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IPTV/VoD: The World That's On Its Way
Alexander Cameron has been on a writing rampage again as he describes in his latest essay the road to the future of IPTV. Issues discussed include:
The age of the Internet
What’s our vision for the future?
Internet TV won’t take us that far
The Holy Grail of IPTV
There’s nothing special about video-on-demand
Choice and content overload
And there are other sub-topics sprinkled in-between such as the misunderstanding of IPTV along with customer and company reactions. Alex’s work is always interesting so check it out.
By Alexander Cameron, Managing Director, Digital TX Ltd.
Imagine travelling down a motorway at 110 miles per hour, passing hundreds of signs with half of you feeling you just want a leisurely drive and the other half panicking that you're late. Some of the other cars are crashing into the central reservation or veering off the left lane violently never to be seen again, some are just sitting behind you watching what you'll do, and some are cruising with you in parallel so they can wave at you from the other window. Others are just parked in the hard shoulder doing nothing.
You're so busy trying to keep up your speed, answer calls on your mobile, work out when you'll need to put more gas in and fend off what the other cars are doing that you've also forgotten the most important thing: the one thing you thought you already knew and couldn't set off on the journey without. You know where you started, but you don't know where the road leads. You're all racing so fast that nobody knows where they are going. Point B is a mystery. All that seems to matter is the mile of distance ahead, but no-one has looked at the map and or taken much notice of the road signs. Nobody has any realistic idea of what's down that long road or what it will take to both get and stay there.
Technology moves at such a breathtaking speed that we almost always lose track of everything but the race. Westminster village is unfortunately the same. NHK, the Japanese inventors of the new Ultra HD (U-HDTV) video system invented high definition video over 30 years ago in the 1970s, although it was first introduced in the 1990s and still is yet to see significant deployment at this precise moment in time, despite the predictions of its ubiquity by market analysts. Their latest thinking is that U-HDTV won't see any practical consumer installations for the next generation, or at least 25 years.
Business without mission or purpose is like life without purpose, with the additional consideration of having to be able to react to change quickly and follow the money to survive. Many companies talk mission, but its lip service to flashy self-help consultancy doublespeak or a meaningless gesture that does very little to encourage their employees in the way they think it will. Business is about people, and companies are made up of people. Without mission or purpose, there is little chance for momentum to speed up or innovation to blossom. People react to vision as it touches their soul, not simply their need to pay the bills.
In just 10 years, the internet has come to control almost all of our lives in the Western world. Websites, email, TCP/IP and web applications have taken over as the preferred way for human systems to communicate. The bridging of international telecoms networks has created a truly globalised community and marketplace for the first time in human history. It crosses country borders and allows instant collaboration across cultures, languages and races. The more able we are to communicate, the faster we evolve. Exponential evolution of our species is closer than it has ever been.
There is one key feature of the Internet that is to thank for its growth, and it is a dire warning to those who tout proprietary computer systems and networks. That secret is its neutrality and openness. Sharing and collaborating for the greater good has spawned billions of dollars and inspired an unprecedented wave of innovation. On the Internet, everyone is equal; the small shopkeeper can compete with the large supermarket on a level footing for a slice of a global customer base. No-one has to build their own web or DNS servers, they just get on straight away with the business of putting great ideas to work, almost for free. It is transforming the economies of third world nations.
But the future of Internet is not certain. What we do know is that all electronic devices are now evolving to have Internet connectivity, and at critical mass that means any machine or device can talk to any other. We also know the US guardianship of the overall network is reaching its dusk and that there are many companies out there who will do whatever they can to carve off parts of it for their own vested interests and financial control without regard to the bigger picture. The growth in social networking and so-called Web 2.0 has demonstrated that our interactions and demands are becoming considerably more complex.
We also know that the era of simplistic first-come, first-served information delivery is no longer enough, as it has been for websites, email and radio. The advent of broadband connectivity has opened the door to telephony, music distribution and the early seeds of worldwide video delivery. The web's chaotic evolution may just be the 50 tonne boulder in the middle of the road that we spend years crashing into until we find a way to go round it.
