Category: IP-based broadcasting

Use of DVB-I and similar technologies to provide radio and TV over Internet-based infrastructure

ABC News 24 coronavirus coverage

Traditional TV and radio could be delivered via the same means as the Internet

A direction that we are expecting to see for broadcast radio and TV technology is to stream it via Internet-based technologies but assure users of a similar experience to how they have received content delivered this way.

It is about being able to use the agile wired and wireless Internet technologies like 5G mobile broadband, fibre-to-the-premises, fixed-wireless broadband; and Ethernet and Wi-Fi wireless local area networks to deliver this kind of content.

What is the goal here

The goal here is to provide traditional broadcast radio and TV service through wired or wireless broadband-service-delivery infrastructure in addition to or in lieu of dedicated radio-frequency-based infrastructure.

The traditional radio-frequency approach uses specific RF technologies like FM, DAB+, DVB and ATSC to deliver audio or video content to radio and TV receivers. This can be terrestrial to a rooftop, indoor or set-attached antenna referred to in the UK and most Commonwealth countries as an aerial; via a cable system through a building, campus or community; or via a satellite where it is received using special antennas like satellite dishes.

The typical Internet-Protocol network used for Internet service uses different transport media, whether that be wired or wireless. It can be mobile broadband receivable using a mobile phone; a fixed setup like fibre-to-the-premises, fixed wireless or fibre-copper setups. As well, such networks typically include a local-area network covering a premises or building that is based on Ethernet, Wi-Fi wireless, HomePlug or G.Hn powerline, or similar technologies.

The desireable user experience

TV remote control

It will maintain the traditional remote-control experience like channel surfing

It also is about providing a basic setup and use experience equivalent to what is expected for receiving broadcast radio and TV service using digital RF technologies. This includes “scanning” the wavebands for stations to build up a station directory of what’s available locally as part of setting up the equipment; using up/down buttons to change between stations or channels; keying in “channel numbers” in to a keypad to select TV channels according to a traditional and easy-to-remember channel numbering approach; using a “last-channel” button to flip between two different programmes you are interested in; and allocating regularly-listened-to stations to preset buttons so you have them available at a moment’s notice.

This has been extended to a richer user experience for broadcast content in many ways. For TV, it has extended to a grid-like electronic programme guide which lists what is showing now or will be shown in the coming week on all of the channels so you can switch to a show that you like to watch or have that show recorded. For radio, it has been about showing more details about what you are listening to like the name of that song you are listening to for example. Even ideas like prioritising or recording the news or traffic announcements that matter or selecting content by type has also become another desireable part of the broadcast user experience.

Relevance of traditional linear broadcasting today

There are people who cast doubt on the relevance of traditional linear broadcast media and its associated experiences in this day and age.

This is brought about through the use of podcasts, Spotify-like audio streaming services, video-on-demand services and the like who can offer a wider choice of content than traditional broadcast media.

But some user classes and situations place value upon the traditional broadcast media experience. Firstly, Generation X and prior generations have grown up with broadcast media as part of their life thanks to affordable sets with a common user experience and an increasing number of stations or channels being available. Here, these users are often resorting to broadcast media for casual viewing and listening with a significant number of these users recording broadcast material to enjoy again on their own terms.

Then there is the reliance on traditional broadcast media for news and sport. This is due to the ability to receive up-to-date facts without needing to do much. Let’s not forget that some users rely on this media experience for discovery of content curated by someone else like staff at a TV channel or a radio station rather than an online service’s content-recommendation engine. Even the on-air talent is valued by a significant number of listeners or viewers as personalities in their own right because of how they present themselves on radio or TV.

Access without traditional radio-frequency infrastructure

TV aerial and satellite dish on house roof

DVB-I and allied technologies may reduce reliance on RF infrastructure like TV aerials or satellite dishes

One of these goals here is to allow access to traditional broadcast radio and TV without being dependent on particular radio-frequency infrastructure types and reception conditions. This can encompass someone to offer a linear broadcast service with all the trappings of that service but not needing to have access to RF-based broadcast technologies like a transmitter.

To some extent, it could be a method to use the likes of SpaceX Starlink or 5G mobile broadband to deliver radio and TV service to rural and remote areas. This could come in to its own where the goal is to provide the full complement of broadcasting services to these areas.

It also is encompassing a situation happening with cable-TV networks in some countries where these networks are being repurposed purely for cable-modem Internet service. As well, some neighbourhoods don’t take kindly to satellite dishes popping up on the roofs or walls of houses, seeing them as a blight. Here, multi-channel pay-TV operators have had to consider using Internet-based delivery methods to bring their services to potential customers without facing these risks.

Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 tablet

Or a mobile platform tablet could run software to pick up TV broadcasts via the Internet

Let’s not forget that IP-based data networks are being seen as a way to extend the reach of traditional broadcast services in to parts of a building that don’t have ready access to a reliable RF signal or traditional RF infrastructure. This may be due to it being seen as costly or otherwise prohibitive to extend a master-antenna TV setup to a particular area or to install a satellite dish, TV aerial or cable-TV connection to a particular house.

