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Will mobile kill the video star?

10 Apr

Will the wave of new formats aimed at mobile video augment or simply replace traditional TV viewing? Oisin Lunny explores how mobile could determine the future of video consumption.

Can Smart TV win back audiences from mobile? Emphatically no according to Sean McKnight.

Can Smart TV win back audiences from mobile? Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

The gogglebox, beloved of politicians and advertisers alike for its effortless inducement of states of suggestibility, could be losing its most valuable asset: captive eyeballs. Social media is increasingly the hangout of choice and “off-portal” eyeballs can be hard to quantify and directly monetise. So how serious is the fight to coax the public back in front of the original “small screen”?

To put this into context, while mobile is breaking unprecedented ground in terms of broadcast consumption and interaction, broadcast TV seems to be retaining the lions share of eyeballs: for now. A recent Ofcom report stated, “Despite the hype, the available data does not support the view that the ‘battle for eyeballs’ is yet particularly intense. If X-Factor has an audience of 11 million and its app has around 550,000 downloads, then 95% of eyeballs are still on the first screen.”

Overall though, the trend towards mobile media consumption is clear. While TV is still top dog in the UK, in the US, media consumption is now predominantly digital, with the fastest growth being driven from mobile devices, according to eMarketer.

Martin Ogden, senior strategist at broadcast engagement specialists Spoke, says the slow migration of viewers to mobile and social platforms is a worry for broadcasters. “The broadcasters have realised that they have lost control of the audience conversation, so the broadcasters are fighting to bring them back. It’s working but it’s early days. We are in a transition stage. Broadcasters have to offer a connection with the audience across web, companion apps, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter posts etc.”

Ogden can also see a similar change in attitudes within ad agencies which will impact the wider industry. “The brands want to have all-pervasive ‘trojan horse’ content marketing – in other words, they want to be woven into the whole entertainment format experience. The big ad agencies are starting to become the predominant investors for new broadcast programming. Once the agencies are funding the production companies and new content is reaching consumers OTT (over the top), for example via YouTube, the traditional ‘walled-garden’ model of broadcast media starts to crumble.” Indeed, in this post-Facebook age, the concept of walled gardens seems to go against the grain of the effortlessly cross-platform consumer.

Ray Mia, CEO of Streamworks International says broadcasters have to stop thinking linear, they have to think outside of the (set top) box: “TV is not TV anymore; it’s not just about live or on demand, it’s about content on everything, available anywhere, at any time. Content is king, but delivery is King Kong.” Mia believes radical innovation is urgently needed, because while TV is working for now, unless they place mobile at the centre of their strategies, they’re going to plateau.

Part of the response from broadcasters has been developing apps for smart TVs. Sean McKnight, CEO of startup Roll TV emphatically disagrees with this approach and favours mobile-centric strategies: “Mobile devices are already more powerful than the processors in smart TVs and mobile touch screens are a better interface. Smart TV is also a nightmare to develop for compared to mobile platforms.”

Some broadcasters are responding, developing new show formats to include more social interaction on mobile devices. Jason George, CEO of broadcast interaction specialists Telescope, saw their “Instant Save” feature of The Voice (US) double traffic across the entire Twitter ecosystem. “We have seen a huge shift towards mobiles and social interactivity in the last year, over 75% of the Instant Save interactivity was made from a smartphone or tablet. We see this on all our shows we measure.”

Jason can also see mobile relentlessly driving new business models. “In the next two years we will see the brands innovating much more around 30 seconds spots, for example, by seeing how people can interact in real time via mobile. More and more, broadcasters will display social interactions live on screen. Research will turn into a real-time engagement piece with the audience and a real-time feedback loop, largely driven by the mobile and social experience.”

UK broadcasters have been pushing mobile interaction and companion apps to viewers throughout 2013, with spectacular levels of adoption. ITV’s X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent apps racked up over 2.5 million downloads in 2013, while mobiles and tablets now account for 43% of unique browsers to the BBC’s flagship news website, and a record 72% of UK BBC Sports traffic last Boxing Day.

