Sky Says Easynet Purchase “Solves All Problems”

Sky Says Easynet Purchase Solves All ProblemsBSkyB’s Director of Product Management, Gerry O’Sullivan couldn’t help sounding smug as he took centre stage at The Connected Home conference in London today.

“Those of you who read the papers may have noticed we bought a small Internet company last Friday,” he announced. “To have a combination of satellite distribution and broadband connectivity solves all problems”.

O’Sullivan’s presentation focused on Sky+ and stated the need for a “whole home solution” but he was keen to distance himself from existing IP-based offerings such as the Windows Media Player.

Sky Says Easynet Purchase Solves All ProblemsWhile Microsoft’s Cynthia Crossley and Telewest’s Mark Horley nodded collaboratively to Merlin Kister of Intel’s assertion that “We mustn’t be close minded and pick a winner. It’s important for all players to work together,” O’Sullivan looked disinterested.

“I’m a fan of Media Player – but my mum doesn’t want a reminder to renew her anti-virus subscription while she’s watching Coronation Street,” he said.

And, in response to an audience show of hands revealing nearly all had regular problems with programme crashes on their PCs, O’Sullivan added:

Sky Says Easynet Purchase Solves All Problems“There’s zero tolerance (among our customers) for that sort of unreliability and pain…we can only roll out products that you switch on and they work.”

And BSkyB has the money and ambition to keep turning out products it thinks consumers may need – the five day old Sky Gnome for example, enabling you to listen to satellite radio in the garden, or the new movies over IP service, Sky By Broadband – due to launch in the next two weeks.

The third generation Sky+ boxes have 160GB of space – only half are visible to the consumer – the other 80GB of disc space is for BSkyB to keep as a store for future ‘on demand’ programming, O’Sullivan revealed.

Sky Says Easynet Purchase Solves All ProblemsHorley mentioned that Telewest was launching its own 160GB PVR in early 2006, with the WHOLE disc available for recording “as we already offer video on demand”.

Sky can’t support true VOD – it’s satellite distribution network has limited bandwidth and lacks an intrinsic return path – but do consumers care?

With Sky+ proving a virtually churn-free proposition (apparently 90 per cent of viewers say they’re very satisfied), Easynet on board and plenty of money in its pocket, O’Sullivan can’t help but smile – looks like BSkyB is onto a winner.

The Connected Home 05

Networked Home “too confusing” for consumers

Networked Home “too confusing” for consumersThe futuristic vision of a connected home with content moving seamlessly from our TV to our PC and on to our mobile device is still a long way off, according to key speakers at The Connected Home conference in London today.

While David Sales (pictured right) from BT Entertainment waxed lyrical about broadband; Microsoft’s Elena Branet praised IPTV; and Mary Francia of Philips presented the Streamium product range; they conviently avoided the the area of interoperability.

Networked Home “too confusing” for consumersIt took Dimitri Van Kets (pictured left), from Belgian telco, Belgacom, to voice what many were thinking by announcing that the networked home was “little more than a mass of standards” and “too confusing” for the average consumer. Unless the service providers get together and educate customers, he said, true home connectivity was never going to happen.

Sky Interactive’s Paul Dale, speaking from the audience, said he’d been annoyed when a perfectly legal DVD of Thomas The Tank Engine wouldn’t play on his Windows Media Player. Luckily he’d been able to hack into it – but clearly this wasn’t the preferred way forward!

Networked Home “too confusing” for consumersPaul Szucs of Sony said that service providers should “try not to lose the plot with content protection”, adding that “consumers simply want their devices to work together and share content.”

The mood was best summed up by Peter King of Strategy Analytics: “We’re not going to move any further without a massive consumer awareness programme funded by all players in the chain.”

Even Microsoft’s Branet admitted there was a need to “focus on educating consumers”.

But until the key players stop operating in silos, this isn’t going to happen.


Beware the “Next Big Thing”: Mobile TV

Beware the We saw it with the Internet in the late 90s and iTV in the early noughties, now mobile TV is the disruptive technology du jour.

All this year’s major TV industry gatherings – MipTV in Cannes, August’s Edinburgh International TV Festival and the RTS in Cambridge – have showcased mobile.