In the portable realm, it extends especially to smartphones or mobile-platform tablets even where these devices may have a broadcast-radio or TV tuner. But broadcast reception using these tuners only becomes useful if you plug a wired headset in to the mobile device’s headset jack, because of a long-standing design practice with Walkman-type personal radio devices where the headset cable is the device’s FM or DAB+ antenna. Here, the smartphone could use mobile broadband or Wi-Fi for broadcast-radio reception if you use its speaker or a Bluetooth headset to listen to the radio.

Complementing traditional radio infrastructure

SAT>IP concept diagram

What SAT>IP is about with satellite TV – broadcast-LAN content distribution

In the same context, it is also being considered as a different approach to providing “broadcast-to-LAN” services where broadcast signals are received from radio infrastructure via a tuner-server device and streamed in to a local-area network. This could allow the client device to choose the best source available for a particular channel or station.

But even the “broadcast-to-LAN” approach can be improved upon by providing an equivalent user experience to a traditional RF-based broadcast setup. It would benefit buildings or campuses with a traditional aerial or satellite dish installed at the most optimum location but use Ethernet cabling, Wi-Fi wireless or similar technologies including a mixture of such technologies to distribute the broadcast signal around the development.

As well, some of these setups may be about mixing the traditional broadcast channels and IP-delivered content in to a form that can be received with that traditional broadcast user experience. Or it can be about seamlessly switching between a fully-Internet-delivered source and the broadcast stream provided by a broadcast-LAN server to the local network that is providing Internet service. This can cater towards broadcast-LAN setups based around devices that don’t have enough capacity to serve many broadcast streams.

Pure Sensia 200D Connect Internet radio

Pure Sensia 200D Connect Internet radio – an example bringing broadcast radio via RF and Internet means

Even a radio or TV device could maintain a traditional user-experience while content is delivered over both traditional RF infrastructure and Internet-based infrastructure. This could range from managing a situation where an alternative content stream is offered via the Internet while the main content is offered via the station’s traditional RF means. Or it could be about independent broadcast content being broadcast without the need to have access to RF infrastructure or spectrum.

Similarly, some digital-broadcast operators are wanting to implement networks typically used for Internet service delivery as a backhaul between a broadcaster’s studios and the transmitter. Here, it is seen as a cost-effective approach due to a reduced need to create an expensive pure-play wired or wireless link to the transmitter. Rather they can rely on a business-grade Internet service with guaranteed service quality standards for this purpose.

Even a master-antenna system that is set up to provide a building’s or development’s occupants access to broadcast content via RF coaxial-cable infrastructure could benefit this way. This could be about repackaging broadcasters’ content from Internet-based links offered by the broadcasters in to a form deliverable over the system’s RF cable infrastructure rather than an antenna or satellite dish to bring radio and TV to that system. It could be also seen as a way to insert extra content for that development through this system such as a health TV channel for hospitals or a tourist-information TV channel for hotels.

How is this approach being taken

Here, a broadcast-ready linear content stream or a collection of such streams that would be normally packaged for a radio-frequency transport is repackaged for a data network working to IP-compliant standards. This can be done in addition to packaging that content stream for one or more radio-frequency transports.

This approach is built on the idea of the ISO OSI model of network architecture where top-level classes of protocols can work on many different bottom-level transports, with this concept being applied to broadcast radio and TV.

The IP-based network / Internet transport approach can allow for a minimal effort approach to repackaging the broadcast stream or stream collection to an RF transport. A use case that this would apply to is using a business-standard Internet service as a backhaul for delivering radio or TV service to multiple transmitters.

It is different from the Internet-radio or “TV via app” approach where there is a collection of broadcasters streamed via Internet means. But these setups rely primarily on online content directories operated by the broadcasters themselves or third parties like TuneIn Radio or Airable.net. These setups don’t typically offer broadcast-like user experiences like channel-surfing or traditional channel-number entry.

At the moment, the DVB Group who have effectively defined the standards for digital TV in Europe, Asia, most of Africa, and Oceania have worked on this approach through the use of DVB-I (previous coverage on this site) and allied standards for television. This is in addition to the DVB Home Broadcast (DVB-HB) standard released in February this year to build upon SAT-IP towards a standardised broadcast-to-LAN setup no matter the RF bearer.

Similarly, the EBU have worked on the HRADIO project to apply this concept to DAB+ digital radio used for radio services in Europe and Oceania at least.

Another advantage that is also being seen is the ability for someone to get “on the air” without needing to have access to radio-frequency spectrum or be accepted by a cable-TV or satellite-TV network. This may appeal to international broadcasters or to those offering niche content that isn’t accepted by the broadcast establishment of a country.

What is it also leading to

This is leading towards hybrid broadcast and broadband content-delivery approaches. That is where content from the same broadcaster is delivered by RF and Internet means with the end user using the same user experience to select the online or RF-broadcast content.

One use case is to gain access to supplementary content from that broadcast via the Internet no matter whether the viewer or listener enjoys the broadcaster through an RF-based means or through the Internet. This could be prior episodes of the same show or further information about a concept put forward in an editorial program or a product advertised on a commercial.

For radio, this would be about showing up-to-date station branding alongside show names and presenter images. If the show is informational, there would be rich visual information like maps, charts, bullet lists and the like to augment the spoken information.

