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Television Anytime: What can a broadcaster do with it?
When I joined Motive in 2009 and first got involved with Television Anytime we had a great innovative technology but not a very good understanding on what the world could do with it

30 September 2011

When I joined Motive Television in 2009 and first got involved with Television Anytime, which was then called Bestv®, we had a great innovative technology but not a very good understanding on what the world could do with it other than use it to provide Push Video on Demand, as Mediaset was preparing to do.

PVOD over the air is truly a breakthrough technology and has made significant amount of revenue for Mediaset since they launched our technology commercially in late 2009.  It has spawned discussions with broadcasters and pay television operators on 3 continents and led to our first use of the same technology with a DTH satellite broadcaster, Digiturk, later this year.  More broadcasters will be following Mediaset’s lead in this regard in the future.  This is particularly true in developing markets where a relatively small percentage of households have cable or fast broadband connections.

However, based on discussions with industry colleagues combined with our in-house experience and television knowledge at Motive Television, it became apparent in 2010 that there were many perhaps unexpected uses possible for our patented software.

Fundamentally, Television Anytime provides software on servers in the broadcast operating center and in compatible home devices with memory (STB/PVR’s for example) that allows the broadcasting platform (FTA or Pay) to do three things:

  • Trigger a tuner and hard disk (or other storage) to auto-record any particular content being broadcast on any channel and tag it with various parameters for non-linear viewing later (such as viewing start/stop dates, category/genre, free or pay, etc.)
  • Digitize and send content, such as a movie, as data rather than video in data packages (data-casting) to the hard disk of the STB/PVR within available space in the channel feed, and have it reconstituted as video content in the home box.
  • Instruct the STB/PVR what to do with the content that has been recorded in terms of displaying it on the program guide for the viewer and making it available on a free or pay basis.

And this entire platform is done completely over the DTT existing signal so it requires no extra infrastructure, no Internet or cable connection.

When I describe this to over-the-air broadcasters the effect is “jaw-dropping” – the usual response from broadcasting CEO’s is, “You can do that?”

But what has really been amazing to me is the number of additional uses that we have discovered for these simple capabilities, beyond the very popular and obvious Video on Demand and Catch-up TV.

The first “unexpected outcome” was the ability to distribute 3D content over the normal broadcast system using data-casting.  Mediaset have been doing this since October 2010.  Using Television Anytime, a 3D movie is just a bigger data file.

But then, some other possibilities became evident:

For example, Plus One channels.  In the UK there are 5 or 6 Plus One channels on Freeview, and at last count over 100 throughout Europe.  A Plus One channel, for the uninitiated, is simply a repeat of a popular linear channel with all the programs shown one hour later.  In addition to viewer convenience, it gives the FTA channel broadcaster and additional hour of “primetime” advertising to sell, and our research shows that major advertisers have averaged about a 10% increase in advertising payments to broadcasters for the additional Plus One channel.

The downside of Plus One channels is that a broadcaster must actually broadcast it with all the associated costs for this 10% ad revenue boost.  He must use or acquire added broadcast channel capacity, and this can cost over £300,000 per month in the UK and over €1 million per year.  Someone has to manage it both generally and technically.  And there may or may not be added content costs.

Well, with Television Anytime, here’s how we can do Plus One channels in simple terms:

  • We send an instruction to all the enabled STB’s to record a rolling two hours of the original channel and give it a name, Channel X Plus One.
  • We tell the STB to display this Channel X Plus One as if it were a real channel on the program listing.
  • Done.  The Plus One channel has thus been created almost for free for the broadcaster who may still sell added advertising.

Another very interesting capability is Virtual Channels.  By auto-recording particular shows and saving them in the STB/PVR, and by tagging them with their genre, it becomes possible to create “virtual channels” that appear as new channels to the viewer but never actually are broadcast.

Here is an example.  Suppose a broadcaster airs 5 hours a week of cooking and food shows.  Television Anytime can instruct the STB/PVR’s to record these and store them for later use.  When enough content is stored the STB can then be instructed to “create” a new Food Channel on the program listing and air a schedule of re-purposed programs.  And the broadcaster can sell advertising space against it without ever re-broadcasting the content.

A second example of a virtual channel might be called “Anytime News”.  Instead of having to watch the nightly news at 7pm or 10pm or whatever, a broadcaster could use Television Anytime to offer a new virtual channel where viewers can watch the most current newscast whenever they want to do so.  Without any further expense!

Before leaving the topic of Virtual Channels, I should mention that the content can be augmented by new programs, not previously broadcast, through data-casting during using available capacity during the day or in the middle of the night.

The above are just two of the “what you can do with it” features that make Television Anytime much more than just a Push VOD solution. 

CEO Motive Television