The focus of the recent IP&TV World Forum in London was the continuing improvement of already existing concepts, in particular the user experience.
It is pointless having lots of content if no one can find it
In 2009, we highlighted the growing importance of content recommendation in a world where pay-TV subscribers are faced with an increasing number of digital TV channels and expanding libraries of on-demand content. However, it wasn’t until recently that most pay-TV operators began to take this issue seriously.
Just before the event, Orange announced that it had migrated 400 000 of its IPTV subscribers to ‘la nouvelle TV d’Orange’, a unified service platform that incorporates Orca Interactive’s COMPASS content discovery solution. COMPASS presents pay-TV subscribers with a personalised catalogue of content drawn from the operator’s repertoire of linear programming and on-demand content on multiple devices, such as TVs, smartphones, PCs and tablets. Orange eventually plans to move all of its more than five million European pay-TV subscribers to the new platform.
Figure 1: Orca Interactive's COMPASS solution on the iPad [Source: Orca Interactive, 2012]
UK cable operator Virgin Media introduced its ‘Virgin Media TV powered by TiVo’ service in December 2010, featuring a TiVo DVR with built-in content-recommendation capabilities. The new premium service has been a success so far, reaching 12% of the operator’s pay-TV subscriber base by December 2011.
Orca’s competitor ContentWise (another early entrant in this space) was also present at the event. Italian operator FASTWEB has used ContentWise’s solution for video-on-demand (VoD) content since late 2008. On average, a sale follows 20% of ContentWise’s recommendations, resulting in a 15% increase in the sales of video-on-demand (VoD) content since the service was launched.1
The emergence of connected TVs is also leading to an increase in the amount of content available to free-to-air (FTA) viewers. However, one of the key criticisms levelled at connected TVs is the fact that the user experience is not ‘joined up’ – Internet-delivered content remains separate from linear programming, because it is accessed through widgets on multiple screens. Connect TV, a start-up company, has sought to address this by creating a new platform for the UK’s digital terrestrial TV (DTT) service Freeview, which makes channels streamed over the Internet accessible through the standard Freeview electronic programme guide (EPG) on broadband-connected Freeview high-definition (HD) devices. A mix of more than 40 free and paid-for channels are available through Connect TV, including foreign and special-interest channels.
Social TV is more than getting Facebook onto a TV set
Social TV has increasingly attracted attention in the last couple of years. Although some of the early incarnations consist of overlaying popular services such as Facebook and Twitter on the TV screen, there are far better ways to bring the social dimension to TV viewers.
Content recommendation solutions are increasingly taking socially recommended content into account, and some, such as COMPASS, enable viewers to ‘gift’ content to their friends in some circumstances.
One of the more interesting implementations of social TV that we saw at the event was from Comigo, an Israeli start-up company. Comigo has developed a platform for connected multi-screen services, which includes an Android-powered hybrid set-top box as well as client applications for Android and Apple iOS devices. Its application WatchApp is an overlay on top of the video content and enables a viewer to throw a virtual tomato at his screen, and for it to be seen reaching its target by a friend on another screen.
The journey towards TV services that are more personalised, interactive and engaging has only just begun, and we will be monitoring further developments within our Fixed Broadband research programme.
1 ContentWise (March 2010). A Recommender System for an IPTV Service Provider: a Real Large-Scale Production Environment. Available at http://etradegatebv.com/files/A-Recommender-System-for-an-IPTV.pdf.