Put simply, we've outgrown the old Internet. The next generation is the transfer of information across the world more intelligently, and the jewel in that crown is the ability to transmit live, picture-perfect HD-quality multi-channel television across the backbone and migrate away from satellite, cable and terrestrial broadcast TV systems.
Point B is live broadcast television and universal Internet connectivity between all devices. Without vision we are lost and blind.
That's no easy task. In fact, some might say its completely impossible considering the state we are in today. But it is the next step, whether we like it or not. Naysayers and cynics will have a field day with all the barriers in place to stop us from getting there, as it's an uphill struggle that will require massive investment and risk. All sorts of stepping stones are helping us to dip our toes in the proverbial waters, such as closed/managed IPTV networks, video download services, P2P distribution systems, download-to-own and flash streaming websites (YouTube, Google Video etc). Most are free for providers and cost consumers a modest subscription fee.
Live television and high-definition radio have huge implications both commercially and technically. The first is the necessity for efficient delivery, which guarantees the consumer a familiar, high-quality and compelling entertainment experience and maintains the integrity of the results of content producers' efforts and investment. The second is for a change in the nature of the traditional entertainment business models to accommodate the globalised nature of widened multimedia distribution and support the production of new intellectual property. The third is the desperate need to create new ways to discover, promote, navigate and consume the sheer mass of digital content being made available.
The current Internet cannot handle live multi-channel television, despite the proliferation of pseudo-alternatives such as "Internet TV", streaming media and clip playback on websites. Peer to peer systems will only get us so far as they address the problem by re-balancing the bottlenecks on the network to its edge rather than its core.
Technically, live broadcast media means multicast distribution, quality of service (QoS) enablement and a last mile that is high-speed and virtually uncontended. The network environment needs extensive work to incorporate intelligent caching and localisation that minimises the traffic load on the core network backbone by only sending large video files once, or only when they are needed.
The trouble is that the Internet is a garbled spaghetti mess of proprietary networks that are all set up in a completely different way. These networks meet at junctions (public or private peering points) to form the Internet and conspire to deliver information in the quickest and most efficient way possible from one point to another. Some are multicast and QoS-enabled, some are not. There's no way to tell which route a piece of data will take when it makes it journey across the web of networks, and hence no way to guarantee its prompt delivery. There is very little standardisation between the operators of these networks, and efforts to unify them (such as the Mbone) have abjectly failed.
The irony is that most of these individual MPLS networks can do live television as it is. They already offer quality-guaranteed delivery of video from one place on their network to another. These point-to-point services are sold at a premium to private clients who want to get their TV signal from A to B reliably, for which the operators use multicast and common QoS systems, both of which are comparatively old technologies. Traffic running across these networks is generally "tagged" into 2 separate groups – public internet traffic, and private traffic. A private connection is typically implemented as a virtual private network (VPN) and can also use virtual local area network (VLAN) technology.
There is also more than enough capacity in transoceanic fiber to be to withstand the onslaught of live television and unicast video on-demand. The fiber itself is already laid, but the cost comes through the capital expenditure for equipment to "light up" additional wavelength capacity at termination points. Scientific improvements in fiber-optic technology mean that this equipment gets more efficient as the years go on, that the demand strips its price and we can keep squeezing more and more bandwidth out of the same cable. Conservative anecdotal evidence suggests that less than 6% of the available fiber is currently being used, and of that, only 60% (~4% of the total) is constantly at work. In third world countries, they are buying it for pennies by the metre and stringing it up in the air between individual houses.
To put this into perspective, the highest reported simultaneous traffic load passing through the LINX exchange in London's docklands is just over 100Gbit/s. To transmit all the visible channels on the Sky Digital platform in MPEG-4 AVC, you would need around 1Gbit/s (this of course excludes test channels, interactive applications, additional video tracks/camera angles and other hidden transmission variables). The first iteration of unicast video on-demand being succeeded with new super-scalar multicast variants also means that if 1000 people are all requesting the same movie title within the same 15mins, less than 20 unique streams are needed to feed the rest of the audience parasitically. Unfortunately, the vested interests of the vendors lie with shipping as many units as possible, so efficiency doesn't do them many favours.
