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Miniweb White Paper


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Miniweb White Paper

  1. 1. miniweb interactive Making interactive tv affordable The changing economics of interactive TV, and why it now makes good business sense
  2. 2. Contents Introduction 3 Lessons from the past Broadband not broadcast 5 Cheap content authoring What! Not HTML? 6 Low cost of deployment 7 Generating usage Affordable interactive TV – NOW! 8 What is the future of interactive TV? Conclusion 9 Contact 11 2
  3. 3. Introduction Services that are expensive to build and run and are deployed to a small number of devices are ultimately Interactive TV has been a success in various ‘niche’, doomed to failure. However, services that can be high value applications such as TV betting and developed cheaply, deployed widely, operated at low interactive advertising, yet despite these successes cost, and associated with TV audiences to generate it has failed to enter the mainstream, largely due to a traffic, can make real economic sense. combination of commercial and technical barriers that have prevented its widespread adoption. This paper examines the past, present and future of interactive TV and the significant changes that are These barriers are now rapidly crumbling and a new era happening right now, which will make interactive TV is emerging, where the very nature of TV is networked so affordable, and so ubiquitous, that it could well and interactive. This future sees TV move towards represent the next ‘big thing’ in consumer interaction. a social, community driven, empowering, deeply entertaining and engaging TV experience which has Lessons from the past interactivity at its heart. The first real appearance of interactive TV was in 1959, The basis of sustainable interactive TV is in the changing with the introduction of the telephone call-in. Since economics. The addition of IP connections into TV devices then, these services have gradually developed into has the potential to bring the economics of the internet to what we see today. Although not usually recognised the entertainment and interactive TV industries. as ‘interactive’, a large quantity of TV programming is designed for, and relies on interactive opportunities for revenue, augmenting traditional TV subscription and advertising models. Hardly a show goes by, or a channel visited, where a URL, phone number or premium text service is not presented on screen as a mechanism for audiences to respond to the TV. Once the economics of on-screen interactive TV can compete with telephone, SMS text services and web, while delivering greater interactive margins to the broadcasters, most of these services will migrate onto It is all about value. Content owners, TV network the TV itself. operators and advertisers all need to see a return on their investments in interactive TV. Consumers need Recent studies have shown that ‘single screen’ to be linked up to appropriate services, and see audience participation can be as much as four increasing benefit from their use, which enhances times higher than ‘two screen’ web or mobile based their TV experience. interaction, offering broadcasters higher response Changing the economics associated with interactive rates and higher margins. TV requires: Interactive TV therefore has proven benefits for content 1. the costs of service creation and deployment to owners. It enables a deeper relationship between a be driven down to web-based levels broadcaster and its viewers. Viewers who interact spend longer with the channel brand when they are guided to 2. usage to be increased, delivering greater entertainment-focused applications that are relevant consumer appeal and compelling. Calls to action based around on-air 3. integration with core entertainment propositions programming also drive traffic to revenue-generating applications like betting, retail or competitions. 3
  4. 4. “services that can be developed cheaply, deployed widely, operated at low cost, and associated with TV audiences to generate traffic, can make real economic sense” Advertisers use iTV to turn a 30 second commercial into an extended and possibly two-way interaction with their target audience, increasing brand involvement and generating direct sales. each distribution platform/middleware used, and partly because of the costs of getting the applications ‘on air’. Whatever the motive for interacting with audiences, until now, the opportunity has been limited to the To reach all viewers in the UK alone would require 3-5 best resourced broadcasters, channel owners and separate authoring projects for satellite, cable, DTT advertisers. It has cost as much as £1 million to build, and multiple IPTV services, plus transmission and test, deploy and deliver major interactive television deployment costs. Lack of competition for application services and £10,000 a month operational costs are authoring within each middleware means programming typical. Such a high cost-base has been a major barrier costs are also kept high for each iTV environment. to entry, inhibiting the growth of interactive TV as a These traditional broadcast interactive TV applications market segment. lack the power and sophistication of internet-delivered Today, with both digital TV and broadband being interactivity. So many content owners using iTV commonplace in UK homes, the possibilities of have also built video-enabled websites that deliver a interactive TV are almost limitless. However, digital TV more compelling two-way, personalised and targeted and broadband are two separate technologies that have experience for PCs. In a broadband TV world, this is a both now reached mainstream but have yet to converge. duplication of effort, as they are often targeting their television audience with both an iTV and an online Digital TV