Champions League Broadcasters To Simulcast Matches On T’Web

Champions League Broadcasters To Simulcast Matches on T'WebArmchair football fans around Europe will soon be able to enjoy live Champion’s League matches over the Internet and mobile phones.

The European Commission has declared its intent to promote the beautiful game over a range of platforms in an attempt to mollify European commission competition authorities who want to see rights owners promoting mobile phone and Internet usage.

A spokesman at football bosses UEFA confirmed that all broadcasters showing games live would be “obliged” to screen them online simultaneously.

By linking live television rights to the Internet package, UEFA hopes to calms the fears of broadcasters who suspect that a separate online deal would cut deeply into their audience figures.

Champions League Broadcasters To Simulcast Matches on T'WebChampions League coverage in the UK is provided by BSkyB and ITV (both of whom look likely to retain their current rights), and the Internet simulcasts could provide a honey pot for new revenue streams with advertising and betting partners.

This may cause some friction with the big clubs like Man Utd and Arsenal who may be planning their own lucrative online propositions.

With media regulator Ofcom reporting that more than 8.1 million UK households now boast broadband connectivity, Internet television on demand is set to become, well, a household name.

Champions League Broadcasters To Simulcast Matches on T'WebBSkyB has already announced its commitment to IPTV – programming delivered over broadband PCs or TV sets – and from later this year, premium package subscribers will be able to access content via a Sky Sports and Sky Movies broadband service.

The service will offer 200 on-demand movies with sports junkies being able to access news, interviews and highlights (like wonderful Cardiff City goals) through the online sports channel

From 2006 the service could be offering Champions League games live, ensuring that only Sky Sports subscribers are able to log on, with non-subscribers having to fork out a pay-per-view premium.

Sky Sports

Freeview Breaks 5m Barrier. UK Digital TV Now ~62%

Freeview Breaks 5m Barrier. UK Digital TV Now ~62%Ofcom has today reported its quarterly figures on the rate of take-up of digital TV in the UK.

The number of homes that are connected to a digital TV service through some means has increased 2.5% to just short of 62% (61.9%). No big surprise there as this has been gradually increasing over the previous quarters.

The bigger news, we feel, is Freeview, the UK’s Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) service reaching 5,059,350 homes – breaking the significant barrier of five million homes.

Freeview Breaks 5m Barrier. UK Digital TV Now ~62%This is bad news for Sky, as it’s starting to get close to the around 7.5m homes that they have. What’s worse news for them is in the detail of the report. Sky’s all-important ARPU (Average Revenue Per User) has dropped from £386 in Q4 2004 to £382 in Q1 2005. This might not sound huge, but for an organisation that is trying to constantly increase their ARPU, it’s not encouraging. Another figure of note is their rate of churn, that’s up to 11.1% form 9.6% in the previous quarter.

Xmas has previously been a strong time for Sky as people with little imagination and less conversation buy in Sky to keep them happy over the Turkey dinner.

Freeview Breaks 5m Barrier. UK Digital TV Now ~62%The growth of aerial-delivered Freeview has been gaining more momentum of late, still spearheaded by the BBC using the Freeview channels to first-show a lot of its content.

For the fact spotters, a minor point of interest is the number of old ITV Digital STB’s that are in use in the UK. This is in steadily decline since they went bust and is now running at 290,000, down 60,000 from 350,000 in the previous quarter.

I actually run one of these and have increasingly found problems with it as the ‘digital rust’ sets in – box freezes, etc. (I’m not looking for sympathy. The problems with the box are significantly offset by the fact that I paid the princely sum of 1p for it, timing its purchase, as I did, during the week of uncertainly before ITV Digital went bust).

Freeview Breaks 5m Barrier. UK Digital TV Now ~62%The breakdown of the figures is as follows

Sky Subscribers – 7,349,000 Freeview & free satellite – 5,504,350 Digital cable – ~2,500,00

Ofcom Digital Television Update – Q1 2005

BSkyB Announces HDTV Partners

BSkyB Announces HDTV PartnersBritish Sky Broadcasting (BSkyB) has announced that it has signed a number of further contracts with technology and equipment suppliers ahead of the forthcoming launch of its High-Definition Television (HDTV) service.

Following last month’s announcement that Thomson would be the initial manufacturer of Sky’s HDTV set-top box, the latest agreements put BSkyB on track to launch HDTV in the UK and Ireland in 2006 – notably four years ahead of the BBC’s slothful launch date in 2010.

The agreement will see Sony constructing and equipping a new HDTV studio at BSkyB’s Isleworth headquarters and kitting out additional equipment for edit suites and dubbing facilities at the same site.