But unfortunately proprietary, money-grabbing, risk-aversion fever has gripped the carriers. They make more money selling private point-to-point video connections on their shiny MPLS networks and have very little interest in working with their competitors to interconnect live television services across the Internet. Their primary goal is turning video carriage into a premium service that content providers and consumers pay through the nose for so they can appease investors and squeeze the last drop out of their past capital investments in infrastructure. For the next generation of the Internet (and hence the next generation of profits), we need video to be a commodity.
On the surface it's a perfectly reasonable business decision. But look further down the road, and its absurd. These companies are in business today because of co-operation, integration and interoperation alone. If we'd have adopted the same policy at the beginnings of the Internet, it wouldn't exist. We'd all be trying to connect to JANET because of a similar campaign by all of the individuals to monopolise the network. And back then, investment in a new fangled communications technology such as the Internet was far riskier when the demand or "proof" was just blue sky conjecture.
Openness, neutrality and interoperation got them when they are today, and it is the only thing that will get them to point B. Resisting it is like turning over and ignoring everything that's come before and sabotaging your own salvation. Telecoms is a fast-moving and risky business, and they are making a catastrophic mistake and doing nothing about it, as everyone is doing the same like lemmings running to a cliff edge. Its short-sighted madness.
One of the most common questions operators and analysts are asked is whether IPTV will happen, and if it does, whether if will deliver its promise. The answer is probably not one you'd expect. It already has happened, and already is doing. IP and internet technologies may not turn up on our doorstep or down our aerial socket tomorrow morning, but the key point to remember is that in 20 years, it will be the dominant method of broadcasting. The secret is in seeing the bigger picture. Rupert Murdoch infamously declared recently that market entrants need to operate in the mass market or in niche segments, or else they would be someone's lunch in the middle ground.
Broadcasters have already seen it, as have a lot of telecoms companies. Cable operators are using IP over their coaxial wiring, every country has one or more "triple play" operators and both BT and Sky are evolving their businesses to become so-called "hybrid" distribution that uses a combination of both traditional RF transmission and IP back-channel distribution through broadband. The last mile copper network in the UK is too unreliable for immediate real-time video on-demand so these first services will see an incremental delivery pattern starting with offline "push" downloading onto PVR hard drives that gradually change to live video. BT's 21CN upgrade and digital switchover will help to drive the migration.
Nearly all the main ISPs that control 95% of the UK broadband market now have a TV play of some kind, and there's no guarantee that they will be the right ones. The landscape is quite a bizarre and fluid tapestry of daily shifting sands that is yet to whip up into a storm. The cable companies have merged and re-branded as Virgin, BT are launching their Vision hybrid, Sky have bought Easynet, Tiscali have acquired Homechoice, Orange are consolidating across Europe and launching their BT clone, Namesco and Eclipse are launching off the Netgem and BT Max platforms. Carphone Warehouse have bought AOL UK and Pipex are acquiring to get fatter.
The revolution television is engaged in is not one of on-demand viewing or spectacular interactivity. It's far simpler than that. IPTV introduces Internet technology to broadcasting, which is a massively different mechanism of delivering video. Traditional broadcast is promiscuous, in that one signal is sent that anyone can receive. Internet technology is transactional, meaning every viewer is given their own personal copy of a piece of content, or maintains a personal link of some kind to the originating broadcaster. Transactional means a personal request is made, and a personal response is given in return to complete the 2-way bilateral process.
So what is this vision and promise, and this world that is on its way?
IPTV offers all the strengths of the internet, with none of its weaknesses. It means everything from the Internet, with rich-quality, interference-free DVD video on-demand. Anyone can develop these services, and reports of their usage can be generated from normal web server logs just as they are for websites. Content producers can go from limited market penetration to unlimited reach of everyone with a phone line or broadband connection. It means broadcasters and every other type of content publisher can strengthen or re-initiate much closer relationships with their viewers.
The Internet will eventually be the preferred medium for carrying broadcast television. It will be a particular boon for those who currently use satellite backhaul carriage and pay hundreds of thousands of dollars a year for the privilege, as the choice will be between millions of dollars over the years or a bill less than 10% of the cost using the net backbone. All devices will have internet connectivity and be able to communicate with each other internationally in milliseconds, completely transparently, without respect for distance, borders or language.
