Archive for May, 2009

video bits

Behind the transition
Lies a sense of ambiguity
Why hide behind the truth
Of what you are?
Your character becomes distorted

Every once in a while I have to check myself to ensure that I am getting things right about IPTV. There is soooo much confusion in the marketplace from a variety of sources, some accidental, some intentional, some is generational and some is borne out of a lack of understanding.

What is IPTV? Easy, video (TV) over IP!

This is where, for the moment, I part company.

By the above definition, the service provided by AT&T’s U-Verse product is exactly the same as that provided by YouTube or Hulu. Somehow that just doesn’t seem quite right. Obviously not alone with this definition, ‘the industry’ coined a new term of “Over the Top”. This is video that is delivered over any generic IP connection, be it ADSL, Cable Modem, 3G, WiFi, WiMAX or other.

Therefore it would seem that a major differentiator is quality (and price!).

The lounge room of the modern home has just shelled out some serious dollars for a large TV, and wants to get a quality experience. They want quality productions, quality picture, quality sound and a quality jitter-free delivery of that experience in response to the incessants clicks of their remote. Notice here that quality of experience here is not just picture quality, but the overall experience…

“Over the top” cannot yet match that quality of experience. Partly because of the encoding techniques and partly because of the buffering/partial downloads required to smooth out the non-deterministic nature of the delivery mechanism, in this case the internet. Add to this complexity the user interface issues, and the ease of getting Web video into the lounge room, and… well you get the picture (or not – pun intended).

In order to overcome this mess, many new services are focused on VOD in order to define a niche by competing directly against DVDs and suchlike. They enable you to download content to a box (even your PC), and you play it locally – you pay for the bandwidth/storage tradeoff with time. But the value proposition is that time investment is still less than running to your local ‘Video Store’.

This brings up another point. Is video the same as TV? Likely in the future it will be. But today, TV is a streamed, real-time medium that brings appointment shows to facilitate a collective experience. As we increasingly personalize our content consumption real-time will become an increasingly moot point – except perhaps for competitive events like elections, sports and for time specific events like live concerts and news. It will be ‘my time’ TV (TM).

So IPTV is not just TV over IP. It is a managed service, that ensures comparable (or in many cases superior) quality TV experiences to that of the current home RF delivery mechanisms of Antenna, Cable and Satellite. But this is just the first step. With a common IT network infrastructure, your STB is now capable of allowing you to self-provision many more applications and services – just think of an applications store for the lounge room TV experience.

Can I do that on any other IP infrastructure? Yes, its called the web. And maybe that’s where the confusion lies, that fact that it can be done, rather than being done well.

But we all have come to expect that even this will change. So in the future IPTV will be video (TV) over IP, but just not today.

Tell me is isn’t so… I’m listening.

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May 28, 2009 at 1:00 am Leave a comment

your media, your personality

But I see your true colors
shining through
I see your true colors
and that’s why I love you
so don’t be afraid to let them show
your true colors
true colors are beautiful
like a rainbow

An article published at AdAge.com http://adage.com/article?article_id=136408 on May 4, 2009 suggested that personality is often a more effective prediction tool for media usage than age, gender and income.

“We had a hunch that people’s personalities played into the kind of media they consumed,” said Sarah Welch, Mindset Media co-founder and chief operating officer. “Demographics have long been thought to be [the indicator for] media consumption. Young people use the web and watch TV, for instance. But there are so many different effective ways to reach people … using whatever psychographic your target segment has.”

