where there’s so much choice, having everything can almost feel like having nothing. There’s no call-to-action, no immediacy, no reason why I should watch one thing over another right now. But perhaps more importantly, there’s no shared experience…

But perhaps most importantly, a linear network means that someone else is doing the work for you. Because sometimes you just want to plop down on the couch and watch, not assemble your own custom lineup from across multiple streaming platforms (and I speak from experience, because I subscribe to pretty much all of them)…

Will on-demand streaming be a dominant force in TV? No doubt. In a sense, it already is. But creatively curated linear programming will always be an important option. They call TV viewers couch potatoes, not couch amateur TV executives for a very good reason. Never underestimate the laziness of the American public.

While this ‘Linear versus Streaming TV’ narrative plays out across the world, it was interesting to see at IBC 2016 show in Amsterdam that TV technologists can now introduce SVOD content into EPGs as if it were a Linear channel. There are also companies that will, for a small fee per annum, curate Free on-line programmes for you (e.g. Rabbit TV’s Freecast) so that you do not have to do the hard work of being your own amateur TV executive – Thank you, Will McKinley, for that expression, which I too have used in many previous articles to express the burden TV viewing is becoming.

Let’s not forget that TV, despite its modernisation, is a product that has to appeal to the masses. i.e. The old, not so old and the very young. I don’t like to use the term Millennials because they too will have life-events that will make them lazy couch potatoes. So as far as the majority of TV viewers is concerned, being entertained must not be hard work. So if TV streaming becomes the norm, we will be expected to be our own TV show curator, which means that we will end up stuck in a viewing rut, as our limited knowledge of what is available from the global pool of entertainment is limited by our ability to memorise the planet’s content. Yes, we are we now expected to take the cognitive burden of knowing what content is available from what provider and whether we have already seen it or not by having to dig through all the buried content.

Live broadcasts are also an opportunity to encourage sampling by channel-surfing new viewers, in a way that streaming will never offer.

I agree with Mr. McKinley when he says that we still need the lazy person’s option for a long time to come.

A Short Play Called ‘The Death of TV’


Setting the scene: The evening light is dimming.  It’s 8pm and the children are snuggled down in bed and the husband says,  “Dinner is almost ready honey, can you find us something to watch on TV?” …

 

Picking up the remote the wife switches on the TV …

“I don’t know darling!” “Why not honey?”  “Because there is only a bunch of icons on the TV and I cannot see any TV shows, that guide thingy we used to have, it’s gone darling!”  “Gone! Why would they do that honey, it was very convenient.”  “I heard that you are supposed to know what you want to watch darling, you just ask for it now.”  “Really honey, OK!”  “Are there more programmes like that documentary on South Africa we saw the other night?”  “Maybe darling, what was the programme called?” … “Ermm, what channel was it on?”  “I cannot remember darling.” “Neither can I honey.” “Oh!” “Now what shall we do?” … “Ask the TV honey its got that voice thingy activated.”  …

Wife fiddles with remote control – pushes button …

“TV,  Can you find me any travel programmes about South Africa, but not about South Africa as we have seen that, what about somewhere else please.”

Screen icon turns … searching … searching … searching … TV replies

“Can you be more specific, I have 24,000 programmes on South Africa and 30,000 programmes not on South Africa and I have several shows called Somewhere Else.”  “I have them in English, Greek, Spanish, Arabic, French, Portuguese, Polish, German and 25 other languages, what do you want me to do?”

8.45pm: “Have you found anything honey?” “No darling, I’m afraid not … its not that instant anymore.”  “Shall I put the radio on honey?”

The End.

PayTV Thriving – The Threat of OTT is OVERSTATED


I have spent the last few days listening to several Analysts and many TV professionals give their opinions on the state  of the TV market both worldwide and in their regions – We as delegates sit and usually suffer death by Powerpoint at these conferences.   Sometimes the speakers are good but in the main they are sales pitches and that is tiring…However TVConnect CEE was not that sort of event.

