UBER BE SCARED – It appears that you have a new competitor – The wonderful world of HBBTV has delivered its latest ‘App’ and it may rock the Taxi App World of the Smart-Phone … I cannot imagine when you might be watching TV and suddenly think – I will order a Taxi ! … Well the Czech Republic thinks so. Good luck with that!
Once upon a time we switched on the TV and watched a programme or two, in the evening after we had tea, when the kids were in bed and it was time to settle down to relax. TV Time was limited as the TV signal would shut down at night and eight-year-old Carole Hersee would appear (in the UK at least). We had a choice amongst Light Entertainment and Drama, Documentaries, News and Sport all chosen for us and delivered when somebody else thought best.
Life is a little different now because:
Today we want TV at Anytime, Anyplace, Anywhere and we want to watch What We Want, When We Want, Where We Want. We want to watch Live TV, with the use of Pause and Rewind Live TV. And if we miss missed the beginning of something we need Start Over TV so that we can go back to the beginning of the programme that we have joined late. We need Catch-Up TV for shows we have missed. We need to Store Live TV programmes for later viewing on a Hard Drive (Personal Video Recorder) or a Removable Storage device with the possibility of using Series Recording for Binge Watching. We also want to be able to Side Load content onto a Companion Device to consume later when in the garden, or perhaps travelling on a bus or train. We want a Whole Home PVR system or Network PVR so that we can have Follow Me TV that allows us to start watching in one room and then take the content into another room and join it from where we left off in the other room. We want Companion Screen driven TV Everywhere so we can Throw and Fetch programmes from those devices to different screens in the home. We want Over The Top TV so we can have non-Linear content and not be restricted to a Schedule. We want Interactive TV with Applications that allow us access to Weather, or Horoscope or Games and a lot of other stuff all delivered over the Cloud and Home Network. We want to be able to Search for, and Recommend content to other people on Social Media. We don’t want this on a STB or CPE we want all of this on a Smart or Connected TV, in 3D or Ultra HD 4K or perhaps Super Ultra HD 8K. We need it in High Dynamic Range, so that we get the best quality on a Curved OLED, millimetre thick, Flatscreen TV: 24 Hours a Day, 7 Days a Week, 365 Days of the Year completely uninterrupted.
TV Content has however NOT broken the boundaries that technology has. Geo-Blocking, Distribution Rights, Landing Rights, Syndication, Franchising and all that shenanigans is hindering and hampering not helping, other than to further slow the transformation of TV – Perhaps that is a good thing?
This is something I learnt at IBC 2013. “DON’T SHOW WE WHAT IT IS MADE OF – SHOW ME WHAT IT CAN DO FOR MY BUSINESS”. So yes at IBC I was awaiting the hype and the buzz of RDK and 4K. Respectively one is a new ‘Middleware’ that is touted as the next big thing for the Cable industry with Open Source and Shared Source being bandied about, the other is a new Transmission level above HD called Ultra HD (4K). Supposedly RDK is to make it cheaper and faster for the operators to deploy STBs. RDK was designed in 2009 and it was a damp squib at IBC. UltraHD needs no explanation it had WOW factor!
On the RDK side the show was so disappointing that I was disappointed myself. There was simply nothing shown as to what these ‘amazing’ RDK components allow you to do or why this particular flavour makes TV any better than it is with similar components of equal or better capability (Open Source or not).
When you try to move Middleware mountains you need to make sure that it doesn’t take all your effort in tuning the engine when at the end the tyres are flat. RDK will potentially be the next middleware ‘White Elephant’ after MHP.
Those who saw the Nagra OpenTV 5 Ultra HD demo at IBC will concur that they most certainly have have pole-position.
The Open-Standard Interactive TV Industry Industry Mocked in an Infographic
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.
When 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.
There is many a debate (especially on the TV Forums of LinkedIn) surrounding the Interactive TV Specification of HbbTV. Many people are already hailing its success due to the fact that it has been selected in a handful of countries with interest and deployment growing elsewhere. Even the DTG in the UK has added an HbbTV profile to its D-Book Spec.