Looking forward to 2015, Elaine Bedell, ITV’s director of entertainment and comedy, has high hopes for Rising Star, their forthcoming interactive, musical talent format where viewers vote in real-time during performances via an app which is fully integrated in the show. “The bold real-time voting element means that viewers’ votes control every twist and turn of the live programme, making for an incredibly dramatic, emotional and exciting show.” Crucially it also brings viewers mobile interactions back into the ITV ecosystem.

But will walled gardens for interaction be received well by a social savvy viewing public, used to Facebook connect and open interaction? The tech graveyard is littered with failed branded social spaces. Consumers prefer to hang out where all of their peers hang out, in buzzing digital spaces like Facebook and Twitter. In contrast, branded “walled gardens” can end up as sophisticated but empty interactive billboards, such as Disney’s Virtual Magic Kingdom. Without mass participation they are a ghost town. More recent arrivals to the tech graveyard are several social TV brands such as Intonow and GetGlue, underlining that open social integration has to genuinely add value to the consumer experience to succeed.

So will mobile kill the video star? Judging by the current wave of innovation and new commissioning models, a disruptive new interactive mobile video star could be just around the corner. But all we can be sure of is change; the writing is on the walled garden. Consumers are pushing the future agenda of TV via their mobiles, and it remains to be seen which broadcasters and tech companies will keep up.


ipTV Technology, The Future of Television

23 Mar


Introduction: ipTV stands for Internet Protocol Television. Instead of traditional boring transmission through terrestrial, satellite signal, and the good old cable television formats, in ipTV, television services are delivered using the Internet Protocol Network such as LAN and Internet. ipTV is not Internet TV and Internet TV is not Web TV( for all-not-so-obvious-reasons, but lets stick to the topic).  ipTV offers Triple Play Services, i.e. a one stop solution for Live TV, Internet and Telephone over the same broadband connection. The weather can’t play much of a spoil spot as the services are offered over broadband (there will be problems when we switch to satellite internet, which is not recommended).


Features: There are indeed some features in the ipTV that can really make the job of a TV salesman very easy. Let us look at some of them:- Live TV:  Live TV or Radio channel feeds broadcasted or multicasted over Internet Protocol network. Time Shifted TV:  You can Start, Stop, Record, Pause, Play Live TV channels at your convenience.Video on Demand: Unicast Services on the subscriber’s demands to deliver required content(videos, movies, documentaries). VoIP Telephony: Extension of VoIP features like SMS, Voice messages, OTT services, FAX, voice calls, call forwarding, etc.     



The diagram shows the IP network architecture supported by an IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) Infrastructure. Let me simplify the functional blocks for an easy understanding. There are three functional layers in the architecture: Service Layer (ipTV application platform), Control Layer (ipTV Controller) and the Media Layer (Transport Stream and Content Management). ipTV application platform is the user interaction portal with functionalities like Electronic Service Guide, Video on Demand. ipTV controller block is the functional block that provides interface to the IMS core and all session control functionalities like SIP, HTTP, etc. ITF (ipTV Terminal Function) performs the functionalities of encoding/decoding, buffering for both unicast and multicast streams and handles display and interactivity functions. The Media Layer, deserves a detailed explanation.

Your desired TV channels are picked up from satellites and the data is decrypted at the video processing servers. The raw streams are compressed into digital formats like MPEG-2 and MPEG-4. There are so many channels today. So the multiple channel streams are multiplexed (packed) into a single transport stream. The streams are packetized and sent over the IP network. The IP packets reach your home through a broadband access like DSL, where a splitter is used to separate out the TV from regular broadband (telephone and internet services). The desired channel can then be tuned into from the set top box. In the case of Video on Demand, the content is accessed by the subscriber over a unicast stream.

ipTV Manufacturers in India: With the digitization of the set top box services, it’s a golden opportunity to try out the ipTV Set Top Box! Airtel and Cisco are few good options to choose from.


Case Study–Legacy Television Outlet Faces Disruption

13 Feb

For contemporary Americans, it can seem like television has always existed.  Likely few living adults even remember when homes didn’t have a television set.  The medium has been commercially available since the 1920’s,[1] so this perception is not off-base. But if one considers that it has only been just under 100 years since television’s invention and release into the marketplace, its evolution and societal adoption as a medium has been remarkable.

