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IPTV: Expanding the content, engaging the viewer

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SINGAPORE: Television broadcasting is now far more challenging than conventional terrestrial cable and satellite delivery. With the influx of multiple services and delivery platforms like HD, VOD, IPTV (Internet Protocol Television), interactive and multimedia services, consumers are now exposed to a whole new world of entertainment!

"IPTV is soon going to transform the television landscape. The transformation of television is introducing new technologies in the domain and represents a true transformation in broadcast television," said JJB Associates Australia principal consultant John Bigeni at the session titled Expanding the Content, Engaging the Viewer on day two of BroadcastAsia 2006.

A word of caution that was thrown was that companies that are mulling entering into IPTV, should go beyond what is currently being offered by broadcasters. In short, IPTV should go beyond "Me Too" television. "Telecos should move from being providers of transport to being providers of experience. A message to the Telecos is clear - It is not good enough to deliver "Me Too" television," said OpenTV (Greater China) general manager Ren Xiaoyan.

Explaining what "Me Too" television was, Xiaoyan said, "Electronic Programming Guide (EPG) and Digital Music comprising services like broadcast TV on-demand, program packages, pay per view, channel favorites, parental controls, multiple service providers and T-commerce, are provided by broadcasters too. So it is not enough for IPTV service providers to just provide all of this."

Enhanced programming comprising video mosaics, different camera angle, selection, live information, program enhancements, content, promotion and lifestyle portals should be synchronised with the broadcast stream to provide a rich viewing experience. On-Demand services, on the lines of what is being offered by Comcast, comprising VOD, Push VOD, Pull VOD, PVR, NPVR, PVR To Go and Multiroom & Media Control can be offered based on the network architecture and cost.

Apart from that Quad Play experiences offering live TV, DVR and remote record, unified voicemail, Email and games will further the experience to a different level.

IPTV also allows for advanced advertising and in turn providers additional revenue streams for providers. "Addressable advertising is possible through IPTV apart from ad telescoping (provide more detailed spectrum for example provide a commercial of five minutes instead of the regular 30 seconds. One can also target the ad based on demographic," Xiaoyan said.

On the other hand, games and gaming services can be also provided over IPTV via pay per play or subscription model, in addition to communication services like email, chat and SMS.

"In order to save call center cost, many companies are now providing in-house customer care services for instant updates on programme booking and billing," Xiaoyan said.

So what's the promise of IPTV? While, it cannot be simply "Me Too" TV, the advantage it has is that digital TV has not yet fulfilled its true potential as it has been hampered by narrowband (as opposed to broadband) and no return channel. Also, it does not provide the on-demand experience and iTV (Interactive Television) never really took off. But now, IPTV can bring in better content and experience through narrowcasting, faster channel change, faster application and content download and better on-demand services.

While it all sounds hunky dory, IPTV's dirty little secret is that cable and satellite channels are already providing all of this! So how does IPTV compete? Xiaoyan provides the answers.

"Companies providing IPTV can't just focus on video. They have to run and run faster in the competitive environment. They have to work with advertisers and programmers, work out new content deals and business models and not just limit themselves to their vendors," he concludes.

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