Dating on Demand

Video on demand: reasonable state of health, no proven business model, WLTM  established internet commerce concept for  broadband fun, and maybe a bit of transactional  processing, apply at

I seem to be writing another of those “It had to happen” stories this week.

Dating On Demand is launching this summer – in Philadelphia, of all places. A series of events will allow singles (or at least people claiming to be single) to record five minute video profiles which will then be available on demand on Comcast Digital Cable.

Recording the profiles is free and even includes the services of professional television production crews. The profiles will be available to view free on cable and interested potential partners will be able to register anonymously through the HurryDate website.

Interviews and features will attempt to draw out interesting glimpses into singles’ personalities and will even include video “bloopers” and tales of dating disasters. HurryDate operate a speed dating service and are hoping that this will expand their market somewhat.

“This service is as close as you can get to meeting someone over a cup of coffee,” said Adele Testani, co-founder of HurryDate. Except with out the coffee, two way communication, body language and bare-faced lies, presumably.

“Dating ON DEMAND adds a personal touch to meeting potential dates by presenting ‘real singles’ – how they move, how they speak, their true appearance. Best yet, it all happens in the comfort of your home with the touch of a remote control and the click of a mouse.” HurryDate are keen to point out in their press release that no extra equipment is needed.

Is it me or does the name HurryDate add an extra air of desperation to the whole thing, like “Budget Bride”?


Budget Bride – Money Saving Wedding Solutions … I didn’t realise weddings were a problem

Napster and NTL’s Broadband Partnership

Napster UK and NTL have completed a deal to bundle the new music store with NTL’s Broadband Plus package. This will bring Napster a potential one million more customers, and will also include a 30 free trial subscription to the store.

NTL’s Broadband Plus package starts at UK£3.99 (€6), or UK£9.95 (€15) including a Napster subscription.

“This is a significant deal for Napster because we are partnering with the biggest provider of broadband services in the UK, and ntl’s own research has shown that over 75% of broadband customers download music each month,” said Brad Duea, president of Napster.

Napster’s catalogue now stands at over 750,000 tracks, making it the largest music store in the market at the moment.

Napster UK

Japanese Consumers Protest at Broadcast Flag

Japanese television viewers have begun complaining to broadcasters over the sudden removal of editing and copying freedoms they’re experiencing now that the country’s version of the broadcast flag has been rolled out on digital terrestrial and cable channels.

NHK and and the National Association of Commercial Broadcasters launched the broadcast flag on 5 April, limiting viewers to a single copy of programmes carrying the signal. As programmes can only be copied once, no editing can be performed either. Within a week NHK and other broadcasters had received 15,000 complaints and enquiries.

This move also means that Japanese consumers will not be able to remove adverts from programmes they have recorded for archiving, or make a backup in case an offline recording is destroyed.

Furthermore, viewers have to insert a user identification card, B-CAS (from the company who manufactures them, BS Conditional Access Systems), into their digital televisions in order to watch broadcasts.

It’ll be interesting to see the scale of protest when America’s broadcast flag system rolls out in just over a year and a month – whilst not requiring an ID card to access broadcasts, the flag will tell all new television sets what can and can’t be done to a signal – right down to preventing any copying whatsoever.

Japan Times coverage

Slashdot debates the issue

First – DSL Sells Faster than Cable Modems in the US

The US has always been a stronghold for cable modems and up until last year it outsold DSL two-to-one. This makes it all the more surprising to hear from Reuters that DSL has, for the first time, sold more high-speed Internet connections than cable providers.

Feeling threatened by the rise of VoIP (Voice over IP), that could enable cable-customers to discard their phone lines while keeping phone services, the telephone companies are undergoing a big push to try to ensure that their phone customers stay with them. “The bundle with DSL is incredibly sticky, more so than even long distance,” Verizon Chief Financial Officer Doreen Toben told Reuters. “If you can get DSL into the bundle, the customer will not leave you.”