If it is about music, you would see reference to the title and artist of what’s playing perhaps with album cover art and artist images. For classical music where people think primarily of a work composed by a particular composer, this may be about the composer and the work, perhaps with a reference to the currently-playing movement. Operas and other musical theatre may have the libretti being shown in real time to the performance.

In all music-related cases, there may be the ability to “find out more” on the music and who is behind it or even to buy a recording of that music, whether as physical media like an LP record or CD, or as a download-to-own file.

For TV content, this would be about a rich experience for sports, news, reality and similar shows. For example, the Seven Network created an improved interactive experience for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics by using 7Plus to provide direct access to particular sports types during the Games.  A true hybrid setup on equipment with a broadcast tuner would allow a user to select Channel 7 or 7Mate for standard broadcast feeds using the 7Plus user experience with the broadcast feeds supplied by the broadcast tuner or the Internet stream depending on the signal quality.

Issues to consider

There are issues that will be raised where broadcast radio and TV are delivered over Internet infrastructure with the goal of a broadcast-like user experience.

One of these is to assure users don’t pay extra costs for this kind of reception compared to delivery by RF-based means. Here, these Internet-based broadcast setups would have to be “zero-rated” so that users don’t incur data costs on metered Internet services like mobile broadband. Add to this a common issue with rural areas where Internet service quality wouldn’t be reliable enough to provide the same kind of user experience as traditional RF-based broadcast reception.

As well, broadband infrastructure providers would need to assure transparent access to Internet-based broadcast setups so that users have access to standard broadcasters without being dependent on service from particular retail ISPs or mobile carriers. It may also be about making sure that one can receive broadcast content with the broadcast user experience anywhere in a typical local network.

Another factor to be considered as far as DVB-I or similar technologies are concerned is whether this impacts on content providers’ liabilities regarding broadcast rights for music and sports content. Here, some sports leagues or music copyright collection bodies consider Internet-based distribution as different from traditional broadcast media and add extra requirements on this distribution approach.

It can be about availability of content beyond the broadcaster’s home country, in a manner to contravene a blackout requirement or to provide a competing source of availability to the one who has exclusive rights for that territory. It is also similar to “grey-importing” of music rather than acquiring it through official distribution channels, that also leads to bringing in content not normally available in a particular country.

These issues may be answered through a framework of various legal protections and universal-service obligations associated with providing free-to-air broadcast content. It would be driven more so by countries who have a strong public-service and/or commercial free-to-air broadcast lobby.

Conclusion

Internet-based technologies are effectively being seen as a way to extend the reach of or improve upon the broadcast-media experience without detracting from its familiar interaction approaches. This is thanks to research in to technologies that are about repackaging broadcast signals for an RF transport in a manner for Internet use.

Web-based favourite station function back on with Frontier-based Internet radios

Article – From the horse’s mouth

Airable by TuneIn (different from the TuneIn Radio app)

http://airablenow.com/its-available-the-all-new-frontier-smart-radio-podcast-portal/

Frontier Smart (Frontier Silicon)

Frontier Nuvola Smart Radio portal

Favourites (Knowledge-base page)

My Comments

The Web-based favourites portal returns to Frontier-based Internet radios like these Ruark sets

Frontier Smart have revised their Web-based Internet-radio-management portal to work with the Airable by TuneIn Internet-radio directory. This is after Frontier Smart, formerly Frontier Silicon, jumped from vTuner to Airable after it was recently found that vTuner recently “lost it” with Internet-radio service quality.

This account-driven portal offers Web-based favourites management which also supports the ability to create personalised station groups like “Favourite European Stations”. As well it brings back the ability to upload the Web address of an audio stream for your Internet radio to pick up, which can be useful if you are dealing with a station not on the Airable directory.

At the moment, you can have a favourites list available to a particular Internet radio or have them across all of the compatible devices you have bound to your account.

… including the Ruark R7 Radiogram

You need to create an account with the Frontier Nuvola Smart Radio portal for this feature to work. This supports social sign-on with Google and Facebook as credential repositories for both signing up and logging in.

As well, you have to enrol each Frontier-based device (Internet radio, wireless speaker, etc) with your Frontier Nuvola account for this function to work. You would then log in to the above-mentioned portal then select the “Connect New Device” option on the “Devices” screen to bind your device to your account.

You would need to bring up the device’s access code by using its control surface or companion app to select “Stations” then “Help” while it is in Internet Radio mode. Then you transcribe this number from the device’s display or companion app in to the “Connect New Device” web form. This number has a validity time of 10 minutes.

As well, you have the option to name the device with an easy-to-remember name so you know what it is. I would recommend the use of its make and, perhaps, model name or number plus its location in your home like “Kitchen Sangean DDR-66BT” for a Sangean DDR-66BT stereo Internet radio / CD player installed in the kitchen  as an easy way to identify it.

How could Airable and Frontier Smart improve on this feature?

Airable could improve on the Web-based favourites functionality so that your favourites aren’t confined to devices based on a particular platform or offered by a particular make. This is because some manufacturers; especially those who provide “big sets” like hi-fi tuners and receivers, or those offering to the automotive market whether line-fit, dealer-fit or aftermarket, will create their own highly-branded user interfaces to this directory.