The Holy Grail of IPTV and its ultimate promise is that by being powered by the Internet it can offer unlimited TV and radio channels from all over the world, and access to every piece of content every created in human history. TV menus will no longer carry a few hundred channels from broadcasters in a subscriber's country and its neighbours, but literally millions from every country in the world, of any size, made by anyone. Every TV channel, radio channel, movie, TV program, video game, music album, piece of software, picture, mobile accessory or multimedia presentation can be accessed in any country, anywhere, by anyone, on any device from wherever they are, whenever they want.
The reasoning for DRM in the new digital age resulted from some serious futurology done by the record labels rather than a panic over copyright. Digital files don't lose quality like analogue copies, and so can't be trusted to disappear into the ether after a few years with the masters being retained by the owners in a studio bookcase somewhere. They worked out very quickly that with the internet being what it is, there was no way to be able to control the distribution of digital files, but that the only thing they could control would be the ability to access the file itself. DRM reflects an old business model trying to survive a new generation's demands, but in itself is organised madness. Consumers hate it, it creates pain, its proprietary when it needs to be cross platform and transparent, and most importantly it negates the web's most powerful asset – its viral nature.
The new world means that your media will travel with you wherever you go, in any country, on any device, any time you want it. Subscribers will have a global account that is accessible on all of their devices and locations that stores their preferences, rights and demographic information (i.e. their profile). Information about customers and their personalisation preferences will be centralised, and be accessed by decentralised (or localised) delivery equipment. The rights model that divides into countries, platforms and time periods will be challenged by this new idea of portable settings and access as the purchase of the media will be tied to a person rather than a place, device or time.
That's a very scary thought for most content rightsholders. Scary enough o make you pursue racketeering of the very people who buy your products. It ranks up there with the dreaded idea of cannibalisation. It's been reported many times that movie studios don't sell cinema tickets; they sell DVDs and act as investment banks. Of every 10 movies, 7 lose money, 2 break even and 1 actually makes some money. Doing anything to upset the apple cart, like video on-demand, might tempt consumers from buying those lovely, over-priced plastic discs and mean they won't make much money. The situation is changing slowly, but isn't helped when brilliant executives are frustrated by their more senior colleagues who don't "get" digital media.
This again is utter madness. Every time a company expands, creates a new product or a trend forces them to re-position, there is the risk of cannibalisation. Cash cows and margins don't last forever, and change happens whether any of us like it or not as its life's modus operandi. Fearing that is the same as fearing a new product or life itself. Digital distribution means no physical packaging costs – all the perpetual revenues with none of the costs. It's a content producer's wet dream, and a powerful complimentary service to be offered gradually alongside what's there right now, in the knowledge that it will event replace it over time when consumers have adjusted. As Bill Gates rightly predicted, in the coming years, the ownership of physical merchandise will cease to exist and we will rent access to artistic works over a network for a period of allocated time.
Convergence messes everything up, and we can't pretend that yesterday's ways of doing things will fit today's and tomorrow's problems. Contracts for intellectual property are an art form that makes lawyers drool in anticipation of he juicy, chunky fees that can charge because of the length of time it will take to put the jargon together that makes up the eventual 5in legal booklet known as an agreement. The old world is based on everything being separate. Convergence means every device does everything the others do too, and there is no more separation. All the things the devices do that was originally different to each other have now merged them into one big feature set.
Hollywood uses a very complex rights model based on multiple release calendar "windows", and sub-divides access to their intellectual property as much as is possible to ensure maximum profitability. In practical terms, that means you can licence a title, material of likeness for a certain, region, country, territory, platform and allocated time period upon payment of an arbitrary up-front minimum guarantee based on how much of a risk you are.
It's very difficult to create new windows for new technologies when current customers have paid handsomely beforehand for their little slice of the action. Its equivalent to pushing ahead in the queue, or having to reimburse people for what they will lose from another customer having access to those rights. It's also for that reason that we are seeing all the lame "stepping stone" services like download-to-own (D2O) websites, as these can be classed as extensions to existing windows through some legal wrangling rather than anything new.