Best practices at how to program and capitalize the medium of television have evolved as much as the technology that makes it work. From solely utilizing broadcast wavelengths and facing the imminent governmental intervention involved with the limited broadcast spectrum to lighter restrictions and the almost-anything-goes programming of cable outlets, consumers have as much prerogative with their television programming choices today as the current market offers in technological advancement.

While consumers enjoy a cavalcade of news and entertainment offerings and new technologies in the market, the challenges for television studio and service provider management to best engage audiences and capitalize on the medium have been pervasive since the medium’s invention.  Television has been and continues to be a lucrative industry. But because disruption occurs in every business, television profitability and audience stability is coming under fire.  Where this medium is concerned, disruption is rooted in the advent of the Internet. This disruption has been documented clearly in print journalism and the music industry, where the functionalities and availabilities of information and music online have changed the way these two industries do business—in some cases, in that they no longer do business .[2] But television has been largely more immune and slower to be affected by online disruption.[3]

While as much as 99% of in-home news and entertainment viewing has been done via television,[4] this trend is changing. Internet use has changed the way consumers access their entertainment needs. Streaming sources online such as Netflix and Hulu have changed the ways consumers are viewing television programming,[5] putting control of when programming is viewed in the hands of the viewer. But live programming is an arena that online utilities have yet to significantly disrupt.

Programming accessed via Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) has long been a source of concern for traditional television providers. Without getting into too much engineering jargon, this technology basically allows transmission of radio and television signals over the Internet. Broadcast networks such as ABC attempted to adapt into this developing technology as early as 1994.[6]  The network’s World News Now was aired using what was then basically videoconferencing software.[7] Advances in IPTV since then have allowed television providers to open a new market for themselves.  But providing services online has been a propriety function where the programming has only been available from networks and cable providers themselves and as they see fit. The rise in available streaming programming via the internet has nonetheless provided a new entertainment viewing option for consumers that many are quickly utilizing. The increased use of mobile devices and mobile apps has furthered this trend.[8]

The availability of television programming online has prompted a new consumer habit known as “cord-cutting.”[9] With the rising costs of television programming and the program packaging limitations put in place by service providers such as cable systems and satellite service providers, many Americans have opted to eliminate these programming services altogether.  While business relationships with these companies must often remain intact to secure home Internet services,[10] to some extent Americans are turning away from their televisions—as many as 3.58 million by the end of 2012.[11] American culture is evolving away from live-television-watching in front of their television sets because on-demand online services and DVR’s make it easier to tailor television watching around one’s life instead of the opposite.[12]Indeed, this is the ultimate disruption for the television industry.

Add brand new startup technology to the equation, and the situation worsens for programming providers and networks.  A new over-the-air (OTA) antenna-based service just surfaced in 2012 that solves the equation for consumers who prefer to cut the cord but who still want to watch programming offered by networks in live mode. The service, called Aereo, uses IPTV-based technology to supply live broadcast television programming to customers—via tiny, dime-sized antennae—directly to a computer or mobile device.  Aereo effectively allows consumers to curtail their purchase of programming from networks, cable providers and other outlets and still be able to watch live streaming of television programming online.[13]  This has the network television industry in an uproar and in the courtroom.

Traditional television network ABC, on the air since 1948 and long-considered a flagship television outlet,[14] has now become the first network to take steps to circumvent Aereo’s disruption (in addition to filing a formal lawsuit against the company[15]) by introducing its own version of online live streaming access.  The network has already been an innovator with online programming, becoming the first network to air new original programming episodes the day after they air on television on its own website.[16]

Already a player in the online/mobile programming field with apps available for iPhones and iPads,[17] as of 2013 ABC revolutionized these apps to allow live streaming of the network’s programs in two major television market—a direct attack on what Aereo’s services provide.[18]  Called “Watch ABC”, the development initially was rolled out in New York and Philadelphia markets. But within just a few months the upgraded app was made available to consumers in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago and Raleigh-Durham—with more markets targeted.[19]  The network indicated plans to negotiate with the organizations that own its more than 200 affiliates to make the Watch ABC app functional in all the markets where it provides programming.[20]