As well, Airable could then be in a position to offer an Internet-radio / podcast app for mobile and desktop computing platforms so you can benefit from its resources with your smartphone, 2-in-1 laptop or desktop computer. It can extend to smart-TV and set-top-box platforms where an Internet-radio app is considered to be a desirable function. This could then compete with established app-based Internet-radio providers like TuneIn Radio and give a boost for European IT in the consumer space.

They could also provide the ability for a user to create preset-list and personal-stream groups that are available to a subset of Internet radios or other devices bound to your account. It could suit a situation such as to have one favourites list for in-car use or the office and another for the home.

Similarly, it could be feasible for a device to support multiple users such as to cater for larger households or the hospitality industry where different people have their own favourites lists or streams but want to use their accounts with the same devices.

The Airable effort is still being seen as a way to keep the essence of Internet radio – the “new shortwave radio” alive as a medium when it comes to standalone devices.

It is time for YouTube to face competition

Amazon Echo Show in kitchen press picture courtesy of Amazon

Google not allowing Amazon to provide a native client tor the popular YouTube service on the Echo Show highlights how much control they have over the user-generated video market

Over the last many years, YouTube established a name for itself regarding the delivery of user-generated video content through our computers. This included video created by ordinary householders ranging from the many puppy and kitten videos through to personal video travelogues. But a lot of professional video creators have used it to run showreels or simply host their regular content such as corporate videos and film trailers, with some TV channels even hosting shows for a long time on it.

After Google took over YouTube, there have been concerns about its availability across platforms other than the Web. One of the first instances that occurred was for Apple to be told to drop their native YouTube client from iOS with users having to install a Google-developed native client for this service on their iOS devices.

Recently, Google pulled YouTube from Amazon’s Echo Show device ostensibly due to it not having a good-enough user interface. But it is really down to Google wanting to integrate YouTube playback in to their Google Home and Chromecast platforms with the idea of running it as a feature exclusive to those voice-driven home assistant platforms.

YouTube Keyboard Cat

Could the Web be the only surefire place to see Keyboard Cat?

These instances can affect whether you will be able to view YouTube videos on your Smart TV, set-top box, games console, screen-equipped smart speaker or similar device. It will also affect whether a company who designs one of these devices can integrate YouTube functionality in to these devices in a native form or improve on this functionality through the device’s lifecycle. The concern will become stronger if the device or platform is intended to directly compete with something Google offers.

There are some video services like Vimeo and Dailymotion that offer support for user-generated and other video content. But these are services that are focused towards businesses or professionals who want to host video content and convey a level of uninterrupted concentration. This can be a limitation for small-time operators such as bloggers and community organisations who want to get their feet wet with video.

Facebook is starting to provide some form of competition in the form of their Watch service but this will require users to have presence on the Facebook social network, something that may not be desirable amongst some people. Amazon have opened up their Prime streaming-video platform to all sorts of video publishers and creators, positioning it as Amazon Video Direct. But this will require users to be part of the Amazon Prime platform.

But for people who publish to consumer-focused video services like YouTube, competition will require them to put content on all the services. For small-time video publishers who are focusing on video content, this will involve uploading to different platforms for a wider reach. On the other hand, one may have to use a video-distribution platform which allows for “upload once, deliver many” operation.

Competition could open up multiple options for publishers, equipment / platform designers, and end-users. For example, it could open up monetisation options for publishers’ works, simplify proper dealing with copyrighted works used within videos, open up native-client access for more platforms, amongst other things.

But there has to be enough competition to keep the market sustainable and each of the platforms must be able to support the ability to view a video without the user being required to create an account beforehand. The market should also support the existence of niche providers so as to cater to particular publishers’ and viewers needs.

In conclusion, competition could make it harder for YouTube to effectively “own” the user-generated consumer video market and control how this market operates including what devices the content appears on.

Two niche video-on-demand providers are starting to show up strong

From the horse’s mouth

Acorn TV – SVOD provider offering the best of British telly to the USA

Native Clients

Mobile: iOS, Android

TVs and Set-top Devices: Apple TV (tvOS), Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Samsung Smart TV (newer)

SBS On Demand – AVOD provider offering foreign and art-house content to Australian audiences

Native Clients

Mobile: iOS, Android, Amazon Kindle Fire, Windows Phone

Regular Computers: Windows 10

TVs and Set-top Devices: Apple TV (tvOS),  XBox 360, XBox One, PS3, PlayStation 4, Humax, Fetch TV, Telstra TV, Telstra T-Box, Sony Bravia Smart TVs, Android TV, Google TV, Samsung Smart TVs, LG Smart TVs, Panasonic Viera Smart TVs, HBBTV, TCL TV

My Comments

As the mainstream “over-the-top” video-on-demand market becomes saturated with service providers who try to cover all the bases, a few companies are rising up or will rise up to offer an “over-the-top” video-on-demand service that targets a niche audience.

Some of these companies are based on an existing media-publication or distribution platform that already courts that particular niche like a home-video distributorship, a TV broadcaster or a bookstore. Here, I would simply see a niche video-on-demand provider very similar to an art-house cinema or a specialty bookstore.

