Parks Associates Blog

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

FiOS TV Updated Interactive Media Guide

When we released our most-recent IPTV analysis (IPTV: From Quadruple Play to Multiplay), we dedicated much of the report to discussing what really is going to set an IPTV or a Telco TV offer far apart from competitors such as cable and satellite offerings. It's safe to say that many rollouts have - to date - underwhelmed the senses, as carriers on a worldwide basis are carefully ramping up services and are mostly playing a "me too" game. To be fair, transforming a telephone company to an entertainment provider is enormously challenging, and a "baby steps" approach is certainly appropriate, under the adage of "underpromising and overdelivering" on services. And, certainly, there are exceptions worldwide to the "me too" notion of IPTV, as certain providers have deliberately chosen IPTV solutions that offer them a great deal of flexibility to pursue applications in fixed-mobile and communications convergence, flexible programming, roadmaps to targeted advertising and other interactive television apps, etc.

I have been impressed to date with Verizon's vision for television services, too, and I was an eager early adopter of FiOS TV because of some of the features that excited me personally. I really believe that Verizon's got a real leg-up on the cable competition with features such as the Home Media DVR. From what we've been told, cable operators are still looking for a business model to support home networking efforts (and, according to some sources, really scratching their heads about how best to implement home networking on their set-top boxes, with concerns about processor requirements, et. al.). I'd argue that the 12% take rate for the Home Media DVR (a public figure given by Verizon officials in September 2006) at $19.95 a month - is proof that customers will pay for services that offer more in the way of customization and personalization of their viewing experiences, extending to home networking features that offer not only "any time" aspects, but get them closer to "anywhere" functionality.

Verizon has just announcing changes to its interactive media guide, and I was again impressed with the improvements to search, content organization, and graphics capabilities. The roadmap for future improvements - including support for Internet radio, videos, podcasts and games is also really interesting.

There are definitely some suggestions I have for Verizon as they look to future upgrades to the FiOS service, the different features, and the media guide. Specifically, I'd suggest:
- Allowing more control over DVR functionality from the client set-top boxes. I'd really like to know if programming and deletion, specifically, could be enabled from those secondary boxes.
- I'd love to see at least some basic tagging of DVR content occur. For example, what programs have I started but not yet finished? Maybe there is some color coding that could occur.
- Currently, the "Conflict" messages on the DVR aren't 100% useful. Many times, I'll find an overlap problem (one program starts at two minutes before the hour while another is still recording). It would be nice to have some more refined options for resolving the conflict prior to a "Cancel Recording" solution.
- Finally, the current remote is very limited in terms of what I consider to be non-intutive button location. After nearly a year with the service, I still struggle with finding the right way to jump channels, mute a program, and fast-forward or rewind a recorded or VoD program.

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