Like Docsis versus the DVB-Return Channel specification the industry driven HbbTV spec has beaten a DVB consortium developed product. Notably the same supporting Companies are in both camps in order to hedge their bets. Actually they are merely choosing sides and subversively working against the specification that they do not actually support as a business? I have, in the past complained about this act to no avail. I have also highlighted this issue of fragmentation at SDO level, to no avail, especially as the world of TV and Broadband collide! No organization (i.e EU/EC) has evoked any initiatives around the need to ‘merge’ these disparitive groups in order to harmonise all the work, thus avoiding, in the main, huge Corporate wastage of effort and manpower. Millions upon millions of dollars are spent in duplicated tracks of work. We live with it. The DVB and OIPF/HbbTV divergence will possibly cause more fragmentation than is necessary despite liaison between the groups. The DVB must address this issue quickly in order to help the market roll-out of this homogenised interactive system for DVB networks – Perhaps it is too late for that? Docsis managed to be successful without the DVB, so was CI+ until it was pulled back in to the consortium. Has a precedence been set?
I was an evangelist for MHP in those heady days, which now bear a striking resemblance to the HbbTV rollout. I am still a firm believer in Interactive Value Added Services for the viewer and therefore it is good that HbbTV appears to be growing in stature. I said it is moving ahead in the same way as MHP did 10+ years ago i.e. a disparitive smattering of Countries, Channels, Broadcasters, Operators – Many, Many Tech suppliers – a further smattering of Content Developers and several all encompassing HbbTV experts such as HTTV in France.
However like the MHP initiative there is no cohesive nation-wide plan in any country despite what others may think; nor any EU mandate (nor will they ever mandate anything in this area now the market has reached such massive digital fragmentation) – the digital Interactive TV horse has truly bolted! This may cause a problem for HbbTV to become a true nationwide or global standard.
As I have also previously highlighted the very nature of TV software evolution (HTML5, Companion Screen, Second Screen, Zeebox, SaaS technology etc.) and the margin fueled business of high volume selling at retail i.e. Zappers and alternative solutions (Hulu, Netflix, AppleTV and all the varieties of Connected TV, WebTV and the Toys-R-Us channel type offerings) it may take longer for it to be fully mainstream in Retail…
However for the first time it has a larger ‘Broadcaster’ following than any other previous standard. The EBU is firmly behind it. The markets are the problem. Where there is an incumbent like the lonely MHP in Italy, change will take longer, but there will be change; it is inevitable! Unification with a forward drive at a higher level is required. Someone needs to really drive it forward but NOT as a technology; which is the present modus operandi! One of the biggest problems of HbbTV is that after tens of years of experience, we know full well that selling Technology Acronyms for the Interactive TV business to Consumers – DOES NOT WORK. Even MHEG5 and OpenTV in Sky were converted to “Red Button” to make it consumer palatable. HbbTV needs to do the same for it to go truly mainstream before it becomes outmoded especially ‘vis-à-vis’ the general public who are used to ‘new services’ each 6 months. If HbbTV wants to win as a mainstream universal technology it has to up its game.
The Companion Screen is being exploited as an interactive device…It is an easy route as it is naturally connected to the Internet by WiFi…accessing WWW pages. So we can see Broadcasters & Network Operators and those that produce TV Content exploit this easy access to another device. Broadcaster and Network Operators use their existing IT infratructure to create portals and they have the Companion Screen ‘connect’ during the transmitted show! Easy, Low Cost interactivity!
So do we need DSMCC Object Carousels which work as slow as snails anymore? Do we need AIT and XAIT anymore? Is HbbTV dead before it launches? Do we need Red Button apps and heavy interactive Java Applications or do we just allow for the TV programme to be extended by Web-Access to Value Added Content on other screens that are bought in retail and carry standard Browsers?
It is an interesting point and one which will in effect change the landscape of many Companies who have been flogging the seemingly slow uptake of interactivity in embedded, proprietary and open-standard middleware! We are going from the old world to the new world which is in fact the old world of Web TV! LOL!
When is a Standard not a Standard? It would seem that it is when it is officially recognised by a Standards Body…after that it just becomes a pawn in the marketing and lobbying of Support Groups for their preferred flavour. First of all it was MHEG which was standardised and not taken up globally for DTT, then came the turn of ACAP & MHP, now its the turn of HbbTV…HTML5 is on the horizon some say Android will reign supreme!