The different companies provide these services on one or more of the following three business models

  • AVOD (Advertising Video-On-Demand) – advertising-funded with TV commercials run during the show like with traditional TV. It is commonly used with services that started out as “catch-up TV” services offered by TV broadcasters who sell advertising.
  • SVOD (Subscription Video-On-Demand) – funded by users paying a monthly or yearly subscription fee to see all of the content offered by the video-on-demand provider. It is the same kind of business model that Netflix operate on.
  • TVOD (Transactional Video-On-Demand) – viewers pay to have access to a particular movie or series title either on an infinite basis or for a certain time period. It is similar to the video offerings provided by the platform app stores (Apple iTunes, Google Play or Microsoft Store).

These providers may find that the business model that they choose may please the audience that views their content, especially if they are capitalising on their media-distribution heritage. On the other hand, they may have to operate the different business models together such as taking a “freemium” approach with an advertising-funded service but allowing viewers to subscribe to a premium ad-free service.

There are two services I am calling out in this article that are answering to the niche video-on-demand market.

 

Screenshot of Acorn TV website

Acorn TV – the best of British telly in the USA

One of these is Acorn TV, a subscription video-on-demand service that is supplying the best of British telly to the American market. It was based on the Acorn imprint which sold British shows on packaged home-video media (VHS videocassettes and DVD / Blu-Ray discs) in to the USA since 1994. Acorn are even heading towards creating their own content as well as redistributing the content offered by the British TV channels in to the USA. It appeals to British expats who have moved to North America along with Americans who appreciate the high-quality content that British TV is known for.

SBS On Demand Windows 10 platform app

SBS On-Demand (Windows 10 native app) – foreign-language TV in Australia thanks to SBS

The other of these is SBS On Demand, an advertising video-on-demand service that is supplying Australian viewers with foreign and art-house content. This service evolved from a “catch-up TV” service that SBS, a publicly-funded radio and TV service that focused towards Australia’s ethnic communities since the late 70s, ran in conjunction with their free-to-air TV service. Here, they have become the Australian TV outlet for the rising classes of subtitled content like Nordic Noir crime fiction even before such content came on the scene in the UK and USA. SBS still create their own edgy TV content to show on their regular TV service or directly on this on-demand service.

Most of these providers work on traditional content trees with content grouped primarily by the standard content genres with opisodic content listed by series title. But as this class of on-demand video provider evolves,  there will be the curated thematic content groups appearing in their content trees, focusing on particular themes like content classes that underscore the niche very well like the “Golden Age of British Comedy”.

What needs to happen is the ability for those niche video-on-demand content providers not to just represent themselves as just another app in your smart TV’s or mobile device’s app store but to expose the fact that they provide a particular class of content.

Allowing for niche SVOD providers to exist

Google Play Android app store

App stores like Google Play could be the place to set up shop as a boutique SVOD provider

An issue that will face the subscription video-on-demand market will be the existence of niche players. These are boutique SVOD providers that provide current and back-catalogue content that focus on particular tastes and interests. Examples of these could include a provider who runs European, Asian or other foreign films in to English-speaking markets; a specialist in art-house cinema, documentary movies or low-budget fare of the 60s and 70s that was run at a “flea-pit” cinema or drive-in, or even an extension of a Christian bookstore chain that runs Christian movies.

This is similar to how home video evolved through the early days where video content providers worked with particular vertical markets even though the major film studios saw this new distribution medium as too risky. This allowed, for example, the low-budget independent content to gain more of a foothold with some of the names listed in these movies’ credits to head towards bigger better-paid gigs.

Very hard to compete in the successful mainstream SVOD world

Netflix official logo - courtesy of Netflix

Netflix – the sign of a saturated SVOD marketplace

What has been noticed recently is that only a few mainstream SVOD providers that “cover all the bases” can exist in one market at one time. This was recently exemplified when QuickFlix fell of the tree because they were trying to pitch the Australian market against Netflix, Presto and Stan. Similarly, the SVOD model has been proven to be successful as this article from Advanced Television shows, underscoring concepts like increased perceived value and customers signing up with multiple SVOD services.

From my experience with Netflix, I had noticed that the subscription video-on-demand services were able to come across in an exciting manner especially with their user interface. For example, they offered a recommendation engine which allows you to discover content you may be interested in; along with a carousel-style user interface that encourages browsing.

Ability to divide the niche genre in to sub-genres

A niche SVOD provider would be able to license particular kinds of video content that serve their niche and even break this content collection down in to multiple sub-genres. Examples of these could include the Australian “Ozsploitation” movies that could be part of the “grind-house” low-budget movie niche; or there could be a Christian SVOD provider offering the “testimony” movies as a separate class of movie. Or a foreign-language provider could run language-focused genres like, for example, a European provider running the Nordic-noir content as a distinct class of content.

Ability to sell the content in other forms

Inspector Morse DVD box set

Collectable optical-disc box sets could still be sold by niche SVOD providers

A situation that can easily give the niche SVOD provider an edge over the traditional SVOD provider of the Netflix ilk is that they could work directly with studios and distributors servicing that niche, typically indie studios, to take the content further.

