Microsoft and BT to offer IPTV via Xbox in U.K.

10 08 2007

BT Vision customers who also own a Xbox will be able to access the subscription IPTV service before the end of the year, report 360gamer.

Microsoft already provides the software powering the BT Vision service: a DVR-enabled Freeview set-top box with VOD delivered via IP.

The service launched at the end of 2006 and, despite a broadening content offer , has struggled to significantly grow its customer base, which stood at 20,000 households last month. The company hopes that last month’s launch of BT Vision Sport, a near-live catch service offering Premiership football, will accelerate take-up. In its coverage, The Independent states that BT is connecting new customers to the Vision service at the rate of 2,500 per week, a trend which, if maintained, will see the customer base grow to 80,000 households by the end of 2007.

The pairing of BT Vision with Microsoft Xbox is a filip for both companies: BT is able to extend the appeal of its service to game players, while Microsoft gets an off-the-shelf solution for video content on its consoles in the U.K., an area with which it has encountered difficulties, resulting in delays to the European VOD offer for Xbox Live Marketplace.

Advertisements




Sony, Matsushita launch VOD service; bridges computer/TV divide

8 08 2007

Variety reports on yesterday’s announcement by Sony Corp and Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. Ltd. that they are to begin offering 2,000 VOD titles via their joint venture TV Portal Service, which can be accessed by internet-connected flat-screen TVs.

While the expansion of the service, initially launched in 2006 by a consortium of six Japanese consumer electronics manufacturers, consumers will be able to access a range of on-demand content, costing from Y200 (US $1.69) to Y300 ($2.54).

At first glance, the move promises to usher in true convergence and offer TV-type content, which just happens to be delivered via the internet, rather than broadcast. Yet, like Apple TV and, to a lesser extent, Windows Media Center, the enabling companies are applying 20th Century business models to a 21st Century distribution channel by limiting consumers to walled gardens of content.

Back to the drawing board… 

Aside from delivering what consumers want by making internet-delivered content available on a screen more conducive to the viewing experience unlocking the potential of the internet on TVs, it

Yet again we a move which promises to usher in true convergence, and yet again, the enabler clumsily insists on giving consumers choice only from a walled garden of content.  





The slow evolution of TV advertising

28 07 2007

Product placement in US TV advertising was up 30% in 2006, according to numbers from research firm Nielsen, which has been tracking the category for the last three years. More interesting still, are the comments from John Zamoiski, CEO  of Norm Marshall & Associates, a firm which specialises in marrying brands with entertainment.

Mr Zamoiski asserts that it’s all about permanence: first ushered in with movies released to archival formats, such as VHS and DVD — stuff which consumers would watch over and over again, thereby exponentially increasing the value of any brands featured in such movies.

The explosive growth of TV programs on DVD and new distribution channels such as VOD and online video are only increasing the field of opportunity.

And how pervasive is product placement? Well this is the man whose firm got Dunkin’ Donuts into The Sopranos, Cadillac into Rescue Me, USA Today in The West Wing and Crown Royale in Desperate Housewives.

In related news from the Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing Summit, eMarketer reports more Nielsen numbers, suggesting that not only are more Americans interested in watching online video, but that such usage actually increases TV viewing time.





Euro Xbox VOD: update

18 07 2007

Rollout of the Xbox Live Marketplace VOD service for European countries will be staggered, according to this report. “It’s going to be a country at a time. We’re going to have to get it right for each country; the rights, as well as the operation and localisation for each country,” said Xbox Live general manager JJ Richards.

“That will be our implementation rollout. So rather than hold everybody up we’d rather turn on France when we get enough French content and French rights, we’ll turn on the UK when we get UK, we’ll turn on Italy when we get Italy,” he added.





Joost: friend or foe to traditional interests?

17 07 2007

It falls to Canada’s Globe and Mail to produce one of the more insightful pieces I’ve read about Joost in recent months. The main thrust is that Joost’s success is in offering traditional broadcasters and content owners (ie the ones with most stuff people want to [sometimes pay to] see) is that they are prepared to offer the kind of licensing terms and content security which is palatable to the aforementioned.

