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The creative potential in connected TV

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Roly Keating | 12:41 UK time, Friday, 4 March 2011

Earlier this week, Mark Thompson spoke of a common tendency to overestimate the impact technologies can have in the short term, and underestimate the impact they can have in the long-term. That's certainly true in internet-connected TV.

The BBC iPlayer has brought time-shifted viewing on demand to the mainstream, but rather than ushering in the 'death of TV' many forecast, linear TV broadcasting has prospered. The challenge now lies in evolving TV to add the interactive richness that will make TV better, but keep it simple and seamless.

It's an issue close to my heart. In addition to my role as Director of Archive Content, I also represent the BBC's editorial interests in TV on the BBC Online Direction Group, and it's in that capacity I gave a keynote speech at the Digital Television Group's Annual Summit earlier today.

The DTG brings together broadcasters, consumer electronics companies and platform operators to set standards in digital TV through standard-setting initiatives such as the DBook. The DBook provided the standard upon which Freeview (now bringing free to air TV to 15 million households) and Freeview HD (a further 1m households) was built, and will form the basis of YouView's technical specification. With the BBC a partner shareholder in both ventures, the DTG remains an important shareholder partner as we seek to ensure that subscription-free TV continues to prosper in the internet age.

Connected TV, whether on Pay-TV platforms or free-to-air, remains relatively niche. It's a fragmented, complicated market for licence-fee payers. Pay-TV platforms continue to innovate, the BBC continues to make BBC iPlayer available on a wide range of connected devices and big innovations such as YouView will certainly play a positive role in boosting take-up in the future, but for the most part, video on demand remains largely out of reach for free-to-air homes. And in broadband connected homes, many of the next-generation TVs that can deliver online services to the big screen remain unconnected.

I believe that as an industry, we can do more to make connected TV more attractive and accessible for mainstream audiences. It means working in partnership with the DTG and others to develop innovative gateways into IPTV and on-demand, whether it's the Red Button, 'go-back' EPGs or others.

But above all for the BBC it means continued innovation in online products - like the BBC iPlayer - that will encourage audiences to connect their TVs. Having refocused our online editorial agenda for BBC Online around a product model we're now thinking about which of these products should be repurposed for the big screen - and how we can do this in a way that's both cost-effective and simple for mainstream audiences. Partnership will be the key to delivering on this, and we look forward to tacking the challenges ahead.

You can access my presentation here.

Roly Keating is Director of Archive Content and Executive Editor, BBC Online


  • Comment number 1.

    I think connected TV is a great idea, but I can't see how it can take off while ISPs put such low caps on data usage.

    I don't want to have to worry about blowing my monthly limit by using these services.

  • Comment number 2.

    I agree, the battle ground today is not the production of suitable material for IPTV, but the ownership and provision of the means of delivery.

    With the pathetic ability of UK networks (all due to poor efforts by BT) it is useless to continue to dream about the technology for YouView. Please note, my broadband speed is 0.6Mbps, useless for streaming video, let alone HD.

    What is more it is uterly valueless for the BBC to spend millions on software development for miriad platforms. We need a workable, single standard for delivery, and much more spending on the pipes.

  • Comment number 3.

    Actually Roly, I dislike 'products' ..usually thing which organisations want me to buy since they are most profitable, designed for the HCF mass. I don't buy ready meals, use fresh food cooked to my taste, and expect the BBC to do to serve my media wants likewise along with all of us in the UK as it is supposed to do. I thought it's supposed to be part of the creative industries not a gang of "MAD MEN" (and women). You've all been Hugged :-)

  • Comment number 4.

    It will work great for free to air services but as previously stated, current data caps on internet usage will prevent it from working so well online. I think a deal needs to be done with the isp's to make this really take off.

  • Comment number 5.

    Like the idea of continued innovation in online products - on that score should I be persisting with my Nokia X6, in the expectation that BBC i-player will become available at some point, or give up and go and buy a compatible phone?

  • Comment number 6.

    I might have missed the point of this article, but a clue is in the title I think 'The creative potential in connected TV' the word that stands out is TV I thought it was about the TV being internet friendly, not phones with low stream speeds and data caps? I value the BBC's open arms approach to technology and truly it is good old Aunty BeeB that has pushed this technology further forward and much faster any other broadcaster in the UK. I have a Sony TV that is connected and enjoy the iPlayer functionality on that, with the inclusion of the other 4 main channels on the iPlayer, I'm sure that I will use it more. I use a freesat HD box and enjoy subscription-free HDTV and as that is connected to the internet, as well as my TV (which is also used as a monitor for my desktop PC ) I think I am pretty well connected :) . I have a cabled ISP that uses fibre optics to deliver 10mbps download ( well very close to that according to speedtest.net) and has no caps on usage. I know that there are faster ISP's out there than mine so if you have a slow connection at home change your ISP. Costs might be a factor but I find I use the internet a lot more for TV and Films now than any programmed channels because I can stream video and HD.
    Thanks BBC.

  • Comment number 7.

    The issue for UK based people is indeed the means for delivery but one has to wonder given the widespread connectivity available via existing cable and satellite infrastructure how big the take up would be over the net.

    For the rest of us (I'm an expat living in Germany), accessing BBC content is problematic. For some reason BBC radio is not restricted to UK ip addresses (ie I can happily stream it here in Germany). BBC TV on the other hand is harder to access as it is restricted. Multiple options already exist of course; in this part of Germany a 60cm satellite dish is big enough to be able to pick up the signals from the Astra 2 satellite - my Aunt used to do this when working for the British army bases in Germany. Hook up a freesat box bought in the UK that you've brought back to Germany and hey presto.

    Alternatively you can bypass the iplayer restrictions via UK proxys if you can find one - the same applies to 4OD and ITV's online players. If my friends are anything to go by, such a practice is fairly widespread in many countries, not just Germany. I fail to understand why the BBC doesn't simply make iplayer available worldwide for a subscription fee as it's surely losing out massively on revenue (with a nod to sports rights still being unavailable of course). I'd happily fork out the equivalent of a year's UK TV license to stream iplayer to get a fix of Dr Who, Blue Planet, Eastenders et al. As it is I get BBC Prime which is OK, but doesn't carry everything I enjoy.

    As for the issue of iptv itself connection speeds are falling behind leading global standards in the UK but not here in Germany. I signed up for 132mbps fibre optic cable service (yes, that's one hundred and thirty two megabits a second) and speed tests indicate I can regularly hit over 120mbps. Such speeds are more than sufficient to stream in HD; I could easily handle iptv. I'm just waiting for it to come out so I can buy it. Please hurry up with it BBC.


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