INTERVIEW. In a wide-ranging interview with Biz-news.com, Benjamin Schwarz, chief technology officer for CTO Innovation Consulting Group, who has 20 years of international experience in consulting and in Telco & Media organization, gave an insight into the IPTV development.
He also talks about the new opportunities the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa gives IPTV. He is convinced the World Cup would witness a tremendous shift to new and highly advanced 3D video demonstrations.
Content key to IPTV
Acquiring content for IPTV has become reasonable and content owners are now recognising operators as legitimate in their business, Schwarz revealed.
He said while a few years back it was impossible to engage in VoD negotiations, with time this has changed for the better.
“In VoD negotiations ‘minimum guarantees’ are still a stumbling block whereas a few years ago they were in an impassable barrier,” he said.
Technology due-diligence requirements are also relaxing and majors are beginning to realise that in smaller markets where piracy is rife it’s better to have a little revenue-stream even if it means letting go of the precious ‘minimum guarantees’ rather than having nothing,” Schwarz added.
He explained that through the years it has become much easier to get content for IPTV operators through the technological developments.
“A new content aggregation business is coming into existence with specialist VoD outfits like Grey Juice Labs or bigger live TV aggregators like Avail Media. There are even highly specialised consultancies like 3Vision in the UK.
“So all in all, it’s a lot easier to get access to content now than it was just a few years ago,” said Schwarz.
Focusing on the growth of IPTV in terms of market and technology, Schwarz said once Telcos got their offers in place, most markets would have a significant IPTV user base of 10 to 30 percent of households.
He also noted that in future there would be a shift between telcos and content operators.
IPTV continues to make positive strides
Meanwhile, strategic technological alliances seem to be the required solution to the array of challenges that were faced by IPTV’s early adopters, Schwarz said.
Schwarz believes the challenges have since lessened significantly since suppliers such as Microsoft, Cisco, Motorola and Thomson offered a complete end-to-end solution, and other smaller vendors have already integrated with others.
He said early IPTV adopters faced huge challenges in access to content while the second challenge was the technical difficulty in delivering a Quality of Experience (QoE).
“The first challenge has all but gone; the market has a lot more actors in it now, and access to an entry-level channel line-up as well as a decent VoD catalogue is within most operators’ reach,” said Schwarz.
He said standards such as those of the Open IPTV forum have had a much positive impact. However, unlike with content, the technological challenge still remains in South Africa .
“User expectations of quality are getting higher all the time. So, even as we learn to reach the targets, they are being pulled further away all the time,” said Schwarz.
He said an example of this could be observed in the user interface.
“Users interface design is good example of such a moving target. We’re getting so much better all the time, yet never quite good enough,” he said.
Two most prevalent issues in the projects were recently seen at the CTOiC in 2009 – Over-The-Top (OTT) & Hybrid.
The OTT issue has many sides. Some content operators want to deliver OTT directly to Network operators’ customers.
“This is for example, what Joost failed to do, but in many cases they work together as is the case with the BBC’s iPlayer and VirginMedia” said Schwarz.
However operators with walled garden approaches view OTT as a necessary evil because it will enable only just enough and subscribers won’t churn, – not a feature more.
TV widgets from the entities like Yahoo! confuse the picture further. Set makers are adopting different stances with their new connected TVs in this raging war.
“I don’t know how the dust will settle on this. I suppose users, the market will have to decide,” said Schwarz.
2010 World Cup to showcase advanced IPTV technology
The forthcoming 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa will see a leading international forum of the electronic media industry demonstrating highly sophisticated technology aimed at improving television communication and quality.
Schwarz said the 3D video would precisely demonstrate how serious IBC would execute its latest technological advancement in the 2010 FIFA World Cup and the 2012 London Olympics.
“This year IBC showed some great 3D video demonstration, so I definitely think that will be important. I imagine that the coming World Cup in your country (South Africa) will be too soon; we’ll probably see some demos around that event though.
“London’s Olympics in 2012 will be the real launch of 3D. Satellite and Cablecos might be first to market but for once they won’t steal the show from IPTV because the extra bandwidth required is pretty small so it will be a level playing field,” said Schwarz.
Schwarz believes a lot of venture capital would be channeled towards this technological development as evidenced by the on-going huge debate on the social aspect of television.
Turning to IPTV system, Schwarz said since the landscape of electronic technology was changing at an ever-increasing pace, he was convinced that some of the Content Operators who use CTOiC would survive while the old would find the going tough.