Internet TV gaining ground in Asia: Internet TV--not to be confused with the IPTV walled-garden variety--is said to be acquiring a growing number of followers, as Mike Feazel discovers.
Navasero says most current pay-TV "walled-garden" approaches are "Jurassic", referring to the age of the dinosaurs. He explains that his entrepreneurial company is designed to "provide a positive change in the media ecosystem".
"We hope it revolutionises media viewing globally," he adds.
Glocal Media, which is still in the pilot stage and hopes to launch commercially soon, is involved in the new FutureTV collaborative project launched by the Media Development Authority of Singapore (MDA) last June. Other participants include MediaCorp, StarHub, PGK Media, ServTouch-ETI, SingTel, EON Reality and Ufinity.
Glocal's project is called SGTV (Smart Glocal TV or Singapore TV). Basically, it provides Internet-based widgets developed by Intel, Yahoo! and others, giving owners of smart TVs access to multi-modal video services, which range from social networks to more-traditional video content.
The service will deliver content from broadcasters such as MediaCorp, as well as other Internet-based content producers, music artists and media stakeholders. The content can be downloaded to PCs, mobile phones and MP3 players, in addition to smart TV sets.
The goal is to "converge" traditional TV and the newer forms of Internet-based video delivery into "a simplistic approach to providing open TV that has everything connected", Navasero explains. Among its tools are a new electronic programme guide called "Widget TV" that handles both broadband and Internet TV.
An approach like that was endorsed by Bob Saunders, president of Skitter.TV, who says "the most successful entertainment service offerings will be those that combine linear TV with Internet TV", providing "user-generated content in a sit-back viewing experience on the TV, as well as the computer and mobile devices".
"The past 100 years have been all about Hollywood, Hollywood, Hollywood," says Navasero. "Now it is time for Asian content to make its mark, both locally and across the globe." He reveals that Glocal Media is targeting 20 million subscribers by the end of this year. Commercial launch was expected early this month, following a 90-day pilot trial.
Glocal Media already has equipment deals with a variety of vendors. For example, the service uses Intel's CE4100 chip. Entriq and Irdeto are helping with the back-end delivery systems. Other vendors include Octoshape. Navasero says all of the vendors who see Glocal Media as a demonstration test-bed for the technology "have been very supportive".
One of the key issues, other than dealing with the problem of finding early adopters to begin using the service, is finding consumer electronics (CE) products that incorporate the "smart TV" technologies. Navasero says Glocal Media hopes to begin seeing more CE products equipped with the Intel CE4100 chip soon, possibly at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this month.
Other industry officials are hoping the movement towards industry standards for Internet TV will help boost the development of Internet-TV standards. For example, the Washington-based Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions has already approved three new IPTV standards, potentially providing a standardised technology for multicasting, for additional security in remote device management and for improved end-user quality of experience.
For the ATIS IPTV Interoperability Forum (IIF), the next step is developing standards for interactive-TV and on-demand applications, says Dan O'Callaghan, chairman of IIF. A later phase, set for 2011, is to deal with targeted advertising standards and linear IPTV services.
The Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers also is working on targeted advertising standards.
Internet TV, however, is not waiting for standards. The analyst firm Reportlinker is already predicting there will be one million IPTV users in China this year, and that worldwide IPTV subscriber shipping will reach 34 million in 2010, including 8.7 million in the US, despite the big losses that Internet-TV operators can expect in the early years. In China alone, IPTV subscribers are expected to reach 23 million by 2012, states Reportlinker.
Internet-capable TV sales accounted for 6.5% of all TV-set sales in China last October, according to a study by All View Consulting. It said Internet-TV sales in China were 40% higher in October than in September, and accounted for 11.9% of all TV-set sales revenue. China is also interested in Internet TV because manufacturers see making Internet-capable TV sets as a way to give Chinese manufacturers a competitive edge over those in other parts of the world.
Internet TV also is under way in Thailand, with its Nation Broadcasting offering access to news and entertainment programmes via Internet@TV on six Samsung Electronics TV models. More content is to be offered in the first half of 2010.
In Taiwan, Max Media completed phase one of its IPTV launch, connecting more than 1,500 homes using technology from Broadband Network Systems (BNS). Within five years, it hopes to reach 10% of Taiwan's population with its 45 channels of true HD programming. "The feedback we have received from subscribers so far has been very positive, specifically with regards to the brilliant HD picture quality," says Max Media CEO Andy Cheng.
Telephone companies are particularly interested in launching IPTV, as a way to help offset the loss of wired telephone customers to wireless. "Telcos everywhere have been driving to include video as a core element of their multi-play offerings," says Matt Davis, program director at the research firm IDC. He adds that this is happening despite the fact that IPTV is "fraught with cost and complexity".
Several companies, including Cisco and Irdeto, are expected to be big players in Internet TV, which is expected to generate US$6 billion in equipment sales in 2010. Irdeto's focus is on the difficult content management side of Internet TV, giving operators technology to format, process, package and delivers content to streaming media and Internet-TV services.
Irdeto content management solutions include its Value Capture technology for billing, download, usage and other types of enquiries. It also offers digital asset security, delivery technologies, methods for consumers to search for content, an RSS-based content delivery system, and reporting and analytics.
Meanwhile, Entriq's Media Solutions technology allows rapid delivery of rich media content to consumer digital platforms. Among its customers are British Sky Broadcasting, Sky News Australia, Viacom and Foxtel Australia. On the other hand, Glocal Media sees a potential market for more than 100 million Internet-TV viewers, who will access the content via a variety of mobile and pay-TV platforms, both in-home and out of home.
In India, for example, WatchIndia already is seeing a big take-up by consumers following its roll-out of eight additional Internet-TV channels, say officials. The channels include Zee News, Zee Business, Zee 24 Gantalu, Zee 24 Ghanta, Zee 24 Taas, Zing, Aastha India and Aastha Bhajan.
Some content providers, however, remain wary about Internet TV. In China, some of the concerns include piracy. Elsewhere, including in the US, the concern is finding a viable business model. Discovery Networks, for example, is holding off on delivering long-form programming via Internet TV until it finds a way to make money on it, limiting its content to shortform clips.
Even Hulu, said to be the most successful in deploying content to Internet TV in the US, is struggling to make money with its advertising-supported content. Officials have said they would not rule out switching to a subscription-based model.
As for Glocal Media, Navesero says the dreams do not stop with just Singapore, or even with just Asia. "We hope to roll out throughout the Asian region, and to sell our Asian widgets in the EU, China and the Americas," he said.