SBC, one of the four ‘Baby Bells’, is finding price a big determinant in converting and keeping customers on high-speed access. “When you’re selling this at $45, a customer buys it and gets his first bill and panics and cancels,” their Chief Operating Officer Randall Stephenson told analysts last week. “When you’re selling it at $30, you have much less of that.” All of this is good for the US consumer, in the short term at least.

Reuters story

FCC Requires Firewire in Set-top Boxes

A Federal Communications Commission (FCC) directive which came into force this month, requires cable operators to provide a Firewire (IEEE1394) -enabled set-top box to customers who require them. The FFC have long been promoting interoperability between STBs and other equipment, and this looks like another step down that road.

According to an HP paper on the subject (linked below) “The distributed set top architecture becomes more compelling when multiple devices, interconnected by a 1394 cluster/backbone network, can access an access network gateway simultaneously.”

Using the Firewire interface, customers will be able to connect their STB to a range of other devices, such as PVRs or Firewire enabled PCs and Macintoshes. Customers will be able to capture MPEG2 streams to for storage elsewhere – provided it’s within the 4.5m reach of a 1394 cable.

A Firewire interface doesn’t mean that customers will just be able to rip content – anything coming through that port can still be protected by DRM measures, IEEE1394 is just an interface after all. However, the inclusion of a Firewire port does allow the distribution of protected content to other devices around the home.

HP’s report on Firewire and set-top boxes

Windows Media 9 Continues to Make Progress

Microsoft’s Windows Media 9 platform is going from strength to strength – it’s being adopted by more broadcasters, it’s being incorporated in more players and MS are making more refinements to the platform codecs for High Definition media.

Microsoft are watching the platform’s popularity in the film and television world and are building on this by partnering with media companies to develop its range of functions. Work with Adobe, CineForm and BOXX Technologies has demonstrated WM9’s multi-stream High Definition capabilities, and companies like USDTV have adopted 9 as their broadcast format.

It’s not just all broadcast work either — Sonic solutions are introducing DVD Producer WMV HD Edition for producing High Definition DVDs later this year.

Microsoft is also submitting an update to its WM9 compression codec to the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers

Tandberg Television are currently demonstrating their EN5920 encoding platform – the only hardware encoding solution for WM9 available. Companies like NTL Broadcast and Swisscom’s Bluewin are trialling the EN5920 to provide real-time encoding and decoding of WM9 streams to domestic digital TV customers.

Windows Media Home

Ofcom’s Digital Switch Over Report

“Driving Digital Switchover”, Ofcom’s report to the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, contains 30 findings and recommendations for the UK’s move to digital broadcasting, and the decommissioning of analogue signals.

  • Ofcom are recommending that the switch, due to be completed by the end of 2010, should be phased in region by region, shutting down analogue channels one at a time. They believe that a firm timetable will encourage the adoption of digital broadcasting between 2007 and 2010.
  • Additionally, they suggest that the UK Government review the BBC’s obligations to digital and add further requirements, including: obligations on rolling-out digital transmission nationwide, providing public information, continuing to provide its channels on the free-to-view satellite platform, and providing on-air marketing of digital TV on a platform-neutral basis.
  • Importantly, Ofcom believe that free-to-view digital satellite will play an important part in increasing adoption of digital viewing, particularly with those who do not wish to subscribe to services such as Sky. Ofcom is considering regulatory intervention “to secure a viable free-to-view satellite proposition.”
  • SwitchCo is the body that Ofcom are suggesting is created to be responsible for managing the switch-over by the agreed date. The suggest that the body is entirely independent and not run by the government, any broadcaster or even Ofcom.

About the Report

The Report

BBC Live Quiz Show First to Use Java on mobile

Broadcasters have flirted with interactivity in quiz shows for a long time – and there have been a few examples lately using mobile phones to SMS answers. However, the BBC has teamed with Tailor Made Films to develop the next stage – proper interactivity on multiple platforms, including a mobile phone and web-based Java applets. The game can also be played on Freeview and through satellite set-top boxes.