And in recent weeks, Sky, ITV and Channel 4 have all announced plans for mobile video content.

Beware the It’s easy to be swept up in the hype, and persuasive arguments abound.

At last week’s inaugural mobile TV Forum, the atmosphere was upbeat. BT, Arquiva, Fremantlemedia and Universal all gave impassioned presentations suggesting mobile TV is just around the corner.

BT’s Emma Lloyd (left) said the mobile video “Livetime” service would be UK-wide on Digital One’s DAB network by June 2006.

Beware the Claire Tavernier from Fremantlemedia (right), owner of Neighbours and Baywatch, said “Fremantle TV” would launch on US mobile networks before the end of the year.

And Cedric Ponsot from Universal (below left) reported on “Label Studio TV” – a mix of ten different mobile music channels – which launched on France’s SFR 3G network in July.

“We’re combining two of the most consumer products of all time” said Arqiva’s Hyacinth Nwana (below right) in his keynote – the underlying subtext was: how can we go wrong?

Beware the But is the industry is in danger of death by over-sell before it’s even arrived?

Forecasters are predicting untold riches. A recent report from Informa estimates the global mobile entertainment market to be worth £24bn by 2010. Venture capitalists are already expressing an interest in mobile TV projects. (At the forum, Justin Judd of i-rights was one such example, saying he had “unlimited funds” available for the right idea.)

Beware the This is all sounding very familiar – we’ve been here before. As with the early days of the Internet and iTV, business models are unclear. Hurdles include lack of appropriate content – including rights clearance on existing properties, lack of spectrum and unproven consumer demand.

At the forum, BT’s Lloyd revealed she’d had to fully-fund the content channel, Blaze TV, to complete the offng for current trials. “We need to kickstart content development” she admitted.

While advertisers were mooted as one possible source of funding, Fremantlemedia’s Tavernier thought they were “scared to invest” in mobile TV, “because of lack of consumer research and lack of structures in place”.

Beware the Tavernier also talked about rights, revealing that although Fremantlemedia owned worldwide TV rights to Mr Bean and The Benny Hill Show, both Rowan Atkinson and Benny Hill’s widow had said no to mobile distribution.

Eirik Solheim from NRK (left), the Finnish public service broadcaster, admitted that every so often their mobile TV broadcasts had cut to video of fish swimming in a tank – as not all programme rights had been cleared.

Beware the The most telling figures came in the final session of the conference: “Viewers don’t see their mobile as an entertainment device” said Enpocket’s Jeremy Wright (right). “They see it first and foremost as a communicator.”

Wright pointed to figures from a recent Enpocket survey showing that sharing photos of family and friends was the number one multimedia option; videocalls with family and friends were number two. Mobile TV came bottom.

As traditional broadcast models deteriorate, and the rise of the semantic web places social software at the centre of everything, the service I would back would be completely user-generated.

But the smart money will be watching from the sidelines.

Mobile TV’s Business Case Yet To Be Proven

Business case yet to be proven for mobile TVIndustry experts at the inaugural mobile TV show in London today couldn’t agree on the best way forward for this emerging technology.

After two days of debate, the jury’s still out.

While yesterday’s event focused on infrastructure, today’s focused on content, and how to pay for it.

Claire Tavernier, Fremantle Media, (pictured right) thought it most likely that content producers would launch their own channels rather than go with pay-per-view clips or advertiser-funded models.

Business case yet to be proven for mobile TVHyacinth Nwana, (pictured left) speaking for Arqiva, and Jeremy Wright of Enpocket, both saw advertiser funded content – whether programming or entertaining video ‘spots’ – to be the key driver.

Riccardo Donato, Channel 4, said the broadcaster was hedging its bets, with branded content available via both mobile operators’ portals and Channel 4’s own ‘off-portal’ wap site.

Some speakers reported on recent trials.

Business case yet to be proven for mobile TVEirik Solheim of Finnish state broadcaster NRK, (pictured right) said their mobile TV trials had seen some success with pay-per-view.

