NDS To Protect Content On Mobile TV And DAB With Frontier Silicon

NDS To Protect Content On Mobile TV And DAB With Frontier SiliconSet Top Box (STB) and PVR company NDS have today announced that they have reached an agreement with Frontier Silicon, a fabless manufacturer of digital media semiconductors based in the UK, to work together on technology to protect digital TV and DAB (Digital Audio Broadcasting) content on mobile devices.

Frontier Silicon are already well known for pioneering in next gen digital chippery with their DAB chips; the “World’s First” DMB and DVB-H mobile Digital TV chip – in their words; they’ve also innovated in DAB with the introduction of DABplus, a DAB radio with EPG (Electronic Programming Guide) built-in.

The deal sees NDS have their mVideoGuard DRM technology built-in to Frontier’s T-DMB, DVB-H and DAB receiving chips. Interestingly it also sees Frontier Silicon moving into producing kit for the head-end (where it’s broadcast from) – to ensure mVideoGuard is in place from end-to-end.

NDS To Protect Content On Mobile TV And DAB With Frontier SiliconMany readers, especially the non-UK massive, may be thinking ‘So what? Who and who have signed a deal?’ Well the significance of NDS moving this way is that it may signal where Sky is moving. Sky, as I’m sure you know, is the satellite TV company who own the UK in satellite delivered TV, and who’s parent company News International now owns US satellite giant DirecTV.

For a long time Sky and NDS have been developing content protection schemes. They feel this is vital before they let their subscribers move their TV shows from STBs to other devices – including mobile devices.

Despite working on conditional access for mobile TV for a number of months (with NDS), this is the first time that Frontier have built DRM in to their chips, and it’s also thought that this is the first deal that NDS have done putting DRM in system apart from their own.

Is this a move to have NDS as an established provider of DRM? Well it having Sky as a reference client certainly isn’t a bad move.

Frontier Silicon

DABplus With EPG Launched By Frontier Silicon

DABplus Launched By Frontier SiliconFrontier Silicon has launched a new module that claims to bring personal-video-recorder (PVR) like capabilities to DAB digital radio.

The newly introduced DABplus brings a combination of a smarty-pants electronic programme guide (EPG) and advanced recording and timer capabilities to its successful Venice module.

Just like a PVR, DABplus will let radio listeners shuffle through a guide detailing up to seven days of programmes and select what they want to listen to (or record via the built in timers).

DABplus Launched By Frontier SiliconRecordings can be saved onto a memory card on the same radio or played back on any compatible audio unit.

With a Tim Henman-esque clenched fist action, Anthony Sethill, CEO of Frontier Silicon whooped up the benefits of his company’s new product, “This will revolutionise digital radio just as PVR has revolutionised the television viewing experience.”

The Venice module comes with all the necessary components pre-installed, making it easy for manufacturers to start churning out DAB radios by simply bolting on a power source, antenna, display and keypad (it’s probably a bit more difficult than that, but you get our gist).

The module contains the Chorus processor which has already proved a hot potato in the DAB world, shifting over two million units.

DABplus Launched By Frontier SiliconFrontier Silicon’s software provides an interface through which EPG and dynamic service information (DLS) can be viewed, with scrolling text allowing information ‘wider’ than the 16-character screen to be seen.

Anthony Sethill added, “The addition of DABplus to our market leading modules will help accelerate the adoption of new broadcast features such as EPG and is therefore an important next step for the digital radio market.”

Frontier Silicon

MHP Services In Europe: Current Position Reviewed

MHP services in EuropeAcross Europe, interactive services using the DVB Multimedia Home Platform (MHP) standard have been launched on cable, satellite and terrestrial platforms. While not formally mandated by the European Commission, MHP has been embraced as an open and interoperable standard that can be actively encouraged and promoted. Already, several countries have launched MHP-based interactive services on the terrestrial platform.

Finland pioneered MHP-based interactive services on the digital terrestrial television (DTT) platform when it launched services in August 2001. Services currently include digital teletext, banking and game applications, advertising sites and a seven-day electronic programme guide (EPG). A mobile telephone assures the return channel. Currently, a regional MHP portal is available in the city of Tampere to provide local information and a similar portal will soon be launched in Helsinki. The government has actively supported the development of MHP-based services through its project ArviD.