initiatives, in satellite, cable and terrestrial service, but moving their audiences away from the forms, were designed and deployed independently TV device. of broadband; they therefore rely upon broadcast technologies as a means to deliver interactive However, broadcasters recognised the value of iTV and applications and content. it was quickly learned that if you can drive enough traffic through an interactive application, it can be made to pay This use of broadcast to deliver interactivity has resulted for itself, and the ‘red button’ was invented as a means in many proprietary interactive platforms and expensive to directly tie a TV audience to a contextual, relevant or spectrum being used for its delivery. This has had a convenient service, and thereby drive up usage. direct effect on the cost of iTV content creation and delivery, making an interactive service as expensive as It is interesting to note that when Sky moved towards running a small TV channel. red button services, it also moved towards the use of an interactive TV technology that could re-use internet content and infrastructures, and thereby minimise the Media content to consumers - Today use of interactive bandwidth and service authoring. Consumer Sky’s micro-browser model not only allowed red button Studios & services to seamlessly emerge, pushing up traffic, but Production DTT Broadcasters simultaneously reduced the cost of content creation & UGC Internet and hosting by pushing it back onto the industry’s web Consumer in Study servers where it belonged. These two factors were instrumental in making Sky’s service a commercial success, and are lessons which need to be applied as the industry evolves in the future. However, if the technology had remained exclusively within Sky, The lack of interoperability means that deployment and the problems of interoperability and cross-platform development costs remain high, partly due to the need development would still exist. to create bespoke broadcast iTV applications for 4
  5. 5. From past experience the following is clear: for Broadband interactive content - enables all interactive TV to become mainstream and affordable for all content owners, a number of key issues need to DVD be addressed: Cable & Sat IP Enabled Studios & 1. Interoperability TV Devices Production Consumer Channels & DTT & in Lounge Companies Broadcasters DVD for maximum reach, services need to be authored & UGC Players IPTV once and deployed across multiple types of TV Web media Broadband TV aggregators distribution networks Interactive TV content delivered over IP 2. Low cost content authoring TV Site authoring must be in line with web authoring, and re-use internet infrastructures and content from a carousel every few seconds in the hope that management systems someone may want to use it served its purpose when there was no alternative, but there is now a much 3. Low cost of deployment better way to deliver applications and interactive services need to be made available independently of content: broadband (or even narrowband) bandwidth. expensive testing and transmission bandwidth costs High-end satellite set-top boxes are now starting to 4. Consumer usage ship with ethernet ports so that they can be hooked up to drive traffic, there must be cross platform, to a home network and a broadband connection. Cable ubiquitous mechanisms to associate TV audiences (DOCSIS enabled) and IPTV set-tops can also access with a service the internet and later this year broadband-enabled Freeview receivers should appear in UK retail outlets. 5. Consumer appeal As a result, IP connectivity is now a realistic solution to services must be fast, robust, entertaining, easy-to- delivering iTV applications and content across all use and contain video entertainment and rich content TV devices. wherever possible Fortunately the convergence of broadband and Cheap content authoring broadcast, as well as other significant developments, Having IP connectivity is not enough in itself, there means these issues are being addressed right now. needs to be an authoring format that will bridge the gap between TV devices and internet content management Broadband not broadcast systems and infrastructure. The future lies in the ability to deliver interoperability This simple mark-up language already exists. The XML across multiple networks, and to make the services TV microbrowser format, developed by the Miniweb available ‘on line’ rather than ‘on air’. founders while they were at Sky, was published via the Broadcast interactive TV can never be standardised European Telecommunication Standards Institute (ETSI) across different proprietary TV distribution networks in 2004 as an ETSI technical specification TS 102 322; and devices. The key to allowing broadcasters the ‘worldwide TV Mark-up Language’ (wTVML). Miniweb and programme makers to gain all the benefits of is now able to supply the reference implementation of interoperability lies in the use of broadband this standard to the industry on a royalty free basis on networks to deliver the interactivity instead of the various TV device types. broadcast spectrum. This format is the only commercially successful Using broadcast bandwidth to deliver iTV applications interactive TV system based on internet protocols and and data is an expensive and inefficient method of infrastructures, and has great relevance to the new world delivering iTV services. Repeatedly transmitting data of broadband-enabled devices. 5
