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Web content on TV is just a click away

Posted: 15 Sep 2008 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:TV Web content? Internet TV? broadband?

The long-awaited invasion of the living-room TV set by Internet content is finally here, according to a panel of search-engine wizards at the first day of the International Broadcast Convention (IBC).

The last word of the "Content Over the Web" session came from moderator Simon Forrest of Pace plc., who said, "Convergence is certainly happening."

This echoed the sentiments of Joseph Guegan, chief technology officer of Groupe Canal+, France, who said, "2008 is the year of convergence between broadcast and broadband, fixed and mobile, PC and set-top box."

The site for all this converging seems to be the TV set, making the whole discussion more accurately about migration.

One click away
TV, indeed, is the last major consumer medium that has all this time resisted the absorption of the sort of Web-based content that is normally accessed on PCs, cellphones, portable music players, personal digital assistants and even game consoles.

The barrier to convergence, the panelists admitted, has always been the TV remote control, and the inability of device-makers and service providers to reduce the complexity of content access for consumers.

That's no problem any longer, according to Guegan. He said that Canal+'s vast array of Web-based offerings, visible on TV in France "including 500 channels, 1,000 services and 3,000 video choices on demand" are no more than "two clicks" away.

"Most users," agreed Guru Pai, VP of marketing and business development at Veveo Inc., "just want to press 'Play.'"

His company, said Pai, provides service operators a search engine called Vtap that makes pressing 'Play' the consumers only job. Adding to the reduced-click chorus was Gavin McLauchlan, the Europe, Middle East and Africa customer marketing manager for Microsoft Mediaroom.

Offering the caveat that service operators must also commit to the simplicity of the user interface, he said, "What we do best is make it so easy for consumers to find what they want with that service. The more you reduce the number of clicks, the better it is for consumers."

All three panelists proved the importance of remote-control simplicity by screening demonstrations of how their user interfaces work.

Each swiftly and deftly progressed through a series of menus and screens, videos and images, electronic program guides (EPG) and program choices at a rate of speed and skill that made it impossible to count the number (more than two) of clicks. In the end, though, each time, the panelist pressed "Play," and the chosen program played.

Except for McLaughlan, who couldn't summon up the Xbox 360 digital video recorder despite several tries.

Converged community
The panelists agreed that the convergence of Web content and TV will expand exponentially the array of "experiences" available to consumers on all media.

McLaughlan, whose vehicle throughout the discussion was the Xbox 360, emphasized the virtual "community" bonds that might form around TV shows, music videos or YouTube sites in a converged world where a "community-on-demand is connected to a laptop, so again it's part of a connected TV experience."

He elaborated, "Who's online now? Who's watching the same show? Who are friends of the show you're watching? You have a whole community of new friends who are fans of the same show."

Among the blessings suggested by convergence, the panelists said, are the migration of user-generated content (UGC), such as YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, etc. to the family TV screen. "There are vast number of consumers who'd like to do it on their TV as well as on their PC," said McLaughlan.

Pai, of Veveo, said that by adding TV to the media carrying web content, the more potential there is for monetizing the Internet, making money on merchandising and advertising. "The economic value of search is that they search for [David] Beckham and they end up buying Posh Spice!" he said.

The only drawback discussed in bring UGC to TV is a regression in picture quality.

A great deal of Web content looks like "World's Funniest Pet Videos," recorded on poor-quality videocams. But Pai said that consumers will tolerate bad video because it represents entertainment beyond the usual TV offerings. "This is something above and beyond," he said. "Here's something else they can do So that the expectation of quality is not there."

Added Guegan: "Value doesn't always depend on quality."

- David Benjamin
EE Times

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