Although the piece is very enthusiastic about features such as geo-IP restriction (you can’t watch it unless you’re in a territory where the provider has license to make the content available), this is a basic must-have for any of these services.

So what drew my eye? A couple of quotes. First Stacey Seltzer of Joost’s acknowledgement that: “television is the greatest medium for mass communication that there’s ever been, [so] let’s start with that experience and then bring all the cool aspects of the Web to it.” Obvious, perhaps, but a basic fact many incumbents overlook: TV is the pre-eminent medium, certain audiences (the younger) are shunning it. But one step at a time for TV people (and the rest of the people they serve who don’t happen to be young); these businesses continue to enjoy a very healthy linear bottom-line with another eye on ‘the future’.

Liz Gannes, who writes about online media for the blog NewTeeVee.com, also has it spot on by saying Joost is in “a really nice position right now, because they are seen as someone that is respectful [of content owners’ rights] and so they have a leg up on competitors.” Know your market and which stage of the evolutionary cycle it’s at. A basic rule forgotten by Silicon Valley start-ups with hard-ons induced by latest VC injections (the V could as much stand for Viagra as venture).

Joost is awfully good at cosying up with the stalwarts of the traditional content industry by: A) appearing to know their business – or at least acknowledge its role; B) speak a language execs in the industry will recognise; C) be prepared to play the longer game for bigger stakes. The Viacom deal was merely opportunism (rightly capitalised on) in the immediate fallout of the latter’s decision to instruct YouTube to take the former’s content down, but these guys are serious about creating a service which is driven by major brands (and have intellectualised a little beyond the mere concept).

Joost also understands about content owners wanting integrity over the experience, albeit within a landscape which disintermediates them.

So far (from an industry perspective)… Joost 9/10 for its approach. Others 1-3/10 for theirs.





Mediaset launches online video service

17 07 2007

The UK terrestrial broadcasters have generated a fair amount of press with their online video launches, but now comes the first major service from mainland Europe: Italy’s (or should that be Silvio Berlusconi’s) Mediaset.

The video portal will initially offer a selection of ‘best of’ TV series, news and entertainment content from Mediaset’s portfolio of terrestrial channels, with premium VOD to follow.

From September, three Serie A soccer matches will be offered each week, together with downloadable episodes of popular Italian and US TV series. 

There’ll be some web exclusive content as well as user-generated material related to the broadcaster’s programming.

Interestingly, given all of the hullaballoo about the extent of the BBC’s iPlayer offer, Mediaset’s interactive head Yves Confalonieri has ruled out the possibility of offering all its TV content via the portal: “the user doesn’t want all TV content on this medium,” he said.

The site currently attracts 6.5 million unique users per month, a figure Mediaset are banking on increasing with the new offer. The bulk of revenue is expected to be from advertising sales, rather than pay-per-view.

Mediaset is also looking at content syndication deals for third party sites, such as YouTube. Given the former’s recent acquisitions of Endemol and film distributor Medusa, it stands to have a significant edge over competitors.





Xbox Live Marketplace: content update

11 07 2007

disneylogo.jpg

Disney is to offer movies on a download-to-rent basis via Microsoft’s Xbox Live Marketplace service (see also), including titles from its Walt Disney Pictures, Touchstone Pictures, Hollywood Pictures and Miramax Films studios.

“We’re always looking for more ways to let people experience our films,” said Dan Cohen, executive vice president of pay television and interactive media for Disney-ABC Domestic Television, in the announcement. “With the millions of Xbox 360 consoles in living rooms today with a direct, high-speed Internet connection, Xbox LIVE really has become a terrific device for the delivery of digital entertainment content.”

Microsoft has revealed that in the seven months since the service launched, nearly 10 million movies and TV shows have been downloaded via the service, which now features 2,350 hours of “premium entertainment content” from  15 partners.

The VOD service is currently exclusive to the US market, Xbox users in Europe and Canada can expect it to be introduced by the end of this year.