Category Archives: Connected TV

Why Content Discovery Is The New King

Oliver Stone apparently had his most fun making Alexander, detailing the Macedonian’s mercurial campaigns that culminated with the invasion of India. It was the height of Alexander’s conquest. Like Alexander, linear Pay TV is facing an inflection point as it reaches the apex of its offerings. After HD, the PVR and 3D, the next offering is apparently 4K, but don’t let that fool you as consumers know when overkill has arrived in their living rooms. Today’s consumer is too busy trying to figure out how to make use of the 150+ channels they subscribe to. Aside from battling the influx of pesky OTT players trying to outflank them, Pay-TV operators are simply trying to give customers a reason to pay exorbitantly high subscription fees.

The notion that content is King is no longer being touted. It is a given. It is a price-of-entry requirement. A hygiene point. Now the new, must-have is Content Discovery and your Pay-TV set-top boxes need to get connected to the web real quick. But overall, if your organization doesn’t have Content Discovery as a strategy, it could be on as rapid a decline as Alexander’s armies were after the Battle of Hydaspes. Sky Deutschland is one of the many operators (like Astro) that’s doing it now.

Content Discovery encompasses the following:

Search Engine. Usually productized in as Global Search, this powerful feature allows anything in the PVR to be searched from keywords entered. Both linear, PVR recordings and VOD catalogues should be included, and this can be powerful if aided with an advance EPG. Search, then Record. Simple as that.

Recommendation Engine. This is the where users will increase consumption. Content-based recommendations will ensure users get the most out of a vast catalogue but it is also important to note that a true, personalized recommendation engine (one that knows your past history) is deployed.

Social Recommendations. Using the wisdom of the crowd could be important. What if you could log-in using a Facebook account and share your Top 5 or Watchlist with others? And what if your OTT device or Set-Top Box told you that such content being shared by others was available already?

This is the future of TV as we know it. Don’t boast about content anymore. Shout out discovery and your customers will have one less reason to cut the proverbial cord.

Now anyone can fly… and watch

Hunt for your downloads now. Not wi-fi networks.

Hunt for content now. Not wi-fi networks.

The big news just out is the introduction of Sky Go Extra, the successful OTT offering from UK broadcaster Sky. For a small fee of just five pounds a month, customers can now enjoy the option of downloading their favourite content for offline viewing later.

Why a lot of viewers will love this is because it satisfies the biggest complaint they have about their OTT services – the lack of service portability whilst traveling overseas. When you’re overseas, the rights to view your Pay TV subscription via OTT is usually forbidden, so that latest episode of Mad Men Season 5 will just have to wait till you fly back home. For some, it also means added costs in those darn long-haul flights where the episode or movie might be available but you have to rent a tablet just to view it (and not many of us fly business and get that tablet provided for free).

Another bonus with offline viewing is that (if the timing is right) you get to download your content in HD and play it back in HD. You’re no longer at the mercy of dodgy wi-fi networks in cafes or moving trains or even in the airport lounge that’s sharing its network with too many other users.

Operators too, might just save on CDN costs as they face more predictable consumption forecasts and manage their bandwidth commitments. The theory behind this is that you forecast a delivery to a customer just once; this is better than streaming where you need to factor in ‘replay’ or ‘repeat’ viewing behaviours.

So it all bodes well for Sky and I’m sure the addition to ARPU will be more than just marginal. To paraphrase the tagline of a home-grown airline, perhaps now anyone can fly… and watch content they’ve already paid for.

I know I’d look forward to that.

When TVs are Smarter than Content Aggregators


As if their struggles weren’t enough, apparently it’s now going to be even harder for half the world’s population over fifty to win the battle against obesity. That’s because the new generation of Smart TV’s certainly haven’t made their job easier. Chief weight-loss adversaries include the Samsung L8000, which offers a multitude of Apps and richness in content delivery. Plus, cool Social TV interaction. I had a chance to sample its goodness when we got one in the office recently. Cool apps like Skype (must use with the Freetalk camera) make it great to use for video conferences or virtual classrooms but I also had a chance to sample the app provided by our local newspaper The Star (to see if I could avoid buying a paper copy from now on). No luck. Either the feeds went down or they intentionally want their app’s articles to just have a little more text than the headlines. Okay, maybe they want you to pay for it but it was never made explicit. The app was a tease, plain and simple, with no effort by the app owners to really provide a freshness and low-hanging fruit to port over to either the sale of a full digital copy or in-app purchase to full version.

Granted, it is probably easier to monetize video content on Connected TVs than other OTT solutions like tablets or the PC. And broadcast operators have it easier. The Netflix App is straightforward and delivers the same content. Non-broadcast media companies will find more challenges getting their Apps to be adopted and to monetize what is essentially still a new platform for them.Still, is this for a want of trying? If you can’t make a decent proposition on a Smart TV, don’t. Find a strategy or avoid the space and the hit to your reputation from a dead app. Given that app stores are getting noisier, you’ll just be adding to that. So get a product managers now and give him/her a mandate to make Connected TVs more compelling to a paying audience.

And once you do, avoid partnering up with Weight Loss centres. That’ll be a losing business for sure.

Google Goes After The Big Guns

Broken just weeks ago is the stunning news that Google is possibly going to move into the Pay TV industry. The Big Guns like DirecTV and Dish network have probably been shifting uncomfortably in their Philip Starck executive chairs as the rumour spreads like wildfire across the online community. It coincides with the launch of the impressively high-speed Google Fibre in Kansas City, Missouri and across the river to Kansas City, Kansas too.

