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Interview: Motive nation
By John Harrington, from Digital Look®

28 October 2011
Leonard M Fertig

AIM-listed minnow Motive Television has technology that can provide TV “anytime, anywhere”. Parents who still have children living at home might think they are already living in a world of TV “all the time, everywhere” but that just underlines the latent demand for a technology that enables people to ‘stay connected’, wherever they may be.

“TV anywhere is a very hot topic in the industry. It is being approached incrementally by broadcasters, for example Sky, with its Sky Go service,” says Leonard Fertig, the chief executive officer of Motive Television.

Sky launched its TV on-demand and on the move service in July. It enables subscribers to watch Sky TV channels on their computer or on a portable communications device, so long as that device is made by Apple and is called an iPhone or an iPad. It is pretty cool, though Fertig reckons his company’s offering is cooler. In fact, he thinks it is cooler than all the competing technologies and in a no-doubt well-rehearsed spiel he explained why to Sharecast.

Sky Go

As hinted at above, the Sky service is available for a limited number of devices – tough luck if you use a smartphone that uses the popular Android operating system, for instance. Tough luck, also, if you want to register more than two devices for the Sky Go service.

From Sky’s perspective, there is also a technological overhead, because “Sky has to reconfigure every broadcast for each device,” Fertig explains.

It is also costly ”because they need to get new content rights for each new media device,” according to Fertig. Furthermore, in order to receive it, you need a fixed telecom line, not a satellite dish, so, in Fertig’s words, Sky is “ignoring the distribution system they spent 10 years building.”

Lastly, if you think that as a Sky subscriber you can get all of the channels you currently enjoy on your Sky service, think again; it ain’t necessarily so, though the service is free to all Sky TV customers. Mind you, five sports channels, 21 entertainment channels and four film channels, plus access to more than 500 films on demand, should be enough for all but the most goggle-eyed viewer.

The high-end box option

This is the preferred option for the modern day equivalent of the hi-fi buff. “These super-chip boxes have the ability to do all the transcoding, all the digital-to-digital data conversion that ensures your device can interpret the signal,” Fertig explained. “That will work,” the Motive Television evangelist conceded, “but these boxes cost £300 or £400 per box. This is very expensive hardware versus a standard £100 set-top box.” The implication being, that Motive’s technology turns the standard set-top box into something comparable to the more expensive, high-specification box.

Slingbox

Slingbox, and other media streaming devices, enable you to watch the television that is in your home (and connected to the Slingbox) while you are on the other side of the world. You don’t have to be on the other side of the world, of course – you could be sitting on the garden wall, smoking a ciggie with a laptop on your thighs, for instance – but it sounds more impressive if you tell your mates down the pub that you caught the re-runs of “Prisoner in Cell Block H” on your laptop in between sessions of kayaking down the Orinoco river.

“What’s wrong with it is it is only a one channel device. For in-home use it does not work for families,” Fertig avers. “Once the Slingbox sends the signal out [via the internet], it’s in the clear. There is no content scrambling, all the effort on the parts of the content owners to protect their property has been rendered useless,” Fertig claims.

The Motive Television option

So, no surprises for guessing which service Fertig thinks has all the answers to these problems, except actually, the company has two answers: Television Anytime and Television Anywhere.

Television Anytime is a technology platform that enables digital broadcasters and pay-TV to offer enhanced broadcasting services with or without the need for an internet connection. A bit of self-updating software integrated into the set-top box will enable the broadcaster to provide video on demand, catch-up TV and even targeted advertising.

Television Anywhere, meanwhile, is the dissemination option that allows the user to control and watch all the content received by or recorded on their main home television equipment on any computer, any mobile phone (not just Apple products), tablet device or any other internet connected device. It too is software based, and self-updating, so, in theory, there will be no need to upgrade your hardware when we all switch over to holographic televisions (3D TV is so 2010).

“It really is TV anywhere. Any device, any channel, live, recorded …” enthuses Fertig, sounding like he was about to break into a quick rendition of the old Martini advertising jingle, "anytime, anyplace, anywhere".

So, the product could be worth buying, what about the shares?

In determining whether Motive Television is going to be a success or go the way of the eight-track cartridge, the key is in becoming an industry standard for the television content providers and their technology partners.

The bottom line seems to be that Motive Television’s service is very appealing to pay-TV companies because it is cheaper. “Consumers want flexibility. The kids are pushing to watch what they want, maybe when they are out with their friends; the parents are trying to fit in a spot of TV watching into their busy schedules, and the industry is trying to figure out how to accommodate this demand without going broke,” Fertig maintains.

Motive’s solution is cheaper partly because it is a one-size fits all offering. It is device independent, it works on old televisions, and, because it is software based, it can be tweaked so it integrates with any set-top box.

“Set–top boxes have cheap [computer] chips because they never had to do too much. Our software enables the chips to do a lot of stuff,” Fertig said, pitching the complexity of the explanation at about my technical level.

Though Sky continues to plough its own furrow, an increasing number of its global rivals are taking an interest in Motive Television’s offering. Last week the company signed a letter of intent with Central European Media Enterprises (CME) covering the project phases whereby the specifications for the potential roll-out of “Television Anytime Anywhere” technologies in CME’s markets.

Replenishing the coffers

Last month, the company revealed the name of the broadcaster with which it signed a deal in October of last year. The agreement, which is expected to generate around $1.1m in revenue in the first year of operation, is with Sagemcom, a leading European provider of Digital Set Top Box solutions.

The Motive Television Anytime technology is being provided to Digiturk, a Sagemcom customer and leading satellite television operator in Turkey that broadcasts Turkish programming to viewers in Turkey and around the world.

A few more of these sorts of deals and Motive Television should see itself breaking even. Fertig would not be drawn on how many deals are required to reach that happy state, but he did say that the company are working on concluding some more implementation deals.

“The irony is that in this stage of our development, the more interest that is shown in our products, the more it costs us, but in 2012 we should start reaping the harvest of our development efforts,” Fertig concluded.

In the meantime, the company has recently raised around £0.95m through a placing of shares at 0.14p per share, which it thinks should provide it with enough cash in the kitty to tide it over until “operating cash break-even”.

The company's first client, Mediaset, has placed an order for a second tranche of set-top boxes and has ordered new products and features for their Premium On Demand product from Motive, while Digiturk, the company's second customer, will launch its consumer product shortly and has requested additional features from Motive, the company revealed.

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