But there is an even more basic problem with IPTV that plagues the content industry, and that is one of definitions. Most people have no idea what it is, and get thoroughly confused between the variants. IPTV is an umbrella term for TV and video distributed using Internet technologies. That doesn't mean it has to use the Internet, just the technology, as you would find in a normal home or office network. As an umbrella term, it can mean full multi-channel television like Homechoice, Internet TV, Broadband TV, video downloads or P2P services, and doesn't necessarily have to be viewed on a set-top box or media player. The typical industry understanding is that it is full PAL/NTSC television transmitted over a privately-managed last mile network such as DSL.
Not having the definition right isn't a great way to start. Naturally the lawyers are grinning because it means months of pointless meandering over details and potential specification problems they can charge by the hour for. But it's not just a headache in educating people about the potential of the technology, it makes getting content onto platforms very difficult. Most productions (movies, TV programmes etc) are not completely original in the sense that they use a chain of material licensed from other rightsholders (for example the likeness of an actor/actress, DVD artwork, news footage in documentaries or music soundtracks) that has to get "clearance" for inclusion and distribution in the master production.
That clearance in the UK is typically categorised into "all TV" or "all new media". That material hasn't been licensed for IPTV in either category (as there is no standard definition) and they need to go back and get clearance for it again, which means additional cost. The definition will come in time, but right now it means the platform owner bears the cost of legal consultations and the subsequent additional fees needed to cover re-licensing. Its also the reason why some of the most compelling service content (such as DVD-titling on VoD movies) is too difficult to include. The chain of rights clearance is a massively complex problem that currently doesn't have the market demand to sufficiently motivate the content industry to pursue it in detail.
A lot of understandable frustration is levelled at content providers and it's very easy to see why. Dealing with the studios and production companies can often be like pulling teeth if the approach isn't correct. Surprisingly, dealing with record labels is actually very easy as they've had 5 years or so of violent erosion into their sales from the establishment of a piracy market for digital files and the new market forcing change upon them involuntarily. As Universal's recent gesture of opening up their catalogue for free suggests, they have come to accept a new role as wholesalers, will licence to anyone who asks to get their products distributed as widely as possible and now refuse to deal exclusively with anyone.
The market for digital distribution is already there in the form of piracy. The labels understand now what their retail customers have been telling them for years, and that is the new model in a world of universal ability is aggregation, paid for by revenue-sharing and advertising. Digital sales are now contributing up to 20% of their total revenues and the profits are piling in. If only their big brother companies in TV and movie-making would listen. They are paranoid about falling into the same trap the labels allowed themselves to walk into, but still won't open their ears.
The attitude these two types of industry share has come to be known as the "Ivory Tower Complex". The conventional way of doing things up until now has to be to spend huge amounts of money on producing high-quality content that is licensed exclusively through the rights model to one or two specific customers on a very, very limited basis. That exclusivity commands a lucrative premium. Understandably, they want that to continue, and in some ways it will as people will always be attracted to the premium titles they produce before anything else.
Unfortunately, as the evidence from the music industry shows, the world that is coming isn't going to work like that. Content will be distributed as widely as possible all over the world, to as many different people as possible for maximum profitability. Their products will compete with those from niche markets catering to a specific taste rather than a generalised audience. That means they will lose that lovely premium, and its quite upsetting. Luckily, the exciting news is that universal distribution will most likely make them up to 50 times more money in the long term that exclusivity would. What they lose in exclusivity, they will make back in spades through volume. The longer they resist the inevitable, the more painful it will get. Whoever strikes first will conquer.
So assuming they come to adopt this new way of doing things, there will naturally be obstacles in their path as there are with all new technologies and markets. One of the biggest is the industry's new panacea – the so-called "Long Tail", and its "digitisation problem". The Long Tail is a great idea and a potential source of a lot of lovely revenue, but it has some very crucial flaws which are currently preventing it from becoming a new model for content providers. It's the most basic of issues, namely how on earth you monetise back catalogues of content that no-one will be prepared to pay for in pay-per-view style. Digitising and storing millions of hours of archives tapes is a formidable challenge, so the only sensible business decision is to provide the most popular 10-15% of titles at first. This will mean we will see cascading availability based on viewer demand, and store-for-free/pay-for-playout businesses.
