|Topic:||The broadband revolution: power to the people|
|Title:||Vice President Marketing and Communications, Fixed Solutions Division|
Rik Missault joined Alcatel in 1992. He has been involved in the worldwide development of Alcatel’s DSL business since 1996 and currently leads the Marketing and Communications teams at Alcatel’s Fixed Solutions Division. Rik Missault earned his degree in Electronics Engineering from the University of Leuven in Belgium and completed an Executive Masters in Business Administration at the Vlerick School for Management in Gent, Belgium.
Digital technology is transforming broadcast TV, music retailing and online gaming, transferring power from broadcasters to consumers. Traditionally, cable companies provided video and phone companies handled voice. Using broadband digital technology, both now offer voice, data and video or triple play. Triple play can create new viewer experiences by combining content, communication and community. Participation TV lets viewers actively participate in television shows and form TV viewing communities, so they can talk, online, about shows, as they happen, with friends.
We are on the cusp of a home information and entertainment revolution. Digital technology is transforming several existing market segments, including broadcast TV, music retailing and online gaming, to name a few. These changes are accompanied by parallel growth in consumer expectations regarding how to engage with information and entertainment. The biggest change, resulting from this shift, is the transfer of power from the broadcasters and schedulers to the consumers. It is now commonly understood that consumers want control of the content and of the schedule. Making the triple play For cable companies, video came first. For phone companies, it was voice. Both have already extended into broadband and both are also starting to offer what used to be their rivals’ exclusive offering. This move to offer voice, data and video has spawned the use of the term ‘triple play’. Currently, the three triple play components are largely offered independently. Users, however, are seeking an integrated experience. So, new services are being developed, resulting from the combination, or convergence, of different technologies and terminals. For example, caller ID on your TV set, for a start. The successful deployment of triple play services is creating an exciting laboratory for the design of innovative applications. The challenge is to build a compelling new user experience. The Triple Play user experience: integrate and differentiate For the user, the essential elements of triple play are content, communication and community (Figure 1). Content covers broadcast TV and on-demand movies and personal content, like holiday photos and birthday videos. Communication includes verbal and non-verbal communication. From voice and video to text and picture messaging. Because people live in a social context, community support is a key component of the converged triple play story. People talk about media with their friends and share pictures with their families. A creative blend of content, communication and community is the best guarantee of an appealing broadband experience. Putting the viewer in the driver’s seat: participation TV A growing phenomenon, thanks in part to the popularity of reality TV, is participation TV. Participation TV lets viewers take part in games shows, song contests, talk shows and human interest news programmes from their homes. Participation TV, or Response TV, allows viewers to communicate via the broadcast and actively participate in television shows – e.g., dial a phone number or send a text message from their mobile phone to vote for a contestant or for an option. Participation TV, usually associated with contests, quizzes and talent shows, can be found throughout Western Europe, India and North America. Examples include audience participation programmes where by calling a number, visiting a website or sending an SMS viewers can vote, provide feedback or purchase products and services or purchase products featured on the show. These activities increase the quality of the viewers’ experience and drive on-air content, putting the viewer in the driver’s seat. Community television: where communication meets entertainment Most interactive TV services, today, focus on the interaction between viewer and broadcaster through voting, betting and background information retrieval. In the future, this interaction will increase, transforming traditional TV viewing. Technology can create a rich social experience by introducing communities into TV or video viewing, essentially a room-by-room, house-by-house activity. It’s like talking about programmes, not the next day around the office water cooler, but live as they happen. When watching a football match you can check what your friends are watching and send them an invitation to join you. An avatar, unique on-screen symbols selected by users to represent themselves, is displayed for each member of your group that is online, so you can send messages back and forth. You can also talk or maintain video communications using your web camera, which is displayed as an overlay, like picture-in-picture. This concept, called community TV, enables users to watch their favourite programmes with friends and family, even if they live in different cities. Usability research is important when designing this sort of application. In the case of community TV, focus groups and user tests indicate that many users of chat applications are already familiar with the concept of online communities. When combined with television, online communities become very compelling. Personal broadcasting Many video on demand and IPTV deployments only consider major movies and broadcast TV channels as content for which people will pay. In reality, Hollywood is only part of the available video content. Many other types of content appeal to small and medium-sized ‘affinity groups’ including: – Local issues (e.g., council meetings and community events); – Local product information (e.g., new fashion collections and neighbourhood store openings); – Community clubs (e.g., local amateur theatre associations); – Home movies and photos. The personal content trend is driven by the widespread use of digital photograph and video cameras that make it easy to share personal multimedia content with family and friends in an interactive TV environment and, in a sense, create their own TV channel. An affinity group is constructed of individuals with a passion for a specific programme or movie. This segment would be interested in a video database service that logged and tracked programme episodes and scenes, tagging them by character and plot line. This database could be used to cut scenes together, link episodes, dive into associated meta-data, share information with like-minded individuals and groups. The sharing of photos and home movies creates ‘micro-celebrities’ that get their faces on TV for a few seconds. Many TV stations now display on-screen messages transmitted by viewers via SMS, because people like seeing their name on TV, even if it is just for a few seconds. Although most people don’t get excited seeing themselves on a PC screen, put them on TV and they feel that everybody is watching. Examples abound Personalisation can be taken even further, with users assigning ratings to content, recommending programmes and subscribing to other community channels. The sharing of personal files has another benefit since the files are stored on a network drive, users do not clutter their personal hard drives or worry about backups. There are also many other voice/broadband services. You can share a photo album online and have an online slideshow together with friends. You can send videos and photos to mobile phone users. Recommendations and notifications of new content can also be sent to mobile phones. These examples, and dozens of others, represent real, converged triple play applications in which the video, voice and data components are combined to deliver a sum that is greater than the individual parts. Unlike existing triple play deployments where 1+1+1=3, future triple play offerings will result in a different calculation: 1+1+1=7. Call it the ‘new maths’ of triple play. Today, triple play services are proving to have considerable customer appeal. Current triple play services are the first chapter in the convergence story. To maintain their competitive edge, service providers look at today’s triple play deployments as a laboratory where voice, data and video can be creatively combined and integrated into compelling user experiences. The fusion of content and communication is the second chapter of the convergence story. From a user’s perspective, community services act as the enabling framework for the future evolution of the interactive TV experience, including text messaging, video communication and personal content distribution. Community and participation TV are unique examples of the power of merging triple play components and point the way for further exploration. The logical next step is the emergence of new TV formats that make full use of these new communication methods in a broadcast TV environment. This will constitute a real fusion of the triple play components.