Sky and BT strengthen ADSL relationship

Sky and BT have had a strategic relationship for a long time. Initially it was because Sky needed a return path for their STB’s and back then the only realistic provider of this was a BT phone line. Things went a little frosty a while back when there were rumours that BT might use their network to become a broadcaster but it’s now all lovey-dovey again.

Back in February this year, BT made a know for a while that Sky has had a DSL connected STB/DVR, so clearly a wider take-up for broadband could benefit them in delivering content.

  • Sky customers who subscribe to cheaper packages but will see an advantage for upgrading to get the deal.
  • An unknown is the amount of money that Sky will be paid for each of their subscribers that sign up for the service hasn’t been disclosed.
  • I would also assume that BT has had to give legal assurances that it will not use the ADSL lines to provide content that will compete again Sky.
  • BT will get to strengthen their hold on UK broadband subscribers.

    Quite a good deal to Sky then at first glance.

    Vocera – Wireless-VoIP

    While not strictly entertainment, it is broadband and your may well eventually have one at home. This signals the kind of wireless-VoIP product that I imagine has mobile telecom companies shaking in their boots, especially the 3G variety.

    MPEG-4 Advanced Video Coding

    A new video encoding system is getting close to approval. H.264 or MPEG-4 Advanced Video Coding as it’s otherwise known, is thought to be able to reach DVD-quality broadcasts at slightly under 1Mbps. Some are sceptical about it being taken up for STB’s, as it will require about three to four times the computing horsepower needed for MPEG-2 – up to now pretty low power chips have been installed in STB’s. It is thought that the proposal should be ratified as part of the MPEG-4 (Moving Picture Experts Group) multimedia standard by year’s end.

    The MS comment was that their proprietary CODEC was much more efficient – but in true MS style, the leader of the overseeing committee is an employee of Microsoft.

    Sanity returns to audio webcasting

    Sanity returns as audio webcasters and music rights holders have come to a mutually agreeable pricing structure for Internet-based music usage. Broadly, it’s going to be based on the profits they make (as commercial radio currently is in the US) as opposed to the previous ruling based on the number of tracks that are played and the number of people who listen to those tracks.

    TiVo viewing habits

    The release of TiVo’s viewing habits of their subscribers [PDF] is interesting reading. As I’ve found, TiVo owner don’t watch live TV very much when they have a PVR.

    The point they rightly make is what will happen to the traditional prime time and how PVR ownership will reduce the impact of rival TV stations put competing shows on at prime time, forcing the viewer to make a choice.

    Clearly most of what a PVR can do can be done with current VHS technology – the difference if how much more convenient it is with a PVR.

    One thing that isn’t clear is what they view as time-shifted viewing. The obvious is a recorded show that is watched after the show has finished, the less obvious is what I would call Time-sliding. Time-sliding is when programme is on a advertising supported TV station, I’ll switch the TiVo to the programmes channel, then delay the start of my watching of the programme by watching previously recorded shows. Watching the show this way enables me to skip through the adverts during the programme. It could also be the pausing of live TV or rewinding and then watching it.

    Side issue I was speaking to one of my fellow RTS organisers recently and he told me that in all of his viewing years, he had NEVER see a commercial on TV. He refuses to waste the 1/3 of every hour watching advert. If something is an advert-supported channel, friends will tape it for him – cutting out the ads. I was filled with admiration at his dedication and discipline.

    Nokia Bluetooth-enabled STB

    Nokia have announced their DVB-compliant Mediamaster 230 S to be released in Europe at the end of Q4 2002. Its major new feature is its ability to transfer photo’s from Bluetooth 1.1 capable cameras to store and view on the TV.

    Sadly storage is limited to thirty images and apart from the high-end Sony camcorders and some camera-phones such as the Nokia 7650, there isn’t currently a huge choice of Bluetooth cameras around.

    But generally a good move that will start to strengthen Bluetooth uptake – goodness knows it needs it.

    UK ADSL VOD provider wobbles?

    Sad news in the UK as rumours that Video-Networks, the ADSL-delivered VOD provider, is in discussions with its backers about its on-going viability.

    They’re blaming BT’s high prices for ADSL, but I think they were more damaged by BT’s slower than promised rollout of ADSL when they launched their North-West London service three years ago, which has lead them to only reach 15,000 subscribers.

    3D Flat Screen

    I don’t know how many of you have seen 3D moving images; I went many years ago to the 3D showing at the IMAX theatre in New York. When you got into the theatre you donned a large, semi-comfortable headset that had an Infra Red sensor on the top of it. The theatre used this to control the speed on the shutters opening and closing over each eye, to ensure it synced with the film projection. The film didn’t feel that 3D until the shark came swimming into the theatre – gasps all round.

    Following ten years of research in the UK, Sharp Laboratories has created a flat LCD screen that doesn’t need goggles. Amazingly they claim products using this will be available early next year.

    Clearly I’m looking forward to seeing on but I bet the movie and TV companies of the World must be rubbing their hand – having just got everyone to buy DVD’s of the things they already had on VHS – next, they’ll all have to get the 3D version.