  6. 6. “the future lies in the ability to deliver interoperability across multiple networks, and to make the services available ‘on line’ rather than ‘on air’” It is currently being enhanced to support next- generation features, which will later be re-published via ETSI as TVML 2.0 It should be emphasised that TV Sites are not websites. They use the internet as a network, use standard What! Not HTML? protocols such as http and they share the same servers Many wonder why the same content formats used on as websites, but their pages are not designed or built the web are not appropriate to be re-used on TV. Despite for the PC environment. Typically a TV Site is a subset seeming to be an obvious solution to TV Site authoring, of a website, where the applications/content have been HTML/Javascript solutions have failed to deliver on authored in wTVML specifically for display on a almost every front. television set - the same principle as re-authoring for mobile devices. The problems associated with using web technologies in a TV environment are now fully understood by operators. By using internet infrastructures and protocols, re- The main issues are: publishing or re-using content available on the web and accessing full transactional capabilities via web servers, • Web technologies do not deliver interoperability; the we are seeing the cost of iTV content creation dropping formats are not standardised for TV and cause more to the same levels as simple web authoring1. fragmentation when adapted for different devices and networks, rarely resulting in portable services It stands to reason that if content owners are already creating interactive web destinations for the PC • Many digital TV network operators have already (traditional web delivery), they will invest a small deployed millions of devices not capable of running full incremental spend in development costs to re-use the web browsers, but capable of running wTVML services, content on a TV. The most expensive web infrastructure, thereby delivering further interoperability from servers to content management and transactional systems, can be shared across both sites. For website • Rather than reducing authoring costs, creating sites in owners not currently running interactive TV services, web dialects is often more work than in a TV friendly this new delivery model represents a very cost-effective format like wTVML way to target a mass-market television audience. • TV network operators continue to white list only Competent web programmers can learn to use wTVML in those services which they have manually tested for around three weeks and there is already a 1,000 strong their devices. This testing process adds cost to the developer community registered and learning about deployment of every service or site authored in HTML this programming environment, ensuring the benefits of or JavaScript. This effectively prevents a ‘open’ system competition, innovation and shorter design cycles. and forces operators down a ‘walled garden’ model wTVML is a highly efficient programming solution for The wTVML mark-up language is a strict XML format for television display, requiring 5-10 times less code than TV which is now being updated to support broadband HTML or Javascript to achieve the same purpose. It video, HD and various user interface effects, transitions also uses a multi-page transmission model, allowing and objects. Since it works across the widest range of one request to retrieve multiple pages or scenes, TV network and device types, both new and traditional, resulting in extremely fast user interactivity. This it provides the ‘Biggest Bang for your Buck’ for content approach reduces server requests by up to six times owners authoring interactive TV services. compared to applications built upon HTML and helps to For TV network operators, this format offers access preserve a good quality user experience in heavy load to the widest range of internet derived content, as situations. It also reduces server capacity requirements the network benefits from content already authored for internet-based interactivity when compared to to the standard. alternative approaches. Miniweb has partners that will build and host a static TV Site for an 1 6 SME for as little as £200/year
  7. 7. Generating usage The original form of the ETSI approved wTVML authoring language has been used on the BSkyB satellite platform Reducing the cost of content creation, distribution and to enable narrowband IP interactive TV delivery into operations is one thing, but what about the revenue side standard set-top boxes. This approach to interactivity, of the coin? and the way it has encouraged low-cost, third-party application development, is a key reason why Sky has The overall return on investment will be based on the bucked the worldwide trend by operating a profitable traffic or interactions that an individual service gets; an iTV platform. increase in interactions is usually synonymous with an increase in revenues, either directly or indirectly. Low cost of deployment The traditional way of generating interactive TV traffic is Another benefit of interactive applications created using to associate a service with ‘push’ TV, either using a red wTVML and delivered over IP is the ability to test them button link directly or via a channel menu controlled by automatically, using a simple online robot tool, similar to the broadcaster. the web spiders used by search engines. This automation Wrapping interactive sponsorship around high audience is not possible for today’s broadcast iTV applications or programming can be very valuable, but what is the those authored using HTML or JavaScript. call to action? To formulate an answer we need to first Auto-testing represents a significant saving in both cost realise that red button interactivity is limited in a number and time-to-market. Where an old-style broadcast-based of ways, including: application might take months to be formally approved by • After a red button invitation is removed from the a network operator, wTVML services can be automatically screen, the viewer has no mechanism to get to the tested and deployed in one hour. service should they want to Deploying interactive content over broadband, instead • Red