The big news at the recent IBC show (and the press releases just before) seemed to centre on Television Anywhere / Everywhere. Announcements have been made by operators, STB manufacturers, middleware providers, OTT service providers and others. But what are these services actually offering and how is that different from Motive’s Television Anywhere?
To start with, there does not appear to be a consensus within the market to an official name. Television Anywhere and Television Everywhere are terms both widely used. As for the reality of what is offered, this seems to vary widely between products, ranging from those providing TV access over a wide range of devices, supporting all channels, and wherever the user is located (such as Television Anywhere from Motive) to solutions which offer remote access to an EPG.
So what would a user expect from a product or service called TV Anywhere (let’s just stick to the one name now).
• The ability to watch TV Anywhere, on a range of devices.
Seems simple? Well, in reality there are a number of challenges which still need to be overcome and the other solutions currently in the marketplace also have a range of constraints. The services may offer some content, in some locations, on some devices, so should they be “TV where we tell you, on what we tell you”?
There is an obvious focus on the iPad as the target device and in-home as the “Anywhere” for the content. The actual content available is usually a small subset of the hundreds of channels offered to a typical Pay TV customer, leading to frustrations that the particular content which is of interest is not immediately accessible. Of course the reality of content rights mean that offering access to all content, anywhere around the world is difficult for most operators, so some kind of compromise is required. Another important consideration is related to the change in viewing habits of the users of PVR (personal video recorders) - viewing patterns are changing with overnight viewing figures currently accounting for around 50%-60% of the actual total views for some content, with the balance (recorded/catch-up) being viewed within one week. This has been a significant shift over the last couple of years and still appears to be accelerating. Obviously this does not apply to all content, since news and sport tend to be viewed live and not recorded. Television Anywhere should take into account that viewers want to watch content which they have recorded.
Television Anywhere solutions today (including those recently announced) tend to fall into one of a few categories; OTT; Dongle; Middleware; High-end STB, and uniquely, ours—integrated software.
OTT / “cloud” – (Over the Top) – OTT essentially means that the broadcasters / operators have to create a version of their content that can be delivered to the mobile device via the internet. This means they must change the content for each device, and also maintain the infrastructure for its delivery. Some limitations of OTT services are that they have some (not all) content, and don’t have any link to the users STB for recorded content. There are many commentators predicting the death of scheduled TV due to the rise in OTT services, directly from the operators / broadcasters or even production houses. There are also issues in delivering all content to all users, in terms of scaling the infrastructure and internet bandwidth required for this.
Dongle – (plug in accessory) – A dongle solution is something that is plugged into, or wired into a Set-Top Box, e.g. a Slingbox. For a plugged in solution, it will be compatible with a limited range of STB’s, and for a wired in version, it requires installation which is not necessarily simple for the non-technically minded. For wired in type products (those bought in shops) there is no link to the STB, and typically the viewer can watch television on a mobile device, but only the same programme as that which is being watched on the main television set. This defeats much of its value for different viewers throughout a home.
Middleware – (middleware is the name used for the software within the STB) – Some middleware providers have extensions which means that the viewer can access their STB remotely, with a similar look and feel to their television experience. The ability to watch television using these solutions is limited at this time, due to the fact that they do not transcode the content (that is modify it to fit the mobile device and way it is connected).
High-End STBs – (media centre type solutions) – some operators / manufacturers are starting to offer high-end STBs (for high-end read expensive), which have media centre type capabilities. These capabilities might include access to all content on the STB etc. The barriers to entry are high cost and also switch out of the installed base of STB’s.
So why not produce an offering which will allow access to everything available on the main STB of the house (live, recorded etc) and can also distribute it anywhere across a wide range of devices, such as Television Anywhere from Motive Television. Television Anywhere is a software only solution that can be installed on existing STB’s, and allows access to all content, anywhere (if the rights / operators allow). Television Anywhere from Motive, a true Television Anywhere / Everywhere / Somewhere solution.
Dr Glenn Craib
Managing Director Motive Television Scotland Ltd