For example, they can offer “download-to-view” or “download-to-own” as a content-acquisition option along with the streaming option. This can be facilitated through the use of the SCSA Vidity secure-content-delivery mechanism. Similarly, the niche SVOD provider, especially if they work alongside a bookstore, video store or similar outlet, could allow for online or “click-and-collect” selling of content on physical media like Blu-Ray Discs. This is becoming more so as the niche bookstores and “collectable” DVD stores are still hanging on even though there is a reduction in the number of mainstream content stores in the “bricks-and-mortar” form.

Specialised information including playlists

The specialist nature also has the ability for a niche SVOD provider to supply more detailed material about the content or even offer themed playlists that viewers can work through. Such playlists could be created based on an occasion like an anniversary or awards ceremony that affects the niche; or even films based in a particular location.

But what would these providers need to do to put themselves on the map?

As well as acquiring the necessary server space on optimised servers around the world and licensing the catalogue of movies and TV shows to have available, they would need to work on making Web and platform apps available to gain access to this content.

Apple TV and Chromecast – a foot in the door

Apple TV - Mirroring on - iPad

An Apple TV device could be a foot in the door for niche SVOD providers courting iOS users

Some platforms, namely the iOS and Android mobile platforms support streaming to the large-screen TV via a home network thanks to the Apple TV and Chromecast devices that connect to your regular TV. This may dodge a problem associated with catering to most of the smart-TV platforms where the content provider may have to be allied with the platform’s vendor or approved by that vendor to get the content app in their app store. It is because the user interface can be focused on the iOS or Android devices with the app “throwing” the stream from the SVOD service to the Apple TV or Chromecast device.

But some Web-based platforms may be able to work with the big screen thanks to Apple TV (in the case of MacOS or iOS) or Chromecast (in the case of Android, Chrome OS or any operating system with the Chrome browser). In some of these cases, you may be able to have it that the video content goes “full screen” while it is playing.

Platforms that would succeed for app-based approaches

XBox One games console press image courtesy Microsoft

XBox One – the games console / multimedia box accessible to niche SVOD providers

The platforms that I see as working well for niche SVOD providers would be the Android and Windows 10 platforms due to being able to show a larger variety of content without the risk of being removed from the platform’s app store. Similarly, the Android TV platform supported by the Freebox mini 4K set-top box, some of the newer Sony smart TVs and the NVIDIA Shield games console; the XBox One games console or the Kodi open-source set-top-box platform could be seen as TV-based platforms that facilitate niche SVOD providers.

Bringing new customers on board

Another issue that needs to be raised is that the onboarding experience for new subscribers has to be simplified. This may involve a Web-based or app-based experience including the ability to allow TV-based or set-top-based apps to cater to multiple users and accounts. It may also involve whether the niche SVOD provider has to implement social sign-on, perhaps as an option, where one can use a social network’s user interface to sign on to the service.

This could be facilitated through the initial onboarding experience being facilitated with a secure Web-based user experience where the user ends up creating their own account and setting up a subscription plan. Then they log in to the mobile-based or TV-based user experience with this account that they created in order to enjoy the content.

Promoting the service

To reach out to the audience base that would value the content, the potential niche SVOD provider would need to run advertising and PR campaigns focused on that audience class. They may also be discovered through feature-app functionality provided by the different app stores, especially where the app store creates thematic app lists to expose particular content to particular users.

In this case, the blurb that the niche SVOD provider supplies to the app stores for their platform apps needs to mention the kind of audience that the SVOD provider is intending to reach. This includes using the keywords that best describe that audience and the sub-genres that the content is classed to.

Conclusion

When a subscription-video-on-demand service market becomes saturated, it may have to be the time to create this new medium’s equivalent of a specialist bookstore, art-house cinema or specialist video store. This also means that there has to be the ability to utilise different ways to nurture the enthusiasts who are willing to spend more on this kind of content.

Freeview now aggregates Australian FTA TV Internet streams in a mobile app

Article

TV networks to launch aggregated streaming app | AdNews

Previous Coverage

Broadcast TV via the Internet

My Comments

Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 tablet

Tablets and smartphones could end up as the place to watch TV and you don’t need a tuner module

Previously, I covered the issue of regular TV broadcasters running Internet-video streams of their traditional broadcast output. This has been offered as part of a Web-front or native app that the TV network supplies, typically to facilitate access to their catch-up TV service.

This is about not needing to use a USB or broadcast-LAN TV tuner device to watch TV on your smartphone, tablet or laptop. It underscores the goal of having one of these devices take over the role of that small-screen TV you would have in the kitchen to watch “Days Of Our Lives” while you do the ironing.

One of the issues I had raised with this approach was that you had to switch between apps if you wanted to view content on other networks and this didn’t play well with the classic TV channel-surfing experience of being able to switch between the channels using the same “control surface” on the TV set or remote control. This is where you would immediately landed on some content when you changed channels.

Freeview Australia, who represent Australia’s free-to-air TV networks, had established a hybrid-broadcast-broadband TV platform that integrates catch-up TV offerings and the real-time TV content from all of these networks under the Freeview Plus platform. This platform required you to purchase a new compliant Smart TV or set-top box and you weren’t sure whether your existing Smart TV could work with this, especially in the context of TV sets being considered durable items.