Public service broadcasters have been very active in establishing the Nordic Migration Plan to ensure the introduction of MHP-based interactive services. The launch of DTT services in Denmark and Norway will likely include interactive services. Denmark is expected to launch its DTT services in July 2005 while Norway may launch its services in 2006.

In Sweden, interactive services were initially implemented using the proprietary system, OpenTV. However, the migration towards MHP-based services is underway and the public broadcaster SVT launched an MHP based digital teletext service in March 2004.

Germany has been a continued supporter of the roll-out of MHP-based interactive television services, especially on the satellite platform. MHP data services have been launched on the terrestrial television platform.

MHP services in EuropeIn Austria, a DTT trial with MHP-based interactive services provided 150 households in Graz with access to an interactive television service called !TV4 using the telephone connection for the return channel. Using their television remote control, viewers could retrieve information services and vote. Given the success of the trial, it is likely that MHP-based interactive services will be launched alongside DTT services.

In Hungary, MHP-based interactive services are available in the DTT trials conducted by Antenna Hungaria. The services are information based and include digital teletext and an EPG.

In February 2002, the Ministry of Science and Technology in Spain sponsored an agreement for the promotion and implementation of interactive services based on the MHP standard signed by leading manufacturers and broadcasters. Currently MHP services are available in Catalunya, Madrid and the Basque region and are expected to be launched in Galicia. In Catalunya, the Miromercats pilot supplied 100 homes with advanced MHP applications and provided a return channel via the telephone line.

But the turning point for MHP has been in Italy where interactive content has been a cornerstone of the launch of DTT services. Broadcasters have provided a wide range of MHP-based interactive services such as digital teletext, news information, weather forecasts, audience polling and an EPG. Furthermore, the government seeks to develop “t-government” services in an aim to help bridge the digital divide. Government subsidies are available to encourage households to purchase interactive set-top boxes.

MHP services in EuropeOf course MHP is not the only interactive television service system in the market. Proprietary systems such as MediaHighway and OpenTV have been installed in a large number of set-top boxes, often for cable and satellite platforms. In the United Kingdom, the MHEG standard is widely used on the terrestrial platform. As a result of the various products and services in the market, the DVB Project has been working on the development of the Portable Content Format (PCF) to deliver a wide range of interactive television services to multiple platforms with a minimum of re-authoring. It has significant interest for operators who wish to migrate towards MHP by allowing them to manage simultaneously a mixed population of devices.

We’ll be carrying a follow up piece by Natalie on Friday, about launching MHP services. Natalie works for Digitag
Photo credits: Alticast, Uni-Weimer, MHP.org, MIT Xperts

BBC THREE Trials New Multi-Screen Application

BBC THREE Trials New Multi-Screen ApplicationBBC Three viewers will be able to schedule their own Sunday night viewing in a pioneering multi-screen application trial starting on 1 May 2005.

The service will work like a stripped down Video On Demand (VoD) service without the need for a dedicated infrastructure or additional consumer boxes.

From 9.00pm on Sunday nights, digital satellite viewers will be prompted to bash the red button on their remotes and be rewarded with a choice of three BBC THREE programmes, in addition to the channel’s live transmission.

The programmes will be categorised under Dramatic, Funny and Real, with the first night’s offering serving up the first two episodes of Nighty Night; the first and second episodes of the second series of Twisted Tales; and the first and second parts of the second series of Little Angels.

Stuart Murphy, Controller of BBC THREE, explains: “The ‘Best of Three’ multi-screen trial is a bold and ground-breaking new application which offers viewers more control and greater access to the wide range of programmes on BBC THREE.”

“In the future we believe viewers will want to watch their favourite show when they want it and not wait until a scheduler decides to transmit it.

“It’s a key stepping-stone to true video on demand in a free-to-air digital environment, and shows that we are serious about BBC THREE being the country’s most innovative digital channel, which evolves as fast as the audience’s tastes and needs.”

BBC THREE Trials New Multi-Screen ApplicationEmma Somerville, the BBC’s Head of Interactive Programming, added: “Interactive TV can really help our audiences engage with the BBC’s TV channels.”

“The ‘Best of Three’ multi-screen will test new ways of giving viewers more flexibility over when and how they want to enjoy our programmes.”

Viewers will be encouraged on air to try out the new service and the trial will last for six months.

The BBC hopes that the service will prove a showcase for the multi-genre offering of BBC THREE content and enable them to get more value from the full range of programmes that the channel broadcasts.

