|Issue:||Asia-Pacific II 2006|
|Topic:||TV in Asia – a look at the future|
|Organisation:||Alcatel in Asia Pacific|
Based in Shanghai, Vince Pizzica is the Chief Technology Officer of Alcatel in Asia Pacific. He is responsible for optimizing Alcatel’s R&D, intellectual property and technological competencies in the region, and works closely with customers developing their technology strategy. He served previously as the CTO and Director of Customer Solutions of Alcatel in Australia. Mr Pizzica has more than 21 years experience in the telecommunications industry, and held a number of senior positions before joining Alcatel including: leader of Telstra’s technology strategy, Chief Architect of Telstra’s FMO (Future Mode of Operation) project, and National General Manager, Personalised Services. Mr Pizzica was also the General Manager, Trusted Network, of Siemens in Australia. Mr Pizzica is a past member of the boards of Global Platform Incorporated and the MULTOS Consortium. Vince Pizzica holds a Masters of Science Degree from the University of Essex in the United Kingdom and a Bachelor of Engineering Degree from the University of Queensland.
Internet Protocol Television, IPTV, provides a personal, interactive experience quite different from the passive experience provided by traditional television. IPTV not only offers anytime, anywhere, access to a wide range of programmes, niche material and related background information – much not ordinarily available – but also lets one share the information and the experience with others. With IPTV and wireless technology, television in Asia Pacific is becoming as much a vehicle for individual expression as a mechanism for reinforcing cultural identity.
When speaking of the Asia Pacific, it is common to focus on those things that are uncommon – language, race, religion – and, indeed, much has been made of this diversity. Only infrequently, however, do we look for instances of similarity, undoubtedly because they are more difficult to find. Television represents one such point of commonality, occupying as it does a prominent position in the households and daily lives of those who inhabit the region. Over the past ten years, the growth of television in Asia Pacific has traced a trajectory that is nothing short of remarkable, from less than 42 million viewers, according to UNESCO, in 1970 to more than 672 million in 1997. Today, television in the Asia Pacific is poised to head in an entirely new direction – informed by a fundamental transformation in the region’s technology base, its commercial structure, and its social fabric. A young lady, they say, coming of age in China 20 years ago would have evaluated a prospective husband based on his ability to provide a television. Today, that same young lady would undoubtedly take the television for granted and be more likely to concern herself with the kind of television offered. Under the influence of the Internet on the one hand, and wireless technology on the other, television in Asia Pacific in all its aspects – form, content, and delivery is being redefined. Technology base Around the world, the Internet and its underlying Internet Protocol, IP, are insinuating themselves into virtually every mode of communication, and turning household items such as the television into dynamic multimedia appliances. The advent of so-called Internet Protocol Television, IPTV, marks a sharp departure from traditional television because it promises an interactive viewing experience that is at once highly personalized and economically viable. While it is true that interactive TV has been around for more than a decade, it has typically offered little more than a selection of camera angles from which to view an event. IPTV, by contrast, gives the viewer access not just to the event itself, but to sources of information related to the event as well as a way of sharing that information and the broader viewing experience with others. Equally important, IPTV is capable of delivering only those channels that the consumer wants at any given time. This technical capability to provide niche-based programming is made financially viable through the recognition that the collective demand for numerous niche programmes amount to substantial revenue. Delivering the content that fills those niches will in turn stimulate overall demand The Asia Pacific is particularly fertile ground for IPTV. By 2010 the region is expected by Euromonitor to account for more than 50 per cent of an estimated 110 million IPTV subscribers worldwide and service providers in some countries have already embarked on initial deployments. PCCW in Hong Kong, for one, now offers 90 channels of IPTV service to more than 500,000 customers. According to projections from ABI Research, IPTV will ultimately account for over 35 per cent of all digital TV homes in Hong Kong. In China, a survey conducted by telecommunications service provider China Telecom revealed that nearly 70 per cent of the operator’s customers were likely to subscribe to IPTV. Chinese regulators have taken a first step towards meeting that demand by issuing an initial IPTV licence to Shanghai Media Group, one of the country’s leading content providers. In light of these positive developments, the Electronic Engineering Times expects China to have four million IPTV subscribers by 2006 and nine million by 2009. Commercial structure This evolution to IP-based programming will undoubtedly have a profound impact on the commercial structure in the region. As an increasing number of viewers turn their attention away from traditional television, they will cause a greater percentage of advertising revenue to shift as well. According to some estimates, revenue from online advertising in Asia will grow 40 per cent annually and reach nearly US$1.6 billion in revenue by 2007. As pervasive as these trends may appear to be, they mask some essential differences in the transformation of television across the region. At one end of the spectrum is South Korea where, says Norson