TVcompass – Digital TV Adaptor

UK-based company, TVcompass, has been stepping up the publicity for its forthcoming digital TV adaptor. It’s an exciting company with strong, good, new thinking behind its products.

The DTT box is due to be available from spring 2003, they’re planning aggressive pricing of £29 which is highly favourable against its current main competitor, the £99 box from Pace. This isn’t going to do Pace any favours, coming so closely after their recent news of selling Sky their boxes below their actual manufacturing costs.

TVcompass say they can subsidise the retail price because their business model relies on ongoing income from selling products and services that are synchronised to normal TV broadcasts.

They’re using the model that I thought for a long time would be a route to success. People viewing TV don’t want to have supplementary information plastered all over their favourite TV show as interactive TV currently does. It makes sense to have the information on another device – in the future I see this as a half A4 tablet form displaying a rendition of what’s on the TV with, if needed information overlayed – to allow for hot-spots on the video. TVcompass see it as a colour square display on the remote.

They’re also doing the smart thing of making the remote a network device. Communication isn’t via Infra-Red, instead it uses Bluetooth, enabling proper two-way traffic between remote and base-station and gives a decent transfer rate allowing graphics to be transferred to the remote.

The only things that’s not currently clear is how users selections and orders will go on the return path from the home to the fulfilment house, as they state the unit will have no need to connect it to a phone line.

Their available-now product is TV listings on PDA’s, not a new idea. DigiGuide has been doing this successfully for quite a while BUT TVcompass done a deal with BBC Worldwide to brand its service as RadioTimes (the most popular and oldest listings magazine in the UK).

A wise move for a number of reasons:-

  • An instant income stream of £14.95 a year per user with, I suspect, a strong margin;
  • They get great profile/standing from being associated with the BBC and RadioTimes.
  • More importantly, they get access to programme schedules – enabling them to synchronise the TVcompass interactive content with the TV shows.
  • And when all PDA’s are wireless-enabled, people will be able to use their PDA’s in the same way as TVcompass are using their remotes.

There is one possible fly-in-the-ointment for TVcompass. They may hit a problem with distribution as I suspect the dominant UK electronic retailer Dixon may not stock the product. Word in the market is that Dixons have been building up a big stock of the old ITVDigital boxes and planned to sell them at £79 to undercut the Pace box.