The quality of the material, intensity of the speakers and the reality delivered by all the speakers was very good.  What was highlighted is that there is too much ‘noise’ concerning the death of traditional PayTV due to the rise of OTT.  This merely shrouds the reality as the following statistics divulge.

  • There is a SATURATION of OTT services; that we know
  • However PayTV is in GROWTH mode everywhere
  • The press needs its daily does of Netflix but Netflix success reality is also somewhat different
  • Netflix will build a BIG subscriber base but many of them will be PayTV Subscribers
  • In the USA OTT revenue is only circa 9% of PayTV revenues
  • The traditional Disc market (DVD & BluRay) annual revenues are higher than OTT
  • The THREAT from OTT is OVERSTATED

For the last 5 years OTT has dominated the conversation however OTT has hardly made any impact on traditional services…PayTV was shaken by the entrance of these pretenders to the throne, however it has adapted and continues to react positively in order to change the business to both retain and grow the PayTV customer base.

 

 

HDR – I Have Seen The Light


cartoongoHDR was a finalist in the DTG Innovation Awards, and had a presence on the DTG stand at IBC 2015.  This is the first time that I have seen the light as far as HDR is concerned.  Up until now I have not seen any good reason as to why HDR should be advertised as a ‘product’, rather than a technology ‘feature’ or ‘option’ for the TV industry.  Desperate times needs desperate measures I suppose, especially in a market where 3D flopped and 4K is being chased by 8K.    At the IBC 2015 show all the furor was around HDR offering brighter, better pictures, however I finally saw a real and very good practical use for the technology being demonstrated by goHDR a spin-off from the University of Warwick, England.

goHDR was able to show how HDR technology can be used to enhance ‘segments’ of the screen or ‘items’ in the shot. i.e. in difficult lighting conditions (e.g. outside broadcasting) at, let’s say, St Andrews, you could highlight a golf ball and track it in a cloudy sky enhancing its visibility as a unique enhanced HDR object … and there were many other examples of other use-cases.  In simple terms goHDR could be described as the video version of Dolby Atmos, with its manageable ‘sound-objects’…For those who are not familiar with Atmos, you are now able to manipulate sound objects to create an immersive multi-dimensional environment in a theatre.  Imagine hearing a helicopter that is flying from behind you, over your head and then enters the screen, or an arrow shot towards you flashes past your left ear and you hear it fly past … OK, OK it’s got to be heard to be believed.  It is truly amazing.  However in this story HDR was invented for video and designed to enhance the picture quality of a TV in both HD and UltraHD.  Without the technobabble, HDR is simply all about high contrast at the pixel level that creates depth and dimension and makes colors seem punchier…however it is applied to the whole picture on the TV, not objects in the scene as shown by goHDR.

The technology that goHDR demonstrated has to be fully analysed for its relevance to TV and whether or not it really does what it says on the tin,  however, the basic understanding is that it really has taken HDR to a new place and, by the way, it works very well on handheld devices.  Suffice to say I saw its relevance in Surveillance i.e. HD & UltraHD CCTV, also for Military, Scientific, Broadcasting, Medical and many other areas where you might want to manipulate a segment or item in a video using HDR for optimum effect.  I feel that I have seen the light and can now be more positive about this technology.  But hey! Don’t let me tell you the story, let the wonderfully ebullient Professor Alan Chalmers explain it to you at goHDR explained his enthusiasm is uplifting.

The Problem With Internet TV (OTT) and Child Protection – Not all Parents Care!