Functionally, the redesigned Watch ABC app provides an array of services to subscribers.  In addition to on-demand service, the app allows customers to watch programming as it emanates live from the network viewable via an iOS device, Kindle and even some Android tablets.[21] “The move is a win for TV Everywhere,” wrote Troy Dreier, “as only authenticated cable or satellite subscribers will be able to access the stream.”[22] This victory for the industry is characterized outright against the Aereo startup.  Aereo’s use of antennae is seen by members of the industry as a sort of pirating, because programming is attained from the broadcast signal and the startup receives incoming for providing it to households.[23] With its locked access to programming, ABC will retain control of a subscriber base and, as it hopes, counteract the services of Aereo and other possible startups using antennae to grab signals. On the advertising front, ABC inserts different ads into its digital feed so as to enable audience measurement and metrics for its advertisers.[24]

What, then, are the implications for ABC and industry-wide of this disruption-defying, ground-breaking move by ABC? Industry insiders expect other networks to follow suit.[25]  Utilizing an app to bring television programming into the online market for live streaming has likely been an inevitable progression.  But with the appearance of OTA providers like Aereo, it is probable that the industry as a whole will have to advance its technological offerings.[26]  Speculation is that the new momentum in the industry might effectively stamp out Aereo’s business model, in spite of the court proceedings that already are underway to that end.[27]  The potential for an entirely new advertising market presents itself, wherein mobile service providers have proprietary information about usage with their media and therefore will be able to market the programming offerings to their own advertisers.[28] Also, changes in online on-demand services like Hulu and ABC’s own website will occur, as ABC will embargo current episodes of original programming to limit access to paying customers.[29]

To pursue direct company input into the Watch ABC app development and any other disruption-reaction policies by ABC or its affiliates and because I knew that to secure an interview with anyone on the network level would be highly unlikely, I contacted the Memphis ABC television affiliate for comment. In a phone interview, Local 24 Executive Producer Eric Helvie commented, “these are policies that are set at the network level. Nothing is ‘off-the-record’ even with social media use in general.  These policies are not even managed in this building and I don’t have the authority to comment.”  Repeated attempts to secure comment from ABC on the network level were unsuccessful.  However, in an interview with New York Times reporter Brian Stelter about the new service, Disney-ABC Television group president Anne Sweeney said, “We keep a very close eye on consumer demand.  We watch how people are behaving with their devices, and we really felt that we needed to move faster.”[30]

[12] Ibid.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Ibid.

[23] Ibid.

[25] Ibid.

[26] Ibid.

[27] Ibid.




Telecoms & Media’s top predictions for 2014

22 Jan

Informa Telecoms & Media today revealed its predictions and trends for 2014 for the telecoms and media sectors.

Telecoms operator consolidation will be a recurring theme throughout 2014. In addition to in-market consolidation – Informa Telecoms & Media is seeing a slow but steady transition to three-operator mobile markets – they expect to see regional and global telecoms operator groups entering into discussions and potential deals. One potential move in particular would significantly change the telecoms landscape. AT&T’s reported interest in Vodafone has echoes of US telcos’ expansion into European cable TV and mobile markets in the 1990s. Those European forays brought mixed success.

The telecoms business generally will see a further refinement of operator strategy towards OTT players and diversification. Rather than trying to build separate digital businesses for the consumer market, telecoms operators will increasingly focus on bundling digital content, communications services and publications with their core services. New revenue opportunities will be around selling connectivity – both on a retail and wholesale basis – to devices such as tablets and in cars.

Video and streaming will be two important themes in the media and entertainment business in 2014. The World Cup will be the first where live, streamed viewing captures a significant share of total viewing. And in music, streaming revenues will grow rapidly at the expense of downloads.