button interactivity, when linking to broadcast of via expensive broadcast spectrum, uses bandwidth content, does not work when watching time shifted already paid for by the consumer and so avoids the need or recorded material for carousel-driven, over-the-air data downloads and the expensive iTV bandwidth they ride upon. • Synchronising the red button accurately to a 30 second advertising spot requires close integration Devices that are already equipped with HTML/JS browsers between the system playing out the adverts and the are not left out when a TV Site is authored in wTVML. Due network operator’s EPG or triggering system to the declarative nature of the XML used in wTVML, the Miniweb platform is able to transform a TV Site written – On many networks this facility does not exist in wTVML dynamically into various dialects of HTML/ – For many channels distributed via multiple TV Javascript for display on these devices. networks, this is not possible. Often the networks have only rough programme data for the EPG, but Therefore, via the Miniweb platform, iTV developers can no advert level scheduling signals re-publish their web content and re-use their internet infrastructures to build new and compelling applications tv keys – unlocking usage of interactive tv Sites for a television audience, delivered to the widest range of TV devices. To address the limitations of current red button technology and harness the true potential of interactive For a content owner, comparing this solution to the TV, Miniweb has derived a non-technological solution so broadcast solutions of yesterday, it really is a whole new a call to action can be transmitted as part of the video world - interactive TV content is authored at a fraction stream. This easily remembered ‘TV Key’ is inserted of the cost and now sitting on a web server, effectively with a character generator, and can work across all deployed for free. The service can have a longer life space platforms. It is always perfectly synchronised and can be and be available for ‘long tail’ access from recorded or on- recorded with the media content on a PVR so users can demand entertainment content. access the service whenever they choose to watch. 7
  8. 8. “TV Keys work across different TV distribution networks, on recorded content, after the advert or programme is finished, and even in off-line marketing communications” On the web, the two ways to get to content are URLs and search. URLs do not work in a TV context, but a numeric substitute does. This is achieved by giving each TV Site a unique or geo-shared number, in a similar way to EPG channel numbers, or text page numbers in analogue Teletext. Viewers simply need an easy way to remember the number, a problem easily solved by associating each number with a letter on the numeric remote control keys. This is a proven system in the USA for example, where the phone number 1-800-8896757 can be remembered as 1-800-TV WORKS. Premium rate text services often have a call to action of Right now: ‘Text TV WORKS to 67845’ – which requires two items • Content owners can quickly and easily develop TV Sites of information to be remembered by the viewers, and using wTVML and register, test and deploy them for takes them away from the TV environment. free to over 8.8 million Sky homes using their internet infrastructures and content Using a TV Key, the channel simply needs to display the TV Key and provide a way for the viewer to enter • Channels wanting to make use of an interactive 8896757 into the TV. capability can tell their viewers to press ‘interactive, not red’, and enter a TV Key specific for that channel or programme. The immediate result of entering a TV Key owned by a broadcaster is that the viewer is returned to the channel and connected by Freefone to the TV Site. This ‘Key and See’ capability essentially makes TV Keys work across different TV distribution networks, it possible for channels to become interactive at a on recorded content, after the advert or programme is fraction of the costs of operating their own broadcast finished, and even in off-line marketing communications. interactive infrastructure They can also be embedded in on-demand and • Content owners can use TV Keys in TV advertising and broadband video. programming, promoting specific interactive services to Miniweb’s ability to provide this cost-effective solution their audience without taking them away from the for connecting TV audiences with interactive services TV environment removes the limitations associated with the red button for all platforms, in a non-technological way. Being able What is the future of interactive TV? to drive traffic from programming is the last component With a step change in the economics surrounding in making interactive TV affordable and profitable. interactive TV, which includes the provision of a video rich consumer experience, we will see an explosion of Affordable interactive TV – NOW! interactive content services. While some of the capabilities discussed in this paper As this interactive content is created, it will increasingly require broadband-enabled TV devices in order to be fully be associated with all types of video and TV realised, Miniweb is already applying these principles entertainment, providing additional revenue streams to across the Sky platform in the UK, making interactive support a re-invigorated interactive industry. TV on Sky more affordable than ever before. It has always been clear that the more entertaining an interactive application or service is, the better viewers 8