At the recent OTT World Summit held in London where the “worlds television executives” gathered to hear the latest and greatest sales pitches from all & sundry there was yet another Standards discussion. We hear it all the time – We need a Standard! Actually what we get is – My TV system is better than your TV system, My Standard is better than your TV Standard etc. This is not grown up, nor intelligent, always arguing that we do it this way because it’s better than your way! What is at stake? All that SDOs are trying to fix the age old problem of implementing Value Added Services on top of Programming nothing more! It will not help world peace, it will not feed starving families it is just Interactive TV – STOP the fighting! Reunite the SDOs and let’s agree and get on with it so we can develop decent value added services that make a difference! And by the way they are not news portals, nor teletext with pictures thank you very much, we did that 20 years ago!!
It is a fairly tiresome business keeping up with all of this infighting that has taken place over those last 20 years or more, WHY? Because little has changed. As mentioned above the latest proponents of a World Standard for Digital TV is the HbbTV Forum. Their presentation did not have any earth shattering statements, they did not discuss how the particular “product” is made or how it matches up to other Standards – nor the miserable amount of expensive receivers that have NOT been shipped into Germany. They only managed a few stretched truths about its success, but lobbyists and supporters are are guilty of that. (Yes me too!) Despite the announcement today from Spain that it has selected this latest and greatest technology (It is not news it is lobbying) it changes nothing to the overall problem. Take-up and use of Advanced Services needs only one thing – Good and Useful Value Added Services that bring added value to the consumer. Teletext and URLs to video links will just not cut the mustard at 200 Euros a STB! Spanish TV will not flourish because of this selection. France and Germany are a gauge! Counter Lobbying haha!?
Back to the problem of people and standards! During the ensuing OTTWS Panel discussion I stated that the basic technology is still the same. There is a Presentation Engine and a Execution Engine and they either work together or they don’t depending on your chosen poison. Nothing has changed since Digital TV ever appeared. Android is the latest sexy STB & iDTV middleware that we all race to implement as is HTML5 but what are they if they are not Presentation and Execution Engines? Who owns or controls the IPR? You see where this might be heading.
So here is the solution – With Hybrid & Convergence being axiomatic for Digital TV solutions we should ultimately look at CONVERGING Standards Development Organisations and Standards Bodies as well. Do we need different groups rubber stamping a technology? Do we need SDOs all feeding off of each others work? Do we need multiple Standards? Most of all do we need to waste Company time, effort and money on following these different strains of the same thing? And more so is it right that we have disingenuous people sitting on one organisation who have influence, also sitting on the competing one, also in a position of influence, just so their Company ultimately gets their technology (IPR) into one or the other or both of the Standards! Not to mention the ‘blockers’ who attend so their Company can get about selling as much as possible of its proprietary implementation before a standard can be achieved. Because that is all that this is about in reality – Selling stuff.
Standards have become a pawn in the IPR game and the more we move along the more we go backwards to a fully disparate systems all pretending to be “the solution”. But then again why worry about any of this because as I have been told by the authorities that do have the power to change all of this – “Young man, the ‘market’ will decide”! – However from what I personally experienced at the OTTWS which is symptomatic of the Digital TV business, I may never get to see that happen!
I must attribute this to a certain Rob Galagher on LinkedIn: There is no need for CE-HTML or HbbTV in the technology stack: zero, nada, none. They are not needed or used on the desktop devices, they are not needed or used on tablet devices, they are not nedded or used on mobile phone devices. So why on TV? Here is the answer to that rhetorical question…
Both CE-HTML and HbbTV are –artificial– means for three companies LG, Sharp and Philips) attempting to stay in business by creating and then imposing a manufacturing cartel that mistakenly believes it will be able to continue to sell over-priced crippled products in an era that is disrupting the TV as a type of digital device the same way progress, engineeering, fierce competition and global markets have disrupted and changed all other types of digital devices.
In conclusion then –if– the TV manufacturers can impose artificial technology embedded in some type of proprietary patented electronic circuitry that requires the use of the artificial technology stack they will not only be able to continue to sell over-priced crippled product they will be able to charge for access to their devices the same way the cable and telephony networks have. That is what they are attempting to do with CE-HTML and HbbTV fellas.