Highlights from Informa Telecoms & Media 2014 predictions:

  • A pursuit of Vodafone will be expensive and risky for AT&T
    When Vodafone completes the sale of its stake in Verizon Wireless to Verizon in February, we expect AT&T to make initial approaches with a view to bidding for the entirety of the company. But we are not convinced that – if successful with its courtship – AT&T will find that married life is a bed of roses. US mobile operators AT&T Wireless and Verizon Wireless are brimming with confidence because of their successful LTE launches. They see LTE as a game changer and as the driver for the Internet of Things (IoT). But the European perspective is different. Operators there are struggling to charge a premium over 3G for LTE and it is not seen as being of fundamental importance for IoT and M2M where connectivity will only capture a small part of future value. Furthermore, Vodafone’s shares have appreciated by 24% over the last six months and a significant premium will be needed to persuade shareholders to sell. Informa believes that AT&T may be better advised to strengthen its position in the US fixed and converged market rather than pursuing Vodafone.
  • Bluetooth will drive innovation and growth in IoT and mobile commerce
    Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) will come to the fore as a key technology driver for new mobile services and applications in 2014. In mobile commerce, Apple’s iBeacon, PayPal’s Beacon and other BLE services like them will become widespread as an ecosystem of hardware and service providers grows around the BLE technology incorporated into iOS and Android devices. BLE’s potential to deliver a more effortless and truly contactless way of paying in-store makes it a particularly compelling technology – and a potential NFC killer.

Bluetooth Smart combines the power efficiency of BLE with the functionality of lightweight software “profiles” which specify how sensors of a certain type should perform using BLE. There is an ever-increasing list of profiles being written to enable an ever-increasing variety of application-specific, sensor-based devices – from heart-rate monitors, to door locks, to treadmills. At the start of 2014, there were more than 160 Bluetooth Smart devices in production, divisible into more than 70 different categories of device type. This astonishing level of innovation will only increase during 2014.

  • New ‘connected tablet’ business models will emerge
    The relatively low proportion of tablets that are connected to cellular networks is a major disappointment to the mobile industry. Despite the rapid growth in volume of shipments, only a small percentage – approximately 20% – of these devices connect to the macro cellular network meaning that a huge opportunity for access revenues is being lost. In 2014, we will finally see a number of new initiatives to sell more “cellular” tablets. These will often involve the use of MVNO-type business models. We see a new hybrid wholesale model emerging. In some cases, OEMs will purchase wholesale data and bundling the cost of access into the device. In other cases, mobile operators will create “ready to sell” white-label packages for OEMs.
  • Three’s company, four’s a crowd
    A consensus is emerging in the mobile communications industry that three is the optimum number of mobile operators for any given market. A number of countries in Europe (Germany, Austria, Ireland) have already started to move towards the three-operator paradigm but in other parts of the world too (the US, Colombia), proposed and actual mergers and takeovers will result in the creation of three strong players. In 2014, national regulators will play a crucial role in determining whether to give the green light to market consolidation. Informa Telecoms & Media believes that regulators are now warming to the idea that three-operator markets – plus competition from mobile virtual network operators – provide the right balance between maximizing competition and building sustainable mobile sectors.
  • Telcos will give up trying to be like OTT communications companies
    The window of opportunity for telecoms operators to develop “copycat” OTT voice and messaging services has closed. Such is the dominance of OTT service providers such as WhatsApp and Skype that it is extremely difficult for any new providers to develop similar propositions unless they offer new features and capabilities. Telefonica closed down its TuMe in 2013 and other similar operator initiatives are struggling to gain traction. Rather than building services that are designed to compete with OTT service providers, we expect to see operators developing OTT capabilities and services for their existing customers. 2014 will also be a crucial year in the future of Joyn, the OTT-like service that has been launched by a number of operators in Europe and Asia. Unless operators can demonstrate strong take-up for their services, it will be difficult to persuade device vendors that they need to include Joyn capabilities in their new models.
  • Telco mobile wallet initiatives will flicker but ultimately fail
    2014 will see a proliferation of mobile wallets in developed markets, especially Europe, and largely led by mobile operators. Most of these wallets will be prepaid and focused on NFC payments. But we predict that the year will close without any operator-wallet success stories. The operator wallets that have been launched in the West so far have yet to make an impact and in early January the UK operator Telefonica O2 announced that it was closing its mobile-wallet service because of poor take-up. Banks and payment brands such as PayPal are much more likely to gain traction with mobile wallets. The operators can only hope that there will be a role for them as enablers, charging fees to secure mobile payment transactions via SIMs.
  • Tablets, wearables and the cloud will make out-of-home content rights even hotter in 2014
    With wearables, tablets and cloud storage dominating headlines for video consumption, the missing element has always been the rights to the quality content. Many 3-5 year rights deals finish in 2014 and new deals will include “Internet” and “out-of-home” access to content. In an ideal world, these rights will be acquired by existing consumer TV services and allow seamless integration with TV and in-home viewing.
  • “Ephemeral media” will be offered by well-known content creators
    “Ephemeral media”– i.e. content with a short shelf life, such as that spread via Snapchat – has been associated with user-generated content but in 2014 it will be offered by some well-known content creators and distributors as a way of creating scarcity amid the firehose of new content. It will cause temporary panic among traditional content players which still hope (as with UltraViolet) that users will treat digital content in the same way we treated physical media. They won’t.
  • Small cells will come to the aid of congested LTE networks
    In late 2013, Verizon Wireless, the world’s largest LTE operator, admitted that it was starting to see pockets of congestion in major cities. In 2014, other “early” LTE networks, particularly those that operate in the lower (700MHz) frequency bands will start to face congestion. Those operators that have secured higher frequencies will start to use them to deploy public-area small cells in 2014. These deployments will provide critical operational and practical lessons for the whole industry, as power, backhaul, planning and maintenance issues are still to be completely solved for mass-market small cells. Operators that do not have immediate access to spectrum – either through auctions or refarming – may end up in a seriously challenged position.
  • Service providers will bundle digital publications into their broadband offerings
    Not all broadband providers can follow the lead of UK incumbent BT by spending huge sums on exclusive TV sports rights. But in order to attract and retain broadband customers, especially in mature markets where churn is a more pressing issue, we expect ISPs to partner with publishers to include subscriptions to newspaper services, magazines and e-books, as well as music and video services, in their broadband offerings in 2014.