In summary, the study found that if you gravitate towards the:

  • Internet – Top web users rank high in openness, and to a smaller degree, those who rank high in bravado are top users, too. Those highly open people who favor the web are 153% more likely to always buy organic products and 104% more likely to drive a hybrid car. Low-level consumers of the internet tend to rank high in dogmatism, and are described as socially conservative people who tend to look to a religious or moral authority for guidance. People who are more liberal are more likely to have the internet as the most consumed media.
  • Newspapers – Finally, some good news for newspapers: Optimists are on your side. Optimists spend more time with newspapers than any other medium, and they probably recycle it, too. They’re 51% more likely to go out of their way to purchase recycled goods, 34% more likely to drive a luxury car and 30% more likely to have bought four or more PCs in the past two years. The strong-leadership group, described as people with strong decision-making skills and a preference to include everyone, read newspapers and also are 68% more likely to always purchase organic breakfast cereals and 61% more likely to buy three or more pairs of sneakers every year.
  • Magazines – People who rank low in diligence, or those who aren’t goal oriented or self-motivated, also rank low in magazine readership. Introverts also were found to shy away from print in the study. Introverts are 56% less likely to vote in presidential elections and 34% less likely to own a car.
  • TV – Dynamic people don’t watch TV. Neither do people who rank high in openness and leadership. Dynamic people, described as always on the go with a hectic lifestyle, are 50% more likely to watch less TV than the average person and are 59% more likely than the average person to watch less than an hour of TV daily. Dynamic people are also 45% more likely to buy movie tickets online and 26% more likely to describe themselves as Mac people. People with low dynamism are 53% more likely to watch more TV, as are those who rank on the low end for openness and leadership.
  • Radio – Highly dynamic people are also 36% more likely to click around from show to show. Introverts consume almost no radio, according to Mindset’s study, and people low in diligence also consume less radio. The nondiligent are also 50% more likely to watch five hours or more of TV a day, 32% more likely to not plan ahead and just pick a movie when they get to the theater, 27% more likely not to have an affinity for either PCs or Macs, and 25% more likely to restrict their kids from using the internet instead of other media.

Sounds plausible. But then, so does my daily horoscope and those personality tests in lifestyle magazines that I take for fun…

Tell me it isn’t so… I’m listening.

May 21, 2009 at 1:00 am Leave a comment

where does cable go from here?

But where do you go to my lovely
When you’re alone in your bed
Tell me the thoughts that surround you
I want to look inside your head, yes I do.

Is it just about big pipes?

The average cable connection can theoretically dump 6Gb* into the connected house. That’s a lot of bandwidth. However, as it is utilized today, even with the benefits of switched digital QAM, it’s the STB-Headend relationship that limits cable’s utility in the new world of IP. Yes, I know about DOCSIS, but it’s more than that…

In a homogenous managed IP network, the time it takes to implement a new service, and have it provisioned by the customer, is about as long as it takes for the customer to download an application. Prime example, the iTunes App Store. Believe me, that same paradigm (or a derivative thereof) is coming to the home STB (or media appliance) with IPTV. Not so easy with cable…

Here is an infrastructure that is largely heterogeneous and leverages legacy technologies that are so interconnected and tangled, that developing new applications and having them deployed costs a lot of time and money and support. Cable will be ‘out-apped’, out-serviced, out-priced, out-maneuvered and very quickly out-dated.

What cable does well is manage video content better than the IPTV providers. Nonetheless, it is going to take a very brave cable operator to take plant and equipment and re-invest heavily to move to IPTV. Right now it doesn’t make economic sense. But they’d better be planning for it… change is inevitable. Ask the free to air broadcasters about cable and satellite. Ask the print media about the web, ask the record manufacturers about CDs, and then about MP3. I could go on… Now, that doesn’t mean cable will go away, it just means that there will not be as much money flowing through that business as once was.

A bit of good news… Many IPTV providers looked to their cable brethren for talent hire and have found themselves saddled with bad cable practices on their shiny new platform. A temporary setback I’m sure.

IPTV is inevitable. Technically it makes sense, economically it also starting to make sense. As the media utility becomes the norm, the appliances will just plug in… and they’ll plug in via IP. Already the networks are eagerly HULUing an over the top IPTV play. Oh, and did I mention that the consumer is quite likely using cable bandwidth to enjoy that experience! Capping that IP bandwidth (both economically and technically) is only a temporary tactic at delaying the inevitable.