Lovers of spec sheets will be thrilled to learn that the Sony studio equipment will include the latest HDC-1500 studio cameras and over 60 HDCAM and HDCAM SR format VTRs, complemented by MVS-8000A series multiformat production switchers and DVS-8000 digital effects plus Sony HD LCD monitors.

Additionally, Sony will smooth BSkyB’s transition to HDTV production with a “this button does that” staff training package.

BSkyB will also be deploying Tandberg Television’s MPEG-4 part 10 (H.264/AVC) video encoding and distribution system for the launch of its HDTV service.

BSkyB Announces HDTV PartnersThe studio will be fitted out with Tandberg Television HD video head-end with statistical multiplexing with Tandberg EN5990 HD MPEG-4 AVC enabling efficient bandwidth utilisation and high picture quality.

If that roll out of spoddy specifications hasn’t got you excited enough, you’ll be pleased to learn that even more equipment lists will dispatched from BSkyB headquarters in due course. Whoopee!

Alun Webber, BSkyB’s Group Director of Engineering and Platform Technology, said “The launch of HDTV is the most significant development for BSkyB’s broadcast infrastructure since the launch of Sky digital in 1998. These supplier contracts keep us on track to launch HDTV in 2006 and ensure that Sky customers continue to receive the highest-quality viewing experience available.”

Sky is promising a full set of HDTV programming channel line-up when the service goes live, including sports, movies, entertainment and documentary programming.

The system will support both 720p and 1080i picture formats, with broadcasters being able to choose the format which is most appropriate to their individual requirements.

Initially, Sky’s HD receivers will have both a digital HDMI (High Definition Multimedia Interface) and an analogue component connector for viewing HD content.

BSkyB Announces HDTV PartnersHDMI delivers the best possible picture quality to a HD display by maintaining an all-digital connection to DVI equipped displays possible using a suitable adapter cable.

Notably, when Sky’s HD content is viewed on a display using the receiver’s HDMI connector it will be protected by HDCP (High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection).

HDTV is already taking off in the States and with the BBC dragging its heels with their own implementation of HDTV, this move by Sky may prove to be a significant one.

Sky Drops Microsoft Windows Media For MPEG-4 On HDTV

Chernin Hints News Corp. to Buy into Video Gaming

News Corp., the media giant built by Rupert Murdoch is reportedly looking to get into the games business.

The FT is running a story today that Peter Chernin, News Corp. chief operating officer, told a conference in Phoenix, Arizona that they were “kicking the tires of pretty much all video games companies,” as “We see as a big business and would like to get into it.”

Normally used to buying huge companies like Fox, News Corp is clearly looking for the best value company, but finding a big disparity between the largest, Electronics Arts (EA), and the rest of the video games companies. “We are struggling with the gap between companies like Electronic Arts, which come with a high price tag, and the next tier of companies. These may be too focused on one or two product lines.” Chernin said.

There are many reasons why a move into gaming would make sense for News Corp. Numerous studies have shown that people, particularly the young, are moving away from watching television to play video games and the next generation of Set Top Boxes (STB’s) have considerable power. Using News Corps. satellite distribution platform, such as Sky and DirecTV, to distribute games to these STBs makes total sense.

We imagine there is a state of confusion at EA, if not the whole of the games industry, switching between a state of high excitement and nervousness. As the many corporate corpses that litter in the trail of News Corp. attest to, when they do it, they do it big.

News Corporation

Sky Active re-launches with Significant Upgrade

The Sky Active service, which has been around for the last five years, has this week had a considerable redesign. Originally a text-based approach, the new version is significantly richer and takes is into a magazine style. We spoke to Sky to get the details.

Sky Active Front pageThe opening page (example right) has a video background running on the right and a small number of highlighted options on the left hand side. The layout and links on this page change throughout the day, to match the audience that they think will be looking at it. Currently changing twice it will feature items like horoscopes and lifestyles links during the day and betting and dating in the evening.

Sky Active Content pageAnother way to access the content is via a mosaic layout (example right). This shows a checkerboard of 16 video pieces running on loops. As the viewer uses their remote control to navigate between the videos, bring it in to focus, the audio channel associated with that video loop plays. This short-form video programming is designed to draw people in to the interactive content that lies behind and on pressing the Select key takes them to the content.

It’s clear that Sky is putting more resources (read money) into this service. There is a full time editorial team of ten people working on it on a day-to-day basis and with the video running, considerably more satellite bandwidth is required to run the video. Sixty people across the organisation have been involved with the re-launching of the site – twenty of them within the design team.

Sky Active is creating much of the content in-house, as well as commissioning other pieces externally. The content that is being created is unique to Sky Active.

Clearly Sky is making money from their interactive service, and want to make sure that they are ahead of the game (pun intended) as other rival services are launched.

Sky Active