TV evolution: The war for the start screen

1 Dec

TV evolution: The war for the start screen

In the 1980′s, about the time Ferris Bueller took his famous day off, a war was first waged that has resurfaced in new forms ever since. No blood has been shed, but billions have been spent by factions vying for one prize: to be the first thing people see when they fire up their PCs, smartphones and tablets.

Now that war has reached TVs. Media fragmentation and the growth of cord cutters, cord shavers and younger “cord nevers” are making TV one of the most hotly contested theaters of The War for the Start Screen. The victors will be those that “own” the viewing experience from the moment the power button is switched on. Their spoils will be riches from the ad revenues, subscriptions and transactions flowing from viewer “ownership.”

The stakes are high, and there will be blood. Control of the screen is a sophisticated play requiring good timing, deep pockets, the right content and the ability to deliver the best viewing experience. At stake is a whopping share of the $150+ billion-a-year broadcast TV industry.

Competitors for the TV start screen include content providers, TV manufacturers, device manufacturers, and of course the big guns, the service providers. (Admittedly there are dozens of other vying for control, but in the interest of space, let’s focus on the categorical front-runners in the U.S.).

But, what weapons does each contender have in his arsenal, and how will each fare in the battle?

Content only providers like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and YouTube are noteworthy players in this war. They can either battle in the connected/smart TV realm (which could benefit from a friendlier user interface) or bypass the TV as the starting point, and use second screen apps on smartphones, tablets, and laptops to make these devices the real start screen.

That’s where they have more control and ability to engage and retain the viewer. But they’re not the only ones with that ammunition, as MSOs and networks can take the same route, as many already have.

These content providers are also significant for the mark they’ve made with original programming (such as House of Cards, Battleground) and original channels (AwesomenessTV). But despite all their appeal to viewers, it’s questionable if these players can sustain original content production and remain profitable with their current subscriber models. (Google recently announced it will be increasing its paid channel pilot program to include more content creators.)

Hardware manufacturers like Samsung, LG, Vizio and others currently control the start screen, so it’s theirs to lose. While they had largely ceded control to service providers whose set-top boxes and satellite dishes take immediate control of navigation, they’ve been given another chance in the connected world.