The project has been on the go for about 18 months, and has evolved since its inception. SMS was considered in the early days, but was rejected as it was too restrictive.

Neil Pleasants, Managing Producer at Tailor Made Films told Digital Lifestyles why they favoured Java: ” Java is portable – you can take it to other countries and it’ll work. Digital TV platforms might as well be written in Martian, they don’t transfer — the platforms differ wildly as their capabilities.”

The BBC website explains the format of the quiz: “Come And Have A Go… offers viewers the chance to challenge the studio winners head to head. Playing on interactive TV, Java, or web, teams at home answer the same questions as the studio teams. At the end of the first part of the show a satellite camera is whisked off to join the top scoring home team – wherever they are in the UK. In the second part of the show, the home team competes live against the studio team for the cash prize.” The cameras are on motorbikes distributed around the country.

Neil went onto explain how Java has enabled them to sell the programme into other markets with the minimum of trouble: “We’re taking the programme worldwide. When we went into countries and explained the idea, they loved it. But they didn’t know about the actual technology. We’ve made the technology as simple as possible and that’s the key, because that is so essential everywhere.” Tailor Made films even have an idea for a branded phone.

Their first phase was getting the programme into Western Europe, America, Australia and Scandinavia – the second phase will be Eastern Europe, Middle East, Japan and China.

Java also allowed Tailor Made to build high levels of security into the quiz applet to prevent cheating, including timestamping. This is just as well: the guaranteed minimum prize is UK£30,000 (US$55,000, €45,000) the largest ever weekly prize ever given out on a British television programme.

Neil believes that content is maturing to match the platforms available: “This is as interactive as it gets.”

The official website

Tailor Made Films

Sun’s Java home

Two Way TV diversify to content from iTV

Two Way TV, well know producers of interactive TV content, have announced two content deals.

First up is an interesting and significant deal with long-standing UK commercial network ITV which moves them away from just iTV (interactive TV) content to using the interactivity to supply additional types of content. The exclusive ITV contract allows viewers to browse and buy content through their remote control, whilst watching ITV interactive content and have it delivered to mobile handsets.

Initially video clips, ring tones, logos, wallpaper and Java games, will be offered to ITV viewers through an interactive service behind ITV1 and ITV2 on Sky Satellite. It will also be available through ITV’s 24:7 interactive services menu.

The first service to launch will be based around ITV’s football programming. Football fans will be able to buy classic terrace tunes, download pictures of their favourite players and buy video clips of classic football moments. They will also be able to get football related Java games.

TwoWayTV will also be offering a pop-themed service to provide chart ring-tones, celebrity logos and Java games.

Jane Marshall, the controller if ITV Interactive, said about the deal: “Interactivity is all about providing extra value for viewers and giving them more of what they want. This is a great way for us to broaden our relationship with our viewers, as well as creating new revenue streams for us.”

The ITV mobile content service will launch during the second quarter of this year. Two Way TV will also launch similar services on NTL and Telewest in the walled garden under the Two Way TV brand. Viewers will be able to buy games and ring tones from these services.

Secondly, Two Way TV is renewing its partnership with the Israeli broadcaster Connect-TV and is licensing of a new set of games to the company. Connect-TV has been broadcasting Two Way TV’s games services on the MATAV and TEVEL cable networks in Israel for the last two years.

“Two Way TV’s games have proved very popular in Israel and we are delighted that they have agreed to renew our games licenses. Their innovative games have carved out a strong niche in the marketplace.” says Tammy Friedman, the chief operating officer of Connect-TV.

Two Way TV

Half of UK Homes Now Receive Digital TV

With penetration of 50.2% of UK households, the total number of homes in the UK watching digital television now stands at 12.3 million, up 423,000 in Q4 2003. This number includes 3.2 million free to air digital viewers using Freeview and ITV Digital boxes, and PC cards.

The report will be submitted to the secretary of state for culture, media and sport at the end of March.