Posts tagged ‘Video’

every house needs a san

I know the fear you hold inside
I know what’s weighing on your mind
There’s nothing you can do
So stand up, get up, back up.

Ever notice how much digital stuff you accumulate? Notice how you have copies of copies floating around in different directories, on different machines? How much of it is important?

I’m not going to preach about backups… we all know what we need to do.

I can honestly say that I do it, and it has been a part of my life for many years. It saved me about two years ago when my laptop got stolen. Simply bought a replacement a I was fully operational within hours. It is just like insurance. You hate paying the price, but when the promise is made good, you feel it has all been worthwhile.

What would you do if you lost a movie? These days most people would kiss their DVD goodbye and use the misfortune to upgrade to a Blue-ray version. What if you lost an entire digital library? Maybe a little hard to imagine just yet, after all, how many people have digital movie libraries on their home network?

But what if the same thing applied to all of those great digital photos? Your MP3 library?

Is this why I’ve started to see SANs and Mirror drives starting to become a consumer category? Not too many at your local big box electronics store just yet, but certainly a whole range on-line for the serious hobbyist consumer.

Will it ever hit the mainstream? Or will the general digital consuming populace opt for consuming ‘long-form content’ on-line? Pipes into the home are now sufficiently affordable to support streaming, and those Blue-ray players, Xboxes, PS2s, Wiis, TVs and PCs etc. support some type of commercial streaming service (like a Netflix, Blockbuster etc.)

I have seen my children lose files. Having grown up with computers, they accept it as a normal thing and source another copy from the web immediately – even though they can get the backup quite easily. So it leads me to a conclusion that the consumer of tomorrow is more likely to see the ‘cloud in the web’ as their information/data/content repository and not really be bothered with a SAN in the basement. I, on the other hand, will continue to indulge myself and keep a copy… just in case.

Tell me it isn’t so… I’m listening.

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April 1, 2010 at 7:14 am Leave a comment

the seven pillars of media

And I see things
That no one would ever glimpse
As your eyes roll back
And the real party begins
And I feel things
That I’m not supposed to feel
As I reassure myself
That I’m nothing but a jewel upon your crown

This week I discuss a new tool that I have developed in exploring mediums. It enables classification of mediums from both the perspective of consumers as well as that of the business and marketplace. I have called it the 7 pillars, because I am unashamedly trading off T. E. Lawrence’s Seven Pillars of Wisdom, and the themes of change, challenge and sustainability contained therein.

This framework contains seven pillars which support the media business and is weighted to look at things from a consumer perspective. Why? In the end, media is about the consumer, the audiences, demographics and psychometrics to which the consumer belongs, to their purchasing power and their consequent aggregated ability to endorse or demote marketplace media preferences.

Back in April, 2009 in why target, I made reference to the fact that consumers have three things to trade with a media company:

  1. Privacy (P) – by identifying their attributes, consumers add value by enabling the medium to build monetization cases by clearly measuring and demonstrating value to purchasers of advertising and sellers of content.
  2. Money ($) – either directly through paid subscriptions or subsidies, or indirectly through purchasing advertised content, goods and services.
  3. Time (T) – the amount of time that they spend with the medium and thus building equity in the audiences that are subsequently monetized.

Each of these are shown in the table below…

Consumer Dimensions

Business Attributes

I have started mapping these attributes across clusters of similar mediums, and present TV mediums as the first in this series.

The Lounge room TV experience

Clearly displayed is the technical dominance of and consumer potential that IPTV promises as a medium. However, being better does not count too much if you don’t have market share, and this is where the traditional players of cable, satellite and terrestrial TV shine. Note that IPTV encapsulates my thinking on both walled-garden as well as Over The Top, but in all cases, this is the ‘lounge-room’ experience.

Each of these mediums displays a footprint that broadly reflects the ongoing business model viability ‘at present’. It shows comparative capabilities and offers a quick visual to suggest potential areas of competitive improvement.