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Interestingly we are finally seeing the truth about Internet based TV (OTT): It is just another form of PayTV on an unregulated transmission medium, dah! dah!  Sorry about that but it is nothing earth shattering; however it finally has people writing about this obvious fact.   The ‘do-it-yourself’ package is described in this recent Advanced Television article: Cord Cutting Unrealistic Option is seen as probably costing even more for a consumer than a packaged payTV Operator offer.  Not only that, the author Colin Mann quotes Alan Wolk of TDG who states that there is no ‘User Interface’ that makes for a cohesive and pleasant experience.  In a previous blog post Changing the transmission media not the business model I had already highlighted the issues of more or at least same cost and clearly noted the backwards move in terms of experience.  However there is another very important issue, which has not been addressed by the ‘oracles’ of the future of TV and that is ‘unregulated access to content’.  Most DIY bundles have Apps that require access to Internet content – There is no Age Verification required.  That is an oversight in a very mobile, smartphone driven society.  So I have also been wondering when the ‘Do-it-yourself’ payTV bundle and free for all access might come under the scrutiny of the Regulators for both Consumer and Child Protection issues?

I already see that my very young children are exposed to some terrible things via the increasingly pornographic Internet, via Twitter feeds, via search engines etc.  Now that TV is a watch what-you-want-when-you-want experience on the Internet it requires parents to be careful –  The so called ‘watershed’ does not exist on the Internet and there appears to be no regulation apart from personal parental control, which has to set on a myriad of channels, devices and websites – BUT ISN’T.   That is almost a full time job in this mobile-free-for-all-do-it-yourself-media-world.  I happen to care!  I try to protect my offspring as much as possible from the gratuitous violence, sex and ever increasing psychopathic, narcissistic media offerings… (e.g. Walter White toy figures for sale at Toys-R-US).  However, I am fighting against adversity, especially if my 12 year-old is exposed to shows like ‘Breaking Bad’ as well as a myriad of free ‘Porn’ on a classmates smartphone browser at school.  I cannot supervise every moment of my son’s viewing habits outside of the home…and we happily tout OTT (Internet TV) as an in and out of the home experience.  We are also told that youngsters don’t watch Big Screen TV anymore – So where is the protection for the young, the vulnerable and the stupid in this mobile-free-for-all-do-it-yourself-media-world?

Not all parents care what their children are exposed to that is why we have regulation.  The regulators should be ahead of the game and not late like they have been with Music Videos, finally realizing that they should be ‘rated’.  In 2015 that is very, very late … Listening to my very, very young daughter signing ‘I wanna Sex You Up’, now exposed to ‘twerking’ – This is just not right!  We have a constant battle to keep them well grounded and not let their malleable minds be damaged.  I am not a prude and we have a healthy open relationship with the kids, but I cannot be the good parent if all around me doesn’t care and exposes them to the ever failing controls of the world’s what-you-want-when-you-want media access.

Why TV shows that contain Drugs, Sex, Bigotry and Violence on the Internet be treated any different to that on Broadcast TV is beyond me!

 

Apple Talks Humans Not Algorithms – When Will The TV Techies Realize This?


tvoldApple said this about discovering music: The Guardian Story on Apple Music

“Algorithms are really great, of course, but they need a bit of a human touch in them, helping form the right sequence. Some algorithms wouldn’t know that Rock Steady could follow Start Me Up, y’know. That’s hard to do,” says Iovine.
Perhaps this is what I have been trying to say all along regarding ‘recommendation engines’ for Television and my fear that we will just turn TV viewing into a homogeneous clump of nothingness.

“You have to humanise it a bit, because it’s a real art to telling you what song comes next. Algorithms can’t do it alone. They’re very handy, and you can’t do something of this scale without ‘em, but you need a strong human element.” “Understanding that i have a lot of Latin music in my library doesn’t give me a great Cuban playlist,” adds Cue.

Quite honestly it is the same for TV and just because I like a ‘Chick Flic’ now and again does not mean that I want to watch all the ‘Chic Flics’ in the world now does it – Well the Algorithm thinks I do.  VARIETY in TV, as in MUSIC, has always been my mantra – Variety is the Spice of Life.

Thank you famous Apple people for stating what I have been stating for years…It’s the ‘HUMAN’ factor that counts.  ‘ALGORITHMS’ may have a place in our techie driven TV world but they should not be the only thing that determines anyone’s evening entertainment.