As the battle wears on, these manufacturers are racing to pump up Smart TV content with games, advertising, software and other features. But despite these efforts, the US will soon be lagging behind other markets in Smart TV sales.

Some observers, like Jia Wu, director for connected home devices at Strategy Analytics, attribute the slowing sales to platform choices made by certain US manufacturers. “Samsung, LG, Sony and Panasonic will continue to compete in the US and European Smart TV market with products based on their own platforms or third-party platforms such as Google TV. Chinese TV manufacturers like Hisense, TCL and Skyworth are embracing Android, which already offers a plethora of apps and content.”

In addition to the content challenge, the typical 5- to 7-year purchase cycle for a TV puts manufacturers continually behind the curve on delivering new “f-factors” (fun, features and functionality). TV makers could gain more of an edge in the war by delivering their own low-cost mini-hardware upgrades in the open market – perhaps in the form of low-cost dongles or plug-and-play devices that break out of the traditional purchase cycle and give new functionality to aging TVs.

Device manufacturers, Apple with AppleTV, Roku, Boxee, and Google with Chromecast are a mixed lot. While they don’t own the start screen yet, this group is more nimble and diverse than the larger hardware guys, so they have a good shot. However, some of these devices need to address ease-of-use issues before they can reach critical mass. And, to survive the long-term battle, all device manufacturers need a recurring revenue stream to make up for the typically low margins in device sales.

Among this group, Apple and Google are well positioned for success because of their ability to treat devices as loss leaders while building the mass market acceptance needed to win service fees and transactions at a massive scale. Chromecast gives Google (which can certainly weather a loss leader) a low-cost device to not only simplify web video access, but to boost YouTube viewership and revenue as well.

Meanwhile, we should keep a very close eye on gaming consoles, especially Microsoft’s Xbox. Gaming console makers have demonstrated their ability to become the centerpiece of the home entertainment system, and with even more media-centric features in the newest versions, they pose a considerable threat.

Historically, multi-system operator (MSO) and multichannel video programming distributors(MVPD) such as Comcast, DirecTV, Verizon and others have owned the start screen and the TV viewing experience. These players currently have a distinct advantage over others because they are flush with subscriber fees and aren’t shackled by major manufacturing costs. They also have the advantage of being able to deliver content to multiple devices.

Over time, this group may not even use the traditional set-top hardware and could deliver the entire experience on a lower-cost device/dongle or directly over broadband (typically owned by MSOs). While we continue to hear pro cord-cutting arguments, the truth is that a la carte TV would be more expensive than most Pay TV. (Read Ben Thompson’s StraTechery column for more on that.)  The question for this group is: can they innovate quickly enough to build a compelling value prop for cord-cutting advocates and other consumers?

Tablets and smartphones are making a grab for the start screen as more people put laptops and notebooks aside. In fact, video viewing increased by 41% on phones and 59% on tablets during the first half of 2013. Many viewers use tablets and smartphones as their start screen before they even look to the TV, relying on web-based aggregators or network-owned apps for easier-to-navigate content discovery. As such, these devices favor aggregators and content owners and could potentially displace cable boxes and other OTT devices.

And the victor is??? There are still battles to be fought in the war for the start screen, chief among them the struggles to deliver content to fragmented devices, simplify user interfaces, and improve search and discovery tools. In the end, control of the start screen will come down to who can connect consumers to the most value and the best experiences – so while the battle may be ugly, consumers will ultimately benefit.

And, while it remains to be seen who will persevere in the next phase of the war for the start screen, history makes one thing quite clear: the ability to capture a viewer’s rapt attention the moment the screen flickers on is a war worth waging.



How to Watch TV over the Internet

11 Oct


Television started out as a luxury, but by-and-by, it has become more of a utility for most Americans.  Up there with electricity, telephone and internet, it’s something many people don’t want to live without.  However, when it comes to watching television, more and more folks (400,000 last year) are cutting their cable and opting for internet-based television for a fraction of the cost.  It’s easy and cheap.  All you need is:

  1. TV
  2. High-speed internet connection with a wireless router
  3. Over-the-top (OTT) streaming device.

There are numerous options for the latter, including, but not limited to:


The latest OTT device to cause a stir is called Chromecast.  With the look of a USB memory stick and the heart of a Roku or Apple TV, it’s a gateway to content like Netflix, Hulu, Youtube and all the internet has to offer.  And with a price tag of around $35, it’s not hard to get your hands on one either.