Focus on your expertise – managing a video network, leveraging content and those big fat connections. Get with the program and forget about QAM and those stream filtering, RF tuning STBs. Move to IP and save yourselves. The Telcos are coming. They have deeper pockets, a green field infrastructure, an ability to roll out services faster than lightening, and an eagerness to learn about video – just as aggressively as cable demonstrated its eagerness to learn about VOIP.

Tell me it isn’t so… I’m listening.

*A common QAM level in CATV is 256 QAM, which amounts to about a 38 MBPS data rate per each channel. HFC systems are migrating toward 1,002 MHz upper frequency limit, so at 6 MHz per channel, there’s about 158 channels of capacity on these upgraded systems. Simply put, that’s 6 GBPS full spectrum that fits on a single wavelength using the radio-centric cable signaling method. While this capacity is no big secret, it is almost never presented this way in the HFC vs. FTTH forum because cable employs so many different radio formats over the typical system that it’s hard to make a direct comparison given the state of a cable system today, with its mix of analog channels, digital channels, cable modem channels, etc. (http://www.acicomms.com/hfc_vs_ftth_1.html)

May 14, 2009 at 12:00 am Leave a comment

thinking about IPTV

So many obstacles
(so many obstacles)
Gettin in the way
(gettin in the way)
What if we step past this transition
there is so much we’ll be missing in our lives
such as you and I
so should we swallow this frustration and hope that this temptation will subside
or should we just try

Recently a colleague of mine posted some comments on IPTV to an internal team. I thought that this was an interesting compilation of issues that still dog IPTV implementations. Whilst I do not fully agree with all of them, they are worth considering as you consider the development of your IPTV business model.

CAPEX
“A Video headend costs atleast 1M Euros, maybe 2M.  If you are going to serve 1000 or 10000 customers, you are never going to get your money back.  Typical critical mass for most of the business plans  I’ve seen is atleast 50000, otherwise you are talking about a shared infrastructure that does not yet exist”
– Benjamin Schwarz, Farncombe Technology

QOS/AVAILABILITY
“Managing to deliver something of quality is critical.  The companies that launched back in 2003 are still struggling to deliver service availability that is equivalent to satellite or cable TV.”

MANAGEMENT
“One of the huge issues that has come up for IPTV companies that have been around a while is managing the Set-top boxes.  Its all very well to patch, refresh one model but when you have been running a service for a while, you tend to have multiple set-top boxes from multiple vendors, multiple chip-sets and that gets very complicated…because contrary to satellite, where the usage life of a STB is about 7-12years, IPTV STBs rotate in three years…resulting in a very heterogeneous enviroment.  They still represent 60% of the CAPEX.

BUILDING A CATALOG
“One of the typical technical challenges is that media companies know about media, they have technicians that know about video, filimg , how to produce a trailer.  Telcos haven’t a clue how to set about that, so if you are going to set up a VOD service and build your own catalog, its a very upward struggle, complex issues to solve to actually ingest all that content, get the quality right, as I said  get the trailers done, you usually need to produce your own trailers done, because out-sourced trailers look different …so getting the pure technical issues of managing video, the telcos are good at managing communications and IP network, they are not yet good at managing video.”

ASIAN IPTV
“By 2013, 60% of TV households in Asia will have pay TV solution and half of those will be served by IPTV.”
– Phil Lawrie, Director Global Distribution, Al Jazeera Networks

COMPELLING CONTENT
“The fixed line business has been declining and the broadband business has been increasing,…and by having a triple play offer, we have been able have this very strong proposition that attracts customers.  The TV element is becoming a must have and addding TV to broadband keeps customers loyal”
– Paula Souloumiac, Director of International TV – Content Division, France Telecom

Regardless of the business obstacles, delivering video over IP is the future. Broadcasting may be an efficient distribution model, but it is increasingly become an inefficient business model. In the world in which we live, consumer money speaks. And, consumers are willing to pay to get what they want.

Tell me it isn’t so… I’m listening.

May 8, 2009 at 8:18 am Leave a comment


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