If all goes to plan, viewers will be encouraged to sample programming that normally wouldn’t whet their tele-whistles and also use the service to watch programmes that they might have missed.

If the trial is a hit, the BBC plans to roll out this application on Freeview and digital cable.

BBC Three

BBC Radio Times Partners With Gemstar Guide Plus+ EPG

Radio Times Partners With Gemstar For EPGOld school TV listings magazine The Radio Times, has announced a partnership with Gemstar, the Murdoch-owned electronic programme guide (EPG).

The deal – the first TV listings partnership of its kind – allows the Radio Times to provide listings, contents and reviews to the subscription-free, seven day Guide Plus+ EPG.

Gemstar will be building its EPG into a number of electronic devices such as digital TVs and DVD recorders. The EPG will allow consumers to browse and select their TV viewing for the next seven days.

Users will have access to seven-day listings, programme recommendations and a database of 24,000 film reviews with star ratings, with the service being compatible with all major channels on the terrestrial, cable, satellite and digital terrestrial platforms.

Simon Adams, deputy-managing director of Gemstar-TV Guide’s European division, said the move would benefit users by providing a “quick, easy, and free way to intelligently navigate what is an increasingly complex entertainment environment”. Radio Times Partners With Gemstar For EPGThis partnership kicks the Radio Times firmly into the new digital age of television, with the company selling advertising on Guide Plus+ and boosting awareness of the EPG by plugging it relentlessly in its print magazine.

All concerned plan to expand the offering, with on exmaple given as onscreen adverts might eventually include clickable ads for programmes, letting viewers jump straight to the selected broadcast.

It is hoped that this synergetic partnership will expand what choca-mocha-latte supping advertising execs call the “brand heritage” of the Radio Times, which currently shifts over 1.1 million printed copies a week.

The BBC owned brand – the UK’s oldest radio and television listings magazine – has a presence across a range of media, with their website attracting nearly 600,000 unique users per month, and a text messaging service which allows readers to access listings. Radio Times was named as Britain’s “most reliable” media brand back in 2002.

Radio Times Partners With Gemstar For EPGGill Hudson, editor of the Radio Times, declared: “There is now no format not covered by Radio Times – you can access RT via mobile, your PDA, online, and now the Guide Plus+ EPG.”

The Radio Times recently spent £1m (€1.44m) on a marketing campaign to promote the magazine in the face of a price war between the UK’s best-selling title, What’s on TV, and rival TV Choice. Clearly, the BBC hopes that this move into digital listings will provide a competitive edge.

Radio Times
Radio Times named Britain’s “most reliable” media brand

TiVo Software For Comcast In Strategic Partnership

Comcast and TiVo join in Strategic PartnershipTiVo has signed a multiyear deal to make a version of its personal video recorder software available to customers of Comcast Cable, currently the King Kong of largest cable operators in the US.

The deal is the first of the partnerships the struggling pioneer hopes to forge with cable operators and will result in Comcast and TiVo working together in peace and harmony to develop a version of the TiVo service to be made available on Comcast’s current DVR platform.

The new service will be marketed with the TiVo brand, and is expected to be slipping out on Comcast’s DVR products in a majority of Comcast markets in mid-to-late 2006.

This long-term, non-exclusive partnership will provide Comcast customers with the opportunity to choose the TiVo service with features like Season Pass and WishList, available as an additional option.

If all goes to plan, the service will showcase TiVo’s home networking, multimedia, and broadband capabilities.

“We are focused on providing our customers with a 21st Century television experience,” said Brian Roberts, the chairman and CEO of Comcast Corporation. “TiVo has revolutionized the way consumers watch and access home entertainment. By partnering with TiVo, we are continuing to deliver technology that enables our customers to watch what they want when they want on TV. This agreement also reflects our commitment to work with leading technology providers to offer customers more value and choice in their home entertainment experience. Customers love the ease and convenience of our current DVR service, and we look forward to working with TiVo to enhance that service and offer customers the best-in-class DVR experience.”

Steve Burke, the president of Comcast Cable and COO of Comcast, added, “The strong TiVo brand, the clear track record of customer loyalty it has and its cutting-edge features make this a terrific partnership and exciting new product for Comcast.”

Tom Rogers, the vice chairman of TiVo, noted, “It is very important that TiVo has found a way to work with the nation’s largest cable operator on a cooperative basis to develop a state-of-the-art TiVo service, fully integrated with a cable set-top box, that will make TiVo available to millions of cable viewers. … This is a real milestone for TiVo and for the cable industry, but most importantly it is a milestone for television viewers.”