It is not perfect, but it does provide a very useful discussion tool, a common language for dialog and a real way to connect with the customer who is now driving the business.

I have analyzed all mediums in greater detail, and explained my justification for the scoring. These scores will be updated each quarter with new observations, press coverage and anecdotal information.

Change is certain, but guessing the future is still very precarious – especially in the media business. As stated by Edgar R. Fiedler “He who lives by the crystal ball soon learns to eat ground glass.”

Nonetheless, it is a tool that hopefully you’ll find useful.

Tell me it isn’t so… I’m listening.

October 29, 2009 at 1:00 am Leave a comment

iptv on a growth trajectory

We are all gathered here on the verge of thankless years,
to find out why we’re lost.
And I don’t think It’s wrong if you find out where you belong
and you want to run from here.

Are we finally getting traction?

I used to make a great distinction between IPTV and “over the top” video. I still do. I also maintained that as the quality of the online video experience improved, we’d see a blurring between the two approaches, and that would be the tipping point for a mainstream acceptance of video over IP delivery. That day is finally at hand.

Recently MRG published a report finding that global IPTV subscribers would grow from 27.7M in 2009 to 81.0M in 2013 with an associated 32% CAGR. A bit down from their previous CAGR of about 50%. I guess the global financial meltdown had to have some effect.

Ponder this…  There are many markets that are considering (or already employing) hybrid STB technologies to receive linear feeds via satellite and interactive via broadband. These approaches also contribute to the overall numbers published by MRG. In the US, Sezmi is a good example of this type of delivery. As broadband penetration increases, then it makes sense that IPTV or video over IP will also increase correspondingly.

GF0509_eblast

Yes, I think not only is it time to abandon those BNC connectors for IP and make the move to digital, but there is mounting evidence to suggest that broadcasting (via RF, Cable and Satellite) as we know it, may be simply become alternative IP delivery streams. Perhaps broadcast engineers now have a reason to learn some IT after all – or perhaps just retire, and warm by the glow of their valvyon* memories.

Tell me is isn’t so… I’m listening.

*A contrived word to eulogize the halcyon days of valves.

July 16, 2009 at 1:00 am Leave a comment

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.

May 28, 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

NAB2009

I fell down in the desert baby, yeah
I had nothing but a peice of paper, oh yeah,
I had to write something down,
And I found myself alone, then I let go of everything,
Into another dimension

Another year and another NAB. Although I typically post on a Thursday, I was dragging by the end of the show. Getting home late after such a draining exercise was a great reason to postpone any writing effort.

NAB2009 South Hall lower, looking back towards upper level

NAB2009 South Hall lower, looking back towards upper level

A couple of observations.

Attendance was down. No surprise. But the interesting side-effect of this was that the quality of the meetings I had, on average was far better, with more engaged people. There were fewer tire kickers.
Time was important. Most NABs, people are late for meetings, if they show up at all. This year, for some reason, I cannot think of one scheduled meeting that was late or cancelled.
3D is here. Seems as though most other stuff was about speeds and feeds, or derivatives of existing products and processes. However, there was a real lot of innovation happening in the 3D world, focused on production, presentation technologies and general focus on getting this technology to the consumer. It’s just around the corner folks.
Business Models. Sun held our Media Advisory Board and the topic was on advanced advertising. I was amazed at the level of interest, the degree to which some organizations are investing and building their business models around it, and most importantly, the lack of common language as to what it all means. Even our friends in the advertising world are not in agreement. Sun also conducted a test of a pilot Video As a Service for IPTV delivery.

Video as a Service test pilot at NAB2009

Video as a Service test pilot at NAB2009

The economy. Every year at NAB there is a job board, but this year, it was busier than ever.

    One of the many job boards at NAB2009

    One of the many job boards at NAB2009

    Tell me it isn’t so… I’m listening.

    Looking forward to seeing you all next year.

    April 24, 2009 at 9:44 am Leave a comment

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