90% of the content of the world is not sellable by the conventional mechanism of pay-per-view. It's a sobering thought. Viewers just won't pay for it, even in micro-transaction or through subscription. The most popular video on-demand services are free (e.g. so-called "Catch-Up' TV services that allow you to watch programmes you missed), like all products. That leaves only one viable option as the primary means of recovering the costs of digitisation and monetising the content – advertising. Google, AOL, Universal, YouTube and others are already flirting with ways to marry advertising content with either the subject of the content being viewed and/or a viewer's personal profile and preferences. Only a fool would follow it as the only route, and as the dotcom and Web 2.0 herd showed, there are a lot of them out there. It may not perfect, but it's a reasonable start.
That principle demonstrates a very simple rule which applies to advertisers, their agencies and those who want to support their services using the old commercial broadcasting model. The new advertising "space" to be bought by media buyers on on-demand systems is the ability to watch for free. Subscription mounts as a premium service very nicely on top if the ads become too intrusive, and it means advertising can be dynamic and personalised rather than static and perpetual. But it also creates a further problem. Advertising always generates a surge of technological innovation for products that remove it.
There are many people saying they believe they have the answer to the problems the IPTV industry faces. Don't believe them. We can't know every problem that will arise or whether the answers will be suitable for ever, or even now. The huge revolutionary hyperbole being spouted by marketing charlatans is coming to be seen as the puffery that it is. On-demand is not a revolution, neither is aggregation as a business model. The simplest example is a common supermarket. Aggregation is the natural and sensible answer when there is massive diversity and breadth of available competing products in a marketplace.
We buy things from supermarkets who aggregate food products on-demand when we feel like it. On-demand is the most natural way of doing things mankind has ever devised. On-demand is the way we already do everything else, and have done for thousands of years. It is not a revolution.
The key question is one Rupert Murdoch is closely focusing on and is a master of. When we have all the technology in place and serving up every piece of content imaginable, how do help people to consume it?
Technology is developed by early adopters for early adopters, and is only made a success of by commercial specialists who natively understand the social anthropology of buying products. Technology assumes customers will "pull" it or "search" for it. Tradition and centuries of experience show we need to "push" it to them in some way, whether through a review by a journalist, pushing a free newspaper in their hand or bombing them with advertising. If they don't know its there, they can't buy it, use it or watch it. Websites that provide feedback or notifications to their users have massively higher retention rates than those who assume their customers will do all the work.
The quickest way to observe the generational difference in how people watch television is to study your parents, as they typically sit on their sofa in a virtual coma, Homer Simpson-style, whilst they are spoon fed. Prevalence relies on huge marketing budgets, and it will be no different with the next generation entertainment that IPTV provides. No-one has given a thought to the QVC and/or Saga audience, who make up the majority of people who got Freeview to its dominant position in the UK television market. Too much choice is damaging and intimidating. Google "glues" web surfing together by helping users to find their way around the web from place to place. TV is a passive social medium used for entertainment, and an experience shared by several people in the same room.
But herein lies a huge opportunity to "add value", as pretentious middle managers would say. With millions of channels, and millions of hours of content, we need help filtering through it to find the things we want to consume. The most advanced websites now do this with a mixture of community rating and recommendation engines that automate the process of making suggestions. Human intervention will almost always be needed in this process. We may meta-tag every frame, translate audio subtitling into text keywords and build up all the purchasing profiles we want, but the human condition means we will always need someone to explain and help us find our way around. And the good news is that people are happy to pay for that filtering as it takes away pain and adds quality. Nobody cares how the content is delivered.
v To experience the phenomenon of choice and content overload, you just need to visit one of the latest websites based on providing user-generated content (UGC). It'll take a few minutes to get lost in it before you reach for a top 10 or most popular list. These services are reporting a new trend called the "1% rule" where 1% of their users actually generate content, 9% moderate it editorially and the remaining 90% are happy to just be entertained without getting involved in any way. IPTV opens the door for anyone to create their own TV and radio channels, and publish their own content and software applications to anyone else in the world. The technology may be new, but the way it is consumed won't change, nor will human nature.