  9. 9. react to it, and broadcast interactive advertising who may recommend and share things that audiences locations often include extended video clips related to would not otherwise watch. the product or service being advertised. The consumer TV is changing in nature - there will soon be no can then use the interactive application to select and reason why all content should not have some form of view relevant video segments. The costs of provision interactivity available. Broadband-enabled websites have been very high, due to the nature of the service could also become indistinguishable from traditional occupying significant broadcast bandwidth. Yet, for the interactive TV channels, with TV Keys becoming largest brands and channels, such models have been equivalent to interactive channel numbers. able to deliver value and have proved to be very popular with consumers. Conclusion So, the economics of interactive TV fundamentally differ between broadband and broadcast. With broadband: • Many more devices can be reached with the same development effort, due to the benefits of interoperability based on standards • The authoring costs of interactive TV are as low as web technologies allow The combination of TV Sites and broadband video delivers the equivalent of a video rich dedicated • There are negligible costs in the testing, deployment advertiser location (DAL) at a fraction of the price of and ‘transmission’ of the service broadcast delivered interactivity. Broadband-enabled TV devices may not always be able to display broadcast • The fundamental entertainment experience of quality video over the public internet, but pulling small viewers is enhanced clips as part of an interactive TV Site is simple to These factors will allow the benefits of interactive TV, achieve. This essentially enables any web streaming previously only within the reach of large broadcasters infrastructure and site to host a DAL for a brand owner and brand owners, to be achievable for all content 24/7, and make it available as part of an interactive TV owners, whatever their business models. advertising campaign. Right now, the interactive TV business is entering Catch-up TV services delivered over the public internet a completely new era that will be characterised by to PCs are a stepping stone to true broadband TV. In a massively reduced costs for broadcasters, recent survey by the Diffusion Group in the USA which programme makers and advertisers who seek deeper, asked, “Where do you want to watch your catch-up TV more meaningful and more lucrative relationships with services?”, 85% of respondents said, “The living room”. TV viewers. For broadcasters it makes sense to deploy catch-up TV With interoperable content and broadband service services as an interactive extension to their linear TV delivery, we will see an explosion of content designed channels, directly to broadband-enabled TVs. and optimised for the 10-foot user experience of the The Miniweb platform makes it possible to simply plug television screen. Advertisers and broadcasters can in any internet hosted video archive as searchable use broadcast programming, traditional 30 second entertainment content available directly on CE devices. advertising spots or sponsorships to drive audiences to interact with media rich TV Sites via the home network Search and explore will become more important, as and the internet. will localisation and personalisation. The TV viewing experience can be extended to support a wider viewing As this occurs, a new TV experience will emerge, where community made up of friends in different locations, broadband video augments and enhances traditional TV, 9
  10. 10. “TV Keys will become the de facto call to action, embedded into a broadcast television stream, and will replace call to actions that disconnect the viewer from the TV screen” driven by an inherently interactive consumer electronic device, and where any form of web-style transactional or personalised service can be made available. TV Keys will become the de facto call to action, The use of standards, and the adoption of the Miniweb embedded into a broadcast television stream, and will platform, enables all this and more. For the broadcaster, replace call to actions that disconnect the viewer from network or device owner and brands/advertisers, the the TV screen. This is a pragmatic and cost-effective only barrier now is having the creativity to use this new alternative to the red button type iTV for all content medium to best support their business. owners, providing a programme-related call to action, but without the need for the sophisticated iTV/ broadcast stream. By enabling a mass market of interactive TV content through economically authored and cheaply deployed services with higher traffic volumes, Miniweb expects to increase the effectiveness of interactive TV for all content owners. With the key metrics of cost-per-device and return on investment having changed beyond recognition, iTV is set to become a completely different business proposition. Some things do remain the same, of course. Interactive TV will still work best when it is wrapped around relevant content, so on-air programming and advertising will continue to deliver the calls to action that drive consumers to interactive applications. The large volumes of eyeballs and usage will still be derived from ‘real’ broadcast TV. Social, family-oriented entertainment will still be the role of the TV set in the corner of the living room. But the logical and inevitable use of broadband connections and the availability - at last - of an efficient and truly interoperable TV applications programming environment, means that just about everything else has changed. Consumers will benefit from a converged broadcast and broadband entertainment experience. In this environment, interactivity is within reach of even the smallest companies; it can be localised down to the postcode level, applications can re-use internet applications and can be written once and deployed on many platforms. 10
  11. 11. miniweb interactive Find out how Miniweb is defining the interactive TV experience at or call us on +44 (0)20 8232 2020