Now they have extended this Freeview Plus platform to mobile devices by creating an aggregated experience where you can switch between channels on the same app. It also allows for content to be searched across the live streams and the catch-up services so it is easier to pinpoint what you are after on your tablet.

But one feature I would provide for is to be able to determine the live streams that you want to be able to switch between so you can maintain the traditional viewing experience with your smartphone or tablet. This includes being able to switch between the channel you last viewed and the current channel which would play well with the after-Christmas ritual of watching the Boxing Day Test and the Sydney-Hobart yacht race, switching between them when the advertising plays.

At least what is happening is that a free-to-air integration platform like the different “Freeviews” operating in the Commonwealth countries is tackling the issue of free-to-air TV channels running Internet streams and providing an integrated viewing experience for mobile devices.

Broadcast TV via the Internet

Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 tablet

Tablets and smartphones could end up as the place to watch TV and you don’t need a tuner module

I have noticed that every traditional TV broadcaster that is running a “catch-up TV” platform is now streaming their regular TV channels live over the Internet using this platform. It is primarily pitched at those of us who use smartphones, tablets or laptops to view TV content “on the road” without the need for a TV-tuner module or broadcast-LAN tuner box and, in some ways, is being seen as TV’s equivalent to Internet radio.

Local content and advertising

This has opened up a can of worms when it comes to the kind of content available for people to view on their mobile devices, including the issue of regional content. In Australia, for example, the live-TV-over-Internet service primarily offers what is being broadcast to the metropolitan areas for the state capitals and this is ruffling local feathers when it comes to broadcasting news and public-affairs content relevant to the regional areas or providing airtime for local businesses to advertise their wares.

One of the core issues concerning the “live-TV-over-Internet” will be the locality of the editorial and advertising content including where is the content “local to”. If you listen to a foreign radio station’s Internet-radio stream using your Internet radio, you will know what this is about because of the talk and advertising that is local to that station’s city and there are people who like this either as a foreign-language learning tool or to acquire the “fabric” of that city if they lived there or have a soft spot for that area.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Ultrabook

… as could laptops

This issue regarding TV could be rectified using streams that represent an area’s key markets and these streams have editorial and advertising content representative to those markets. The use of dynamic-ad-insertion technology would earn its keep with local campaigns being ran in the commercial breaks which could ameliorate the issues associated with local businesses not able to advertise their wares to their markets.

Area-specific rights issues

An issue that will impact “live-TV-over-Internet” will be area-specific rights for broadcast content. This is where a broadcaster buys exclusive rights to exhibit a particular sports fixture, movie or TV show in a geographic area, especially on a first-run basis. Typically these rights will be protected with

There will be the broadcast and customer-service issues being raised because a show normally available on a particular channel is not shown due to it conflicting with a local network’s existing rights.

Internet-only TV services

Another issue yet to come forward is the ability to gain access to “Internet-only” TV broadcasters which will come about as “live-TV-over-Internet” gains momentum. Such broadcasters are received primarily via your Internet service without having an over-the-air or cable/satellite presence.

These will manifest in the form of extra channels offered by a traditional broadcaster but not on the traditional broadcast platform, or an Internet-only broadcaster who would be able to run boutique content cheaply and easily due to low onboarding costs.

The issue that will show up with running an “Internet-only” TV service is how easy is it for potential viewers to discover these services especially if the goal is to run a scheduled-content service.

Content discovery

Another issue will be whether Internet TV will kill the traditional “channel-surfing” or “flicking” experience where viewers often flicked around the TV’s channel selector or jabbed the channel buttons on the remote control to look for something to watch. This is the main method where a lot of users discover newer radio and TV content. The current implementation would require you to run one catch-up TV / VOD app and browse the channels the broadcaster is offering, then run another app offered by another broadcaster and browse those channels to get the “lay of the land”.

This may be rectified through the use of a directory service similar to what has existed for Internet radio. Here, this could allow for a “channel-surf” experience along with the ability to browse for channels that offer content based on genres or other factors. Such a directory could be part of an electronic programme guide which encompasses all of the broadcasters and may work in conjunction with network or cloud PVR setups.

With Internet radio, multiple providers like vTuner and TuneIn Radio had set up to provide access to the Internet-radio streams, both those of AM/FM/digital broadcasters and of Internet-only stations. This means that an Internet radio or a mobile app would effectively have the same directory and different set manufacturers even had the ability to “brand” their own directories so as to be part of their user experience. This could then apply to Internet-based TV with different ISPs, smart-TV platform vendors, Websites and others running or licensing Internet-TV directories.

PVR recording

An issue that will also crop up is the concept of PVR recording of TV shows streamed via an Internet-based TV service. This will most likely be facilitated via an EPG so you can choose the shows from a programme grid or “what’s showing” list.

This could be achieved via a local-storage effort such as a traditional set-top device or a NAS that serves the home network; or a cloud-based effort based on the “software-as-a-service” model.

As what has happened with video recorders and traditional PVR devices, there will be the need to sort out copyright issues regarding the recording of shows. The new landscape in the context of “PVR as a service” will be highlighted in this context is the concept of “shared recordings” where one recording is made and many viewers view that single copy; or “private recordings” where each household has its own copies of the TV shows in a “digital locker” on the servers. Similarly, another issue that will show up is the portability of these recordings especially if the recordings are taken across national borders which would be a key issue in areas like North America or Europe.