Even user-generated content itself isn't new. In the UK, one of the first examples was the appallingly bad TV show "You've Been Framed!" presented by Jeremy Beadle, where viewers sent in home video clips of them suffering dreadful accidents and/or humiliating experiences for a cheque of £250 in return. If you're planning an IPTV launch, please do not include that monstrosity.
There are also warnings to the intrepid and an industry that desperately needs to pull it socks up if it's going to male its mark in the way it wants to. IPTV currently is very little other than cable TV put down telephone lines. There is 50 years of incredible innovation ahead that could see us powering the greatest revolution the media industry has ever seen, but so far our imagination has produced 1% of what we could create if we worked hard enough and collaborated for a greater cause. The IPTV software applications on the market today are simple re-hashed clones of what is available on the normal platforms and feature very little that's interestingly different or compelling. Its no wonder customers are underwhelmed and becoming cynical.
Trying to re-create the same experience on every device just because it speaks Internet is a fool's pursuit. Screen size, battery life, usage patterns and so many other variables mean that it's impossible. We may be able to synchronise tightly and create applications that compliment each other and interoperate, but replication is the fools gold of convergence. Video transferred across and between these applications and devices also needs to be far more intelligent in itself, with audio analysis, frame-by-frame tracking of objects and more extensive meta-labelling.
It's very easy to forget that IPTV is more than just a convenient luxury in our affluent Western cultures. We have so much choice and opportunity that we miss what it is doing for less wealthy nations who don't have our infrastructure or resources. Internet technology is transforming these countries by democratising access to the media business and regenerating economies by educating the poor through e-learning applications. These places don't second guess, weigh up spreadsheets or analyse opportunities when they see a way to revolutionise how they live. The Third World is adopting IPTV as a technology and showing a lot more imagination than we are, despite us thinking we're the cleverer ones because we have more money flowing through our banking systems. In 20 years we will regret that complacency.
The greatest achievements, most successful companies and products, and the most world-changing revolutions have come from taking risks and stepping out into the unknown with new ideas. This preoccupation with paranoid risk adversity and sensitivity over investment portfolios has come to infect almost everything we do and it's slowly decaying our ability to produce, implement ad market new ideas because of the heavy price we put on our heads for failure. There is a bigger picture at work in our world that needs to be considered that demand we act with courage and the wild energy of inspiration to achieve what this technology could empower and enable us to. Our culture is becoming more and more insular and ingrown when it needs to reach out and generate wonder in all that experience it.
And if you need a reason to do it, there a very simple one.
This world is already on its way. It's coming.
To do it will be one of the greatest undertakings the media industry has ever witnessed. But it can be done, and we will do it. Someone has to step forward. We'll lead, you follow. Pack a helmet and a strong stomach as we'll be getting blood and dirt on our hands. Consider this your invite to join us.
Digital TX is now offering a great value one-day workshop course on IPTV and Video On-Demand (VoD) specifically for web and media professionals. It can help you get up to speed on the latest technologies, content deals, operators and applications across the world, and offer immense value in identifying both new opportunities and threats for your business and personal career. If you would like more information, call Alex on 07986 37317, email
. Readers who quote this publication as their source will receive a 10% discount on the course fees.
About Digital TX Limited
Formed in early 2004, privately owned and based in London (UK), Digital TX Limited is IPTV/VoD consultants for interactive digital television and broadband media. Some of the keywords you might associate with us are IPTV, Video On-Demand, Triple Play, Broadband Entertainment, Video Over IP, Interactive TV, Network Video Gaming and Telco TV.
Our mission is to be the world's leading wholesale provider of broadband entertainment. Our vision is of a world where personalised entertainment is available on-demand 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, at any time, anywhere in the world, on any device. Our technology can power anything your mind can imagine, and beyond.
Digital TX Limited has worked with many leading blue chip communications providers and can help catalyse your route to market for IPTV services by working with you to design your next-generation multimedia network, build your commercial deployment model and broker relationships with vendors, rightsholders, partners and customers. If we can be of any assistance please don't hesitate to contact
+44 (0) 7986 373177
or via email on
Posted on Oct 16, 2006
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