While TV executives pondered how to profit from
television content viewed on the Web (see related article, "Analysis: Hulu Gets Traction as Web Video Go-To"), technology vendors at The Cable Show in Washington, D.C. last week demonstrated
how to bring Internet content, including online video, to TV sets.
Intel, which has created a new computer chip aimed
specifically at set-tops and other consumer electronics devices, was in the
Broadband Nation exhibit
showing a prototype Samsung set-top running Comcast's new tru2way-enabled
program guide as well as the "Widget Channel" technology Intel has developed
with Yahoo, which can bring Web content such as weather updates, stock quotes or
pictures from Flickr to the screen while simultaneously watching TV.
Bill Leszinske, general manager of Intel's marketing and
solutions group, expects that tru2way will generally improve the traditional TV
experience provided by cable operators but that real interactivity will be
delivered directly from the Internet through technologies such as the Widget
Channel, which is fed by plugging an Ethernet cable into the box.
"I think they'll let tru2way run the guide, but they'll
find a different framework to bring the Internet to the TV," Leszinske
Cisco was at NCTA showing how cable operators can create
a "medianet" in the home using its new line of digital set-tops, which support
MoCa and DNLA networking, in conjunction with its home gateway and "media hub"
storage devices. Demonstrations included a multi-room DVR setup, where TVs
across a home could access video stored on a central DVR; personal content
sharing, where Internet-based video was rebroadcast on an HDTV and DVR content
was passed over the Internet to the PC; and the delivery of content from within
the home to IP-enabled mobile devices.
Tony Bates, senior VP and GM of Cisco's service provider
group, expects that most Internet video will still be delivered to the TV as a
"managed service" controlled by cable operators. Instead of plugging a Cat-5
cable into a set-top to access generic Web content, he expects that operators
will groom the video and deliver it over a DOCSIS channel directly to the
"The notion of the social TV experience is going to
come, and the platform enables it today," says Bates. "But is it a widget you
call up yourself? No, I think it is still really a managed
experience."Alexander Libkind, COO of interactive TV software developer Zodiac Interactive, thinks that both over-the-top Internet content and managed video and interactive services from cable operators will become commonplace in the living room. He doesn't think there's a big distinction between Yahoo's widgets and widgets delivered as a tru2way application.
"It's still a walled garden, it's just who controls the walled garden," he says.
Libkind notes that programmers and advertisers are initially focusing their interactive efforts on the "Enhanced TV", or "EBIF", software specification that works on even the most basic digital set-tops because it delivers scale in the near-term. In the long run, he thinks tru2way will deliver more value for operators than programmers, as the software specification will allow them to create new applications for services like video-on-demand. It is also opening up the set-top market to new players like Samsung and ADB, and that new competition should drive down set-top prices for operators, even if tru2way set-tops never become a true retail product.
Zodiac was at NCTA demonstrating a new VOD guide it had developed with Macrovision running on an ADB set-top. The VOD interface, which lets the user search for specific actors and genres with a few clicks of the remote, offers similar ease of use to new Internet-based movie services like Vudu, as opposed to the clunky VOD interface that subscribers have long put up with. Libkind says it only took Zodiac a few days to create the interface, which pulls guide data from Macrovision. He says it received a lot of interest at the show.
"Why shouldn't this be your VOD interface?" he asks.