The issue of portable recordings will come to the fore with us using mobile devices or a TV at another location like a friend’s home or a hotel to catch up on favourite TV shows.

Conclusion

What is becoming a reality is that television as we knew it is appearing via the Internet in addition to or in lieu of traditional broadcast-based pathways.

Spain sees multiple-play the path to pay-TV

Article

Bullfight

The home of the bullfight new sees the reality of single-pipe multiple-play services for pay-TV
image credit: Bullfight, Spain via free images (license)

Spain: Convergent packages boost pay-TV take-up  | Advanced Television

My Comments

Spain, the home of the bullfight, is a market where the multi-play Internet service is increasing the take-up of pay-TV service. This is something that is similarly occurring in the UK and France due to the popularity of keenly-priced multiple-play services that underscore “one-pipe” provision.

But why would I see this so? This is because these multi-play services, which include fixed-line telephony, mobile telephony, mobile broadband and pay-TV along with the fixed-line broadband Internet service, typically implement a “one-pipe” method for delivering the telephony, pay-TV and fixed-line broadband service component. This is facilitated through the use of IPTV to provision pay-TV through DSL or fibre-optic infrastructure, thus avoiding the need to deploy a satellite dish or cable-TV installation.

The statistics which are gathered by CNMC tell it all with at least 364,000 pay-TV subscribers or 65.4% of Spain’s pay-TV subscriber base heading down this path. Of course, that country has a total pay-TV subscriber base of 5.4m which yields EUR€509.4 million in revenue.

What is showing more is that pay-TV takeup can be facilitated using IPTV technologies and single-pipe multi-play services offered by the telecommunications companies and the cable-TV providers. This can be augmented with the use of VIDIPATH technology leading to “house-wide” pay-TV. But pay-TV can be worth its salt if there is good-quality content to watch.

4K on carrier-provided IPTV–Free takes the first step

Articles – French language / Langue française

Freebox Mini press image courtesy of Free.fr

Freebox Mini 4K – gateway to 4K UHDTV in France

Free, 1er à proposer une chaîne 4K avec Festival 4K | Freenews.fr

Festival 4K disponible aussi en ADSL et VDSL sur Freebox | Freenews.fr

Ultra haute définition : Free diffuse la première chaîne 4K | ZDNet.fr

From the horse’s mouth

Free.fr

Press Release (PDF)

My Comments

Free.fr, who is a strong player in French multi-play Internet market has become the first multi-play ISP to offer a 4K UHDTV channel as part of their IPTV content.

The channel, called Festival 4K and found on logical channel number 62, is focused on musical theatre, concerts and similar cultural events with these events being transmitted using 4K UHDTV technology.  This will require the 4K UHDTV to be connected to the Freebox Mini 4K set-top box which is based on Android TV software.

The initial subscription technical requirement was for the household to be connected to Free’s services via fibre-to-the-premises technology. But later on, it was discovered that you can use a VDSL2 or ADSL2 connection “dégroupée” (unbundled local loop) to Free and the connection has to have at least 15Mbps for reliable operationj.

This is another step with Free to lead the pack when it comes to competitive multiple-play services by opening up towards cutting-edge technology in the form of 4K UHDTV broadcasting.

The Net Neutrality battle comes to Australia courtesy of Optus

Articles

Netflix official logo - courtesy of Netflix

Optus considers breaking net neutrality in Australia | IT News

Optus may charge Netflix and streaming services for video quality | Mashable

Optus Wants Netflix To Pay For ‘Premium Service’ Over Its Network | Gizmodo

Optus wants Netflix to pay up to ensure quality video streaming | Digital Life (Sydney Morning Herald)

My Comments

There has been a huge stoush in the USA between the established cable companies and telcos versus the Internet content providers, Internet users and the FCC regarding the issue of Net Neutrality.

This principle is where an Internet service provider can’t charge an internet content provider like Netflix for better throughput to their customers. This has got to the point where the FCC and President Obama had pushed for the Internet to be deemed a utility service in a similar vein to the telephone service. But this is being subject to a legal challenge which is being watched by a lot of the Internet operators over here as well as in the USA.

Now Optus have thrown the possibility of charging Netflix, Stan & Co a premium fee for higher throughput to their customers as one of many ways to cater for the arrival of streamed on-demand video via the Internet. The argument that is pitched is that customers will complain to their ISP rather than the OTT video provider or catch-up TV service if the experience with their video-on-demand service isn’t up-to-snuff.

Like in the USA, Netflix has been standing for Net Neutrality thus wouldn’t go for any unmetered data arrangements with any of the Australian ISPs. So they wouldn’t go for Optus’s arrangement of whoever pays the piper plays the tune.

Issues were also being raised about the cost and availability of wholesale and retail bandwidth in the Australian market especially in the face of video-on-demand becoming more popular thanks to Netflix and co. This will also include factoring in quality-of-service for content streaming so as to avoid “glitches” through viewing sessions along with catering for higher resolution video content.

It certainly is showing that Australia is needing to cope with a higher demand for real broadband with the proper throughput and this has to be provided in a highly-competitive manner and with assurance of Net Neutrality and quality-of-service.