Parks Associates Blog

Monday, January 10, 2011

TV Everywhere Kicks it Up a Notch - CE Giants and the Cable Industry

It's the Monday after CES, so in addition to resting our sore feet, we're now starting to pull our thoughts together about some of the key takeaways from the show. From what I saw, I think that there were several items worth noting:

  • More Connected TV Manufacturers Opening Up Apps to Third Parties: LG (Smart TV) and Panasonic (VIERA Connect) joined Samsung in supporting third-party application development for their connected TVs. We know that access to premium video such as TV shows and movies are the most significant driver for connected TV use today; opening up app development to third-parties is going to give the TV manfaucturers a low-cost way of experimenting with what other types of content are going to be important to consumers.
  • Online Television at the Connected TV: To date, the only way for consumers to access current primetime television on a connected TV has been with a subscription to Hulu Plus. Google's struggles to secure content from the broadcasters has been well-reported. However, according to today's Wall Street Journal, Yahoo! may be in line to support ad-supported programming from Disney (ESPN, the Disney Channel, etc.). The Journal also reports that Samsung may be in line for programming from Fox. How ad-supported content makes its way to connected TV devices will be a key trend to watch this year. Companies such as mgMEDIA,, and Zeitera are ones to watch.
  • Online Video through Pay-TV Services: Cisco has announced a singificant initiative called Videoscape. This is intended to help service providers migrate their infrastructure to support IP video to set-top boxes and other devices, including connected consumer electronics. ActiveVideo Networks made its first "CloudTV" announcement with Funai. Amino Networks showcased a "companion" box to receive online content.
  • Connected TVs and Casual Games: There were several announcements of note, and The Wall Street Journal covered them in a very good article last Friday. Among the announcements were companies such as VIZIO and OnLive, Panasonic and Gameloft, and STMicroelectronics and PlayJam.
  • More Internet TV Boxes and Wireless PC-to-TV Solutions: Iomega joined D-Link as an OEM partner for the Boxee Box. And, with 9% of U.S. households connecting a computer to a TV to watch online video, the wireless PC-to-TV space has more solutions.
  • Gesture recognition is coming to the TV: The success of Microsoft Kinect (eight million units sold in the first 60 days) and the major attention that products such as the Asustek/PrimeSense Wave Xtion lead me to believe that more natural interaction with both gaming and TV content are coming sooner rather than later.
  • Appliance-based Storage Becomes Goes to the Cloud: Companies in the consumer storage space are all making remote access a standard feature on at least some of their drives and network-attached storage devices. Companies that I saw with solutions include Iomega, Western Digital, Seagate, Buffalo and others.
  • Internet Security for Smartphones: As smarthones grow in popularity and use for e-commerce and banking applications, we're seeing a major push by traditional ISV (Internet Security Vendors) to extend privacy protection and anti-virus/phishing solutions to the mobile platform. Among companies with announcements in this realm were Trend Micro with Trend Micro Mobile Security for Android platforms. Companies such as Lookout and Mocana are others to watch.
  • Internet Security for Connected TVs: Companies such as Mocana and McAfee (Intel)have just recently discussed the theats that could exist with connected TVs. Mocana recently published the results of some lab testing, where their engineers were able to successfully hack certain connected TVs and create fake Websites ("phishing") for and collect credit card information. In its recent 2011 Threat Predictions report, McAfee predicts that privacy leaks through connected TVs will become more of an issue, as malicious apps are created to steal consumer data. Look for security vendors to examine how best to protect the growing wave of connected TV devices.
  • iPhone Backup Appliances and Services: I think that this is a nifty idea for those of us who aren't synching the iPhone with a computer on a daily basis. Plus, my five-year-old deleted a Christmas picture from my iPhone a couple of weeks ago. One product that caught my attention was the Iomega SuperHero Backup and Charger. Trend Micro also demonstrated SafeSync, a cloud backup service for iPhones and Android smartphones.
  • The Smart Home Driven by the Broadband Provider: You coudn't miss Verizon's presence, as they were right in the middle of the press room. They showed off a new home monitoring and energy management solution called the Verizon Home Monitoring and Control Service. There were many other companies showcasing how home monitoring, energy applications, and security can be deployed as a broadband value-added service.

