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/

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.

All Hail Netflix and World Dominance!


Sinking_ShipIn response to the announcement by Ted Sarandos – Netflix’s CCO  or as I think it should be titled – CHM – Chief Hype Master who believes his Company is “CHANGING TELEVISION FOREVER”!   I would merely say,  Whoaaaa there Cowboy;  of course you have to get excited about your Content deals – Just like Everyone else does LOL!

However what I see overall is just another pretender to the business throne of the TV world!  Someone else who is once again going to radically change an entire business model overnight.  Someone looking to reign supreme and change the 80-20 mix (80% who watch linear TV and the 20% who watch all the other stuff)  … Mr Sarandos you have a privileged position and you are more than likely not part of the real world…a world of people who, quite honestly, have to get up in the morning and go to work in a horrible tough job, or clean the house, or go shopping, or do the laundry, or go to school, or LIVE.  People who work hard all day!  People who come home, open the front door, kiss the wife/husband/partner, kiss the kids, hug the dog and fit back into the evening’s ritual – Perhaps even cook a meal…or people who are both working; where the family is scrabbling around to find time for the kids pick-up, homework, chores, sports, hobbies, family BBQs, kids birthdays, sickness, LIFE, and all the things that the world delivers.   The world of spare time between 9pm to midnight!

Does anyone in this industry REALLY believe that we are glued to our TV screens 24/7 as if that is the only thing in the world?  Come on what are we believing!!!   Why are TV shows scheduled, why are their ratings, why has the business delivered the same format for the last umpteen years, in the way it has?  Because TV has created a system that has adjusted to and suits the masses not the few.  We ordinary folk adjust and organise ourselves to schedules, we like schedules because we can do other things in the meantime!  We don’t need TV, we have TV which is part of an entertainment package that we use to entertain ourselves within scheduled periods in our lives and Mr Sarandos it is not the ONLY thing we have!

What is the best way for a busy family in the modern hustle and bustle of daily life – It is Linear TV, PVR and Catch-Up TV (aka VOD) perhaps even Apple TV which is an on-demand (not subscription) service…Pay as You Watch (makes sense).   Unless Netflix can be the only supplier of ALL the Content with ALL the options in the world including a humble price tag we will see that they are merely just another choice in a HUGE selection of TV offerings that we have today.  Linear TV still reigns supreme according to the Analysts but who cares in the heady world of OTT Services – All hail Netflix!

Is It Technology Disruption Or Business Disruption That Is To Blame?


There is a myriad of articles that have been written since the dawn of so called disruptive TV technologies and the the now so called Over The Top television paradigm.  I recently read an article on The Verge (Andrew Wamugi) which talks about the battle for the living room and why we have got it all wrong.  Unfortunately, albeit he is correct in parts, the article mixes things up by blaming both technology aspects and content issues as if they are related or similar problems; which actually they are not!

Almost all TV Content and channel line-ups are decided by Content specialists who are paid to fill their time-slots it is not the CTOs that decide on that!  Quality of TV content is governed by people who commission TV shows, who make Pilots and Focus Groups.  The majority of money to fund ‘New Content’ comes from the Cable Companies (part of the subscription fee that consumers pay).  All this talk of Cutting the Cable Chord drives us along a route of cutting the funding of content.  This was covered heavily and clearly by Mark Cuban in his blog…We learn’t that this sum is in the billions of dollars.  Content costs money to make!

The article says that we concentrated on widening the reach by doing IPTV and offering new access to consumers…This is true to a certain degree but this is a cause and effect situation.  As far as Technology is concerned it merely evolves…however so does the business around it: IPTV came about because the Telco CEOs wanted to expand their business and differentiate. We saw SmartTVs emerge because TVs became commoditised and they wanted to differentiate…its about business not technology.  Cable went IPTV and TV Everywhere to counter the business threat that was IPTV…The effect and cause of Comcast et al entering into this domain.  Business is about maintaining revenue to keep a business alive and of course pay all the salaries of the employees.

Furthermore the article goes on to talk about  serving better content to the customer and that we should switch on the TV and be fed things we are interested in. (Even if there are millions of subscribers who all like something different at any moment in time) The article states that their should be intelligence in the device that delivers what WE like when we switch on the box.   Switching on the TV to find something you will like is like opening the oven to something it decides that you  want to eat!   This is just an impossible task that only leads to the position of monotony.  Variety is the spice of life my friend…We need variety if we eat the same meal every day we tire of it…if the world of TV turns into content the ‘system’ knows you like how will you ever be surprised by content that you sometimes see, think you wont like, but are pleasantly surprised by if you give it a chance!

The reason the TV business is in such a disrupted state is because there are far too many people trying to make money with content distribution…too many fragmented services…even Starbucks, Tescos, and Toys R Us also getting into the game which is stupid and the only reason is because it is easy (due to the internet).   If you had to have a Broadcast License to Broadcast Content as you do in the real TV world then I am sure that this would inhibit the fragmentation, the industry would be governed properly, controlled better so no harmful content could be proliferated and we would have a more understandable  industry.  The TV industry is now in a mess but who do you blame: the Content people for trying to maximise the return on their assets? Or the technologist for exploiting science? Or the businessman for exploiting the technology, also protecting his job in a dog-eat-dog environment???

It is TV people and we do not need it 24-7-365 we have other activities in-between and around it and that is the essence of this response – There is a limited amount of viewing hours per person, per interest and VARIETY, SURPRISE, SERENDIPITY is the job of the specialists who decide on content and channel line-ups and compete for us the viewers. (p.s. you can also buy DVDs, Blu-Ray Discs and go to the Cinema to watch films (Experts once claimed these were all dead because of OTT).  So Who is to Blame for the Mess?

HbbTV Needs to Up Its Game If It Wants To Win!


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.

BT and BBC Open Supermarket Chain


So Sainsbury Supermarkets will offer a TV service … So does Tesco and Dixons as does Apple and Netflix and Love Film and Virgin, BT and of course there is YouView trying tp patch up UK TV fragmentation to no avail. My first question is why do the Regulators allow this nonsense? If the BBC or BT or Virgin ever ventured into selling stuff in Supermarkets they would be vilified in the press and laughed at by the public! However Supermarkets can make money selling TV content just like all the other mainstream broadcasters and wannabees as they feel free to trample on expert’s toes?…Yes lets all tread on each others toes until there is a complete breakdown and we all have to go back to basics! P.S. is there a Sainsbury’s Funeral Parlour – If Not Why Not in order to bury the TV industry…