BT Livetime’s Emma Lloyd, whose ongoing trials with Virgin Mobile and Digital One started in July, said peak consumption came when participants travelled to and from work (not surprisingly). Users were watching an average 10-15 minutes per sessions.

It was revelaing that throughout a day filled with many case studies, not a single speaker would reveal revenue figures.

Clearly it’s early days in this fledgling industry, but with such shyness of the financials, it doesn’t bode well.

UK Risks Being Left Behind In Mobile TV

UK Risks Being Left Behind In Mobile TVThe UK production and development community is in danger of losing out to competition from overseas if it doesn’t wake up to the potential of mobile TV, said Mark Selby, Nokia’s Global Vice President for Multimedia, (pictured right) at the inaugural Mobile TV forum in London today.

“There is already activity in many other markets,” he said. “The UK is perceived as a technology capital by the rest of Europe, but it could lose this advantage. Its approach to mobile TV is being seen as luddite.”

Nokia has staked its claim on DVB-H (Digital Video Broadcasting for Handhelds) as the best technology for future delivery of mobile TV services. DVB-H is a one-to-many technology; it’s cost effective and provides what could be seen as highly attractive content to consumers (ie. like existing broadcast TV channels).

UK Risks Being Left Behind In Mobile TVBut many claimed that the lack of spectrum is holding DVB-H back in the UK.

David Harrison, senior technology advisor at Ofcom, (pictured left) also speaking at today’s conference, confirmed that no new spectrum would begin to be available until the start of analogue switch-off in 2008. [Ed: Following that they’re keen on a spectrum auction, see below for further information on their current proposal]

Harrison’s comments left the floor wide open for Glyn Jones, Operations Director, Digital One, (pictured below right) to remind the audience that there is an alternative to DVB-H – Digital Multimedia Broadcast (DMB). There’s no coincidence about his comments – Digital One owns the spectrum for it.

UK Risks Being Left Behind In Mobile TVDigital One owns the UK’s only nationwide commercial DAB multiplex – but the capacity allocated for DMB is minimal.

The word in the halls over coffee was that recent events such as London winning the 2012 Olympics and the London tube bombings, are causing the UK Government to re-think its mobile TV strategy. Mobile TV could have a positive use in mass crowd control, telling people what to do should another terrorist attack happen.

In the next 12 months, Nokia will be hoping for a change in policy.

Spectrum Framework Review: Implementation Plan – Interim Statement
Digital One

BT’s IPTV To Launch Summer 2006

IPTV To Launch Within Year: Enhanced TV ShowBT will roll out IPTV in ‘late summer 2006’, according to Andrew Burke, CEO, BT Entertainment, (pictured right) speaking at the Enhanced TV Show in London today.

Developed in partnership with Microsoft, BT’s new set-top box technology will combine a digital terrestrial television receiver with a broadband receiver, allowing the viewer to move seamlessly between the two signals.

BT’s revenue will come from enhanced services, such as a VOIP facility to dial up friends while watching a football match, or the ability to build your own personal schedules.

Burke didn’t reveal whether the set top box would be entirely new, or an add-on to existing Freeview boxes, nor would he say whether BT aims to first convert existing DTT customers or target its marketing efforts elsewhere.

IPTV To Launch Within Year: Enhanced TV ShowElena Branet, Senior Marketing Manager at Microsoft TV, (pictured left) said IPTV would allow viewers to use picture in picture channel surfing, see caller ID on their TV sets, or watch TV while messaging a virtual community of friends and family. She said that basic IPTV would be possible with a minimum connection speed of just 1.5 MB.

Branet fought off a suggestion from fellow speaker, BSkyB’s Jim Harrison, that the new IPTV platform would not be interoperable across devices; assuring that it would be open to another operator’s instant messaging system, for example.

IPTV To Launch Within Year: Enhanced TV ShowAlso at the show, David Bainbridge, MD of Yes, Yoo Media, (pictured right) said trials of a new product, ‘Broadband TV’ would start on ntl in October. Not to be confused with IPTV, this is a solution to help content creators repurpose content across platforms – working with cable TV, IPTV and 3.

Enhanced TV Show & Mobile TV Forum
Microsoft TV