Frankly, I don’t know which is more ambitious. Google Fiber or a Google Pay TV product. With the former, the thought of creating Fiber-To-The-Home networks is prohibitively expensive unless you’re a telco driven to doing it to offer content services as well. America’s vast distance make this a great hurdle for Google, let alone any company attempting it. But a Google Pay TV business seems far more likely to benefit from this initiative as the Search Engine giant could deploy its YouTube service on top of a STB device, add Android Market apps and then unleash the benefits of Search within such an eco-system.

This could make for one of the more compelling products when it is fully-launched. Stay tuned.

An Irdeto vision for the Connected Home

Irdeto’s Plan for the Connected Home from Jonathan Marks on Vimeo.

Cedric Monnier of Irdeto talks to Jonathan Marks in this engrossing ‘story’ of how future ‘connected’ homes will consume video content, especially through a multi-screen approach. Even if you can watch the whole video take note of 12.45 to 14.35 onwards where he watches Rio on his iPad, pauses, then continues where he left on on his TV screen.

Apple TV Review

48 hours ago my colleague at work was telling me that Apple TV had the best CUI of any connected TV. I disagreed.

44 hours later I decided he was right after all.

It’s been almost two days since I unwrapped my Apple TV and plugged it into my 42-inch TV. I had seen it in my CTO’s office a few months ago and was impressed enough to want one. Seeing it a second time was a chance to discover why my initial excitement was still valid and why I’m getting more and more impressed with Apple TV as I delve deeper into it.

First and foremost, Apple TV has an excellent content selection. Just as importantly, it doesn’t enter into grand designs or fancy UIs like PS3 does. It’s minimalist approach allows navigation to be the experience that consumers want. And that to me is great design in itself. Even the categories are smart yet sensible – check out the section in movies called Women Who Kick Derriere.

Even my mother in-law – who’s usually unfazed by technological innovation – stood up and took noticed as I browsed around with a remote several times smaller and lighter than my Pay TV remote. Yet I was able to move seamlessly between categories like movies, TV shows. podcasts and countless radio stations. All this on a measley 1.2 Mbps broadband connection.

Mind you, I still think PS3 has great customization options and that simply isn’t available with Apple TV. But I guess it’s all about focus and Jobs always knows what he wants. In Apple TV that largely shows that he knows what you want too.

The Year of Connected TV continues…

These are exciting times to be in. The mother of all tech mergers finally took off in 2010 in what will be known in history as the year when the internet officially married the TV. The much-hyped Google TV launch came hot on the of Apple TV’s Phoenix-like rebirth. Both aim to bring content from the web straight to the TV. So which business model will truly reign supreme? Search-based web content and video or pure video on demand?

Google, in particular, is making waves with its ability to aggregate search-based content on a TV screen. Like Google’s video says :“If the web is so smart and our TVs are so fun to watch, why do we have to choose?” The idea of ‘search’ on TV is great and I do love their picture-in-picture feature. But I keep asking myself if they’re really solving a problem or inventing one so they can apparently solve it for our benefit? Maybe I’m wrong.

For sure, Apple TV had a premature start in 2006 before coming to a stuttering halt but I’m pretty keen to see where their 2010 revenue figures are heading. Having tried the new device I just love the ease of use too and how it caters to movie-lovers.

There’s a mix of both too. Sony Playstation 3 actually made a better start with a fully functioning media centre and a real threat to Apple itself. With the PS3, one could easily store – and later play – photos, videos as well as the games. Plus, it was Blu-ray to boot. The real starter was its built-in browser which allowed me to shift from the game Endwar to watching a YouTube video posted by some fans, to then watch a recent photo album. I could stream content from my P1 wireless modem directly to my PS3 console. Sure, I had to switch AV inputs to go back to a Blu-Ray movie or traditional TV but it didn’t seem a big deal to me. I got my content needs anyway, right?

Out of the three big players above, it seems hard to see who’ll get the biggest reception (and revenue lead) from a TV audience. My bet is that the experience closest to TV will seem more efficient and familiar to what I feel are audiences still tied to TV’s concept as broadcast before unicast. So Apple TV has my bet for now.

Google TV’s Amazing Proposition

These are exciting times to be in. The mother of all tech mergers is finally taking off in what will be known in history as the year when the internet officially married the TV. 2010 has seen Google TV’s launch announcement hot on the heels after the arrival of Apple TV. Both bring content from the web straight to the TV. The two giants going head-to-head will bring the best innovation we’ve seen for a while.

Google, in particular, is making waves with its ability to aggregate search-based content on a TV screen. Like Google’s video says :“If the web is so smart and our TVs are so fun to watch, why do we have to choose?”

For sure, Apple TV had a premature start in 2006 before coming to a stuttering halt. Sony Playstation 3 actually made a better start with a fully functioning media centre and a real threat to Apple itself. With the PS3, one could easily store – and later play – photos, videos as well as the games. Plus, it was Blu-ray to boot. The real starter was its built-in browser which allowed me to shift from the game Endwar to watching a YouTube video posted by some fans, to then watch a recent photo album. I could stream content from my P1 wireless modem directly to my PS3 console. Somehow, everything seemed in a silo. Only the browser and the Playstation Store (and networked gaming) was web connected.

However, Apple TV has come back with a vengeance this year, providing rental streaming service on a smaller device. With support from Netflix, customers can browse the iTunes store for thousands of movies or TV episodes.

Right now, Google TV is stealing more of the limelight as more and more manufacturers and application providers partner up with them. A unified search bar allowing search of all TV and web content available, coupled with a personal homepage and YouTube Leanback, make for powerful viewing. Better still, I like how I can attach the Logitech Revue Box and turn any other HDTV into the Google TV experience.

The excitement I’m feeling is tremendous, particularly that I’m involved in a similar project at Astro, that’s due to be launched soon. These are truly amazing times to be in; almost like the birth of TV all over again.