Among all of these headlines, I think that the announcements and demonstrations centering on how tablet computers (iPads, Android devices) and connected TVs will be able to access and interact with pay-TV services were among the most noteworthy. The major announcements included:

  • Comcast to Support Live Streams and VoD on on Tablets and Connected TVs: Apple’s iPad® as well as Android™ powered tablets. The 2011 roadmap includes DVR and VoD content available on the connected devices in the short-term, and live TV streaming from Xfinity later this year. Samsung promoted "session-shifting," where a movie played on the tablet computer can be paused and then watched on the connected TV. The cable company will enable in-home streaming for live and On Demand content this year. Later this year, customers will be able to watch live news, TV shows and movies in their homes whenever they want.
  • Samsung and Time Warner Cable Partner: Samsung also announced that Time Warner Cable customers would be able to access cable services through its connected TVs and tablets.
  • Sony and Time Warner Cable: Sony's connected TVs will be able to receive content from Time Warner Cable. A write-up is available at Bloomberg.

Last year, we saw several European pay-TV providers dabble in the use of the connected TV as an alternative set-top box (LG, TeliaSonera, etc.), but this was the first time I had seen U.S. operators really showcase the potential of using secondary and tertiary screens as both control points and as viewing platforms for online content.

I really like what was showcased, in that it demonstrates how several major challenges to the cable operators can be addressed. First, there's the significant cost of deploying a set-top box to every television in the home. This can be greatly reduced with their support of retail-based products. It's like the vision of tru2way, but one that may actually work.

Second, it's going to provide some incentive to a consumer who may be considering dropping their cable service, but who sees the value in not being forced to consume all of the content on the TV. I think that this is where a concept like TV Everywhere should go. It's not just about offering a few paltry cable channels and programs online; it's offering a truly untethered experience for the subscriber.

Third - and I'll admit that this is a longer-term opportunity - it really got me thinking about how the operators can use complementary viewing devices as ways to provide non-intrusive recommendations and interactive features to viewers in a way that doesn't take over the TV screen and cause distractions. What if - for example - they can start to develop feedback mechanisms where the more they know about your viewing habits, they can push some additional content offerings your way on the tablet display? I think that this could start with their free VoD offerings. If they know that I regularly watch CSI, they can highlight previous episodes that I may have missed in their VoD library. Maybe they can start to offer recommendations to other types of programming that would interest me (wouldn't their channel partners love to see how a cable company can offer ways to grow the amount of time that a viewer spends on particular networks' channel?). Now, if they can figure out the whole targeted ad delivery thing, this would be quite an experience!

As always, CES is rough on the feet, but it is exciting to see developments that match technology capabilities to consumer demand. Where those two things intersect, I think you'll see more opportunity for success.

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Blogger Unknown said...

If the intention was PR, congratulations, they've got what they wanted. If the intention is P&L profitabilty, sorry, this is going to be yet another telco-driven failure.

For the longest time I've been saying - in public fora such as the Broadband World Forum, as well as in private conversations with telco and SI P&L heads - that telcos are making a big mistake by launching home monitoring and full-frills home security systems. (1) The market for home automation is very niche and there are a ton of solutions companies attempting to sell into it. Telcos are hardly top-of-mind for a potential home automation customer. Bill consolidation is not a strong enough motivator. WE - followers of Parks Associate blogs, readers of tech sites like Fierce Wireless, and so on - are NOT the mass audience for a service like this. Just because technology allows it doesn't mean the market exists. It's really business 101. But wait, it gets worse... (2) Someone who wants security - and is willing to pay a pretty penny - will call ADT (or one of its plethora of competitors). Who really trusts a telco to provide home security when they can do a barely passable job of Internet access and/or cable TV? And someone who wants a budget solution will opt for something free / affordable like GotoCamera (full disclosure: I'm a co-founder of the company; that said, it gives me - hopefully - SOME understanding of this space).

Bottomline: the market that these guys are going after doesn't trust them, doesn't think of them first, is small (at this time) and saturated (too many players at a very nascent stage); this makes the service niche and telcos are lousy at selling niche services.

- Varun Arora
Founder, GotoCamera

10:16 PM  
Anonymous Ken Pyle said...

Great summary, Kurt. I like your observation about the new SmartTV/Smart Device-Cable Television link-ups could take the vision of Tru-2-Way and actually make it work in widespread deployment.

As usual, we enjoyed working with Parks and look forward to posting the many interviews we produced with the excellent speakers at your CES event.

12:57 PM  

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