Research and Consulting, online advertising has already garnered a solid 10 per cent share of the advertising market while traditional newspapers have experienced a 3-4 per cent decrease. At the other end of the spectrum is Indonesia where traditional television advertising is still growing by almost 30 per cent annually following a trend that shows no sign of reversing in the foreseeable future according to Korea Inter-net Corporations Association studies. Social fabric From a social perspective, Asia is undergoing a transformation that is evolving in two countervailing directions. On a basic level, there is a pronounced impetus towards greater individual expression and at the same time a broad trend towards cultural pluralism. Both tendencies are exerting a direct influence on the role of television. “We don’t see the whole family in Asia watching TV together as they used to in the 90s”, notes Robert Mebruer, Regional Managing Director of ActMedia Asia, in an oblique reference to the emergence of greater individual choice and divergent interests. The implication is that other forms of entertainment, such as the Internet, electronic games, etc distract family members, especially the younger ones. Concurrently, television is emerging as ‘an instrument of national unities’ that serves trans-regional communities bound more by cultural and social traits than by national boundaries. A case in point is the highly successful soap opera Love Talks that stands out not so much for its plot, which is standard soap opera fare, as for the way in which it was produced. The show draws its actors from across the entire expanse that comprises Greater China – China, Taiwan and Hong Kong – and the plot, accordingly, unfolds in Shanghai, Taipei and Kowloon. Emerging television formats such as My Own TV and Amigo TV are uniquely positioned to tap into these social trends and have the potential to satisfy the de-mand for individualism and pluralism. My Own TV serves as a vehicle for individual expression and personalization by enabling users to create their own ‘TV Channels’ over which they can share content between themselves and others (business groups, relatives, friends, etc). My Own TV was inspired by the trend for personal content creation and driven by the widespread adoption of digital cameras and the popularity of blogs. A user can take movies and pictures and send them from a PC, for example, to a service provider’s network. Once they are on the network, others can view the images through their televisions. Amigo TV fosters the development of communities by enabling users to share their viewing experience with a much wider audience of friends, relatives, etc., and they can do this without ever having to leave their homes. At any given time, Amigo TV viewers can see, on their own television screens, a list of the programmes that their friends are watching. They can then share their views on the programme using voice or audiovisual ‘expressions’ that can appear on their friends’ screens. The wireless dimension As much as IP technology is turning the television into a vehicle for individual expression and a mechanism for reinforcing cultural identity, wireless technology is transporting television into an entirely new dimension. Nowhere is this trend more apparent than in the Asia Pacific, the world’s largest and arguably most innovative wireless market, where users are putting a unique stamp on the face of mobile television. In Japan, for example, it is considered unseemly for passengers travelling on Japanese trains to use their cell phones. It is appropriate, however, to use mobile phones when changing trains, a window of time that averages less than three minutes. In response, mobile television producers have begun to develop programmes that can be viewed in instalments that are no greater than three minutes in length. Appropriate programming is nevertheless just one part of the equation. Mobile television requires sufficient bandwidth to reach its full potential. Third Generation, 3G, wireless network technology satisfies this requirement because it operates at 384 Kbps or more, and provides sufficient capacity to support wireless television transmission. 3G was recently introduced in Asia and, in some places, it is already possible to catch a glimpse of what the future of mobile television in the region will look like. A Sentimental Journey, launched by Hong Kong operator CSL in early 2005, has been hailed as the first 3G ‘mobile drama’. CSL and other operators are betting that the penchant of Asian customers for television programming will translate into the mobile arena and open up new revenue streams using this medium. A path towards the future Beyond 3G there are other indications of where mobile television is headed. Broadcasting television to handsets using satellite technology or a combination of terrestrial and satellite technology, is already a reality and will take on a role of greater importance in the near future. Service providers such as SKT in South Korea are providing such service today and predict that, by 2010, 6.6 million South Korean customers will be receiving such mobile broadcasts. Other countries such as China are not far behind. It is clear that these developments won’t be restricted to the mature markets of North Asia. Recent 3G deployment in Cambodia, for example, presages the introduction of new mobile services, including television, in the not too distant future. Transformation Television in Asia Pacific is undergoing a transformation shaped by the dual forces of the Internet and the latest wireless technology. The forms of television emerging from this transformation respond to, and directly reinforce, the region’s technical, commercial, and social development. New formats such as My TV and Amigo TV, for example, have the potential to satisfy the growing demand for individual expression and the growing trend towards cultural pluralism; they stand as proof points for the technology’s long-term viability in the region.