The catch?  You need:

  1. an HDTV
  2. some device to control it (laptop, tablet, or smartphone)

Some say it’s lagging behind in the content department, although you’re able to mirror onto your TV anything you can bring up on your laptop (in your Chrome browser), so there seems to be a relatively easy work-around for almost everything.  It started out as a Netflix and Youtube heavy device, but HuluVimeoRedbox Instant and others have recently jumped on the bandwagon.

To find the OTT device that’s right for you, check out this grid that outlines the features of some of the most common device options (click to enlarge):


Cordova Telephone Cooperative currently sells 3 versions of the Roku player and Apple TV.  For more information, is always a great resource, and you can also check out our website at


UltraViolet : Outlier in the Telco’s Online Video ambitions

12 Sep

Telco Global Connect

Presentation1The global entertainment market is huge and as such is obviously attractive to telcos looking to counter falling ARPUs. It accounts for a considerable share of disposable income and overall entertainment spending is much higher than that on telecoms. Online video makes up one-third of consumer internet traffic today and is forecast to grow more than ten times by 2013 to account for over 90% of consumer traffic overall.New consumer content consumption models that shift both time and place challenge operators to rethink their service models. Smartphones, tablets and Internet-connected TVs are carrying the feature set and expectations previously reserved for set-top boxes.

Believe it or not the single most important factor for success in OTT video is an attractive content library. However, these content rights are still cumbersome to acquire. This is due to the fact that OTT video rights form an entirely new category and that the value…

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LTE-WLAN Interworking: 3GPP Release-12 Perspective

25 Aug

All About 4G

This presentation gives an overview of the ongoing  3GPP Study Item on LTE-WiFi interworking.

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People Turning off their TV and turning to their own devices

16 Aug

The Ring Masters Guide 2

image Not long ago the thought of turning to the PC  for entertainment was a foreign idea and certainly replacing the idea replacing Cable or Free to Air TV with streaming over the net – IPTV.   But recent research shows that there is a major swing taking place in the US right now.

The  “cord-cutting” trend TV away from traditional TV is benefiting IPTV according to a new report from research specialists IHS.

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US phone companies are winning new TV watchers. Cable & satellite, not so much

15 Aug
fios tv

SUMMARY:In the fiercely fought battle for pay TV subscribers, the phone companies are stealing customers away from cable and satellite companies, a trend that is likely to continue for remainder of the year. The worst loser? Satellite companies like Dish Networks.

Cord cutting seems to be having little impact on Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) providers even as subscribers are abandoning both satellite and cable companies.Data from IHS, a market research company, shows that AT&T’s Uverse, Verizon’s FiOS and a few others added 398,000 net subscribers during the three months ending June 30, 2013. AT&T’s Uverse added 233,000 and Verizon added 140,000 subscribers to its FiOS video offering. A big reason for these new additions at telcos is their decision to spend more on marketing these services.

dish dish

For the same April-to-June 2013 period, cable companies lost 588,000 subscribers and satellite companies lost 162,000 subscribers. During the same April-to-June time period in 2012, cable companies lost 598,000 subscribers while satellite companies lost 62,000 subscribers. IPTV providers added 304,000 subscribers.

At the end of June 2013, cable companies had 55 percent of the U.S. pay TV market, while satellite held 34 percent of the market with IPTV at 11 percent. These three groups are fighting over a shrinking base of new subscribers, many of whom are jettisoning pay TV in favor of cord cutting. IHS believes that total number of pay TV subscribers is going to decline from 100.89 million at end of 2012 to 100.77 million at end of 2013. A majority of the losses are going to come from satellite companies, according to UBS Equity Research. That can’t be good news for DirecTv and the Dish Network. No wonder Wall Street wants the two to merge.

These three charts from UBS Research do a good job of laying out the pay TV market.





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