Analysts are hailing the agreement as a lifeline for the Californian-based company, whose shares jumped 75 percent, or US$2.87 (e2.14/£1.50), to close at US$6.70 (e5/£3.50) in Tuesday trading on the Nasdaq Stock Market.

Although TiVo currently boasts more than 3 million subscribers it has struggled to find a business strategy that would increase its subscriber base and withstand gnawing competition from generic DVRs offered directly by big cable companies.

In the quarter that ended Jan. 31, TiVo lost a thumping great $33.7 million, substantially heftier than the $12.4 million loss in the same period a year earlier.

Comcast and TiVo join in Strategic Partnership The Comcast deal means that TiVo will have to adapt its software to work on Comcast’s existing DVR platform. This will enable TiVo to blast out the advertising it sells as interactive video clips in their onscreen menu to Comcast subscribers.

Comcast will continue to market its own DVR, with new customers getting a dual-tuner DVR, letting viewers record two shows at once and high-definition television; TiVo offers such features only to DirecTV satellite customers.

Comcast subscribers who plump for the TiVo service will get funky features such as “Suggestions,” which recommends shows based on past viewing habits, and the ability to schedule recordings over the Internet.

The agreement gives TiVo access to Comcast’s 21.5 million cable customers, including 8.6 million digital cable customers who can take advantage of DVRs


Voice-controlled EPG on your TV from Opera

Talk to your TV with EPGPunching endless buttons and shouting at your video recorder could become a thing of the past thanks to Opera Software’s new voice-enabled Electronic Program Guide (EPG) for home media.

The perfect complement for Homer Simpsons everywhere, the new EPG means that couch potatoes won’t even have to exert themselves to pick up the remote – instead they can simply bark commands at the home media unit and crack open another beer.

Traditionally, navigating through the labyrinth menus and sub menus of videos and DVD players was on a par with aligning the damper sprockets on a nuclear fission engine, involving a multitude of remote controls and key combinations.

The new Opera software (self-declared as ‘the future of human-computer interaction’, but we think they’re getting a bit carried away there) helps make navigating complex data structures easy by using simple voice commands.

Talk to your TV with EPGOpera will also be rolling out a new voice-enabled edition of the Opera browser for PCs.

The voice-enabled EPG is written in XHTML+Voice or X+V multimodal programming language with initial targets aimed at enterprise customers and developers. You can see a demonstration of X+V multimodal speech applications at www.ibm.com/pvc/multimodal.

This release forms part of a project to raise awareness in the consumer electronics sector of the benefits of voice-enabled Web technologies

We like the idea of being able to bellow at the TV, although we have to wonder how effective the voice commands may be after a skinfull on a Saturday night.

Perhaps you can also program in slurred versions of the commands for full weekend compatibility?


DAB EPG for Bug Launches – Radio TiVo

PURE Bug with EPGPURE Digital announced today that it’s offering support for an Electronic Programme Guide (EPG) for the Bug DAB digital radio.

Using the EPG, Bug users will be able to browse the programmes coming up over the next 7-days, read additional information about them and select them for recording. In the same vein as a Personal Video Recorder (DVR), does this make it a DRR – Digital Radio Recorder?

While the Bug has been able to record and rewind live DAB radio since its release (in May 2004) onto SD memory, the addition of the 7-day EPG provides the another piece to make it perform like a TiVo. It is the first DAB radio to support an EPG.

The EPG system has been in development for about a year. Back in September 2004, Jonathan Marks highlighted ETSI Doc. number TS 102 818) that is part of the Eureka 147 DAB standard, under the auspices of WorldDAB.

The final version of the Bug EPG software release is expected in Q1/2005, after completion of the EPG trials.

The EPG software that runs in the Bug was created by Ensigma and the EPG Management system that runs at the radio stations has been developed by Unique Interactive.

DAB radio is becoming accepted by the UK listener. Last week it was announced that over 1 million DAB radios had been sold in the UK with a forecast of a further 1.2m in 2005.

PURE Digital is a consumer products division of Imagination Technologies, who were originally called Videologic many moons ago.

Buy the PURE Bug from Amazon UK

The Bug – EPG Trial v1.3; release notes
Unique Interactive

Bug images, courtesy of Unique Interactive