Interactive TV giants get together

Mar 5, 2001  •  Post A Comment

Call it a meeting of the minds.
It seems that the technology is there but money is getting scarcer, making it a good time for those in the tech end of TV to get together, swap war stories and ideas about the future and come up with strategies for the years ahead.
At least that’s what Mark Miller had in mind when he set up “Bridging Technology, Creativity, and Distribution,” a conference for content providers, networks, distributors, advertisers and technology providers to be held March 29 and 30 in West Hollywood, Calif.
Mr. Miller is president and CEO of iMIX, an event, design and strategic management consulting company dedicated to building shared knowledge networks for new media professionals. iMIX grew out of Mr. Miller’s participation in a consulting project at Columbia TriStar Interactive (now Sony Pictures Digital Entertainment), initiated by Robert Tercek, to study communication and conflict resolution in the interactive television industry. (Mr. Tercek is now president of the programming division of PacketVideo, a company that enables content providers and network operators to deliver full-motion video to wireless devices.)
“We have two main objectives,” said Mr. Miller. “The first is to understand and analyze the interests of the content, technology and distribution sectors of the interactive television industry-see where they are aligned and where they are in opposition-and work to develop solutions that bring them into alignment. The second objective is to understand recent events within the industry and project strategies for success in 2002.”
The event is sponsored by Liberate Technologies, OpenTV, iWink, Intellocity, PowerTV, Canal Plus U.S. Technologies, Chyron, Discreet, Microsoft TV, the Advanced TV Forum, SpinTV, Kobalt Interactive, Association for Interactive Media (AIM), VIC, MHP and Digital Video Broadcasting. But despite the heavy corporate backing, attendees are expecting an open environment for people who are already producing new media to talk about the issues at hand.
Topping that list of issues is getting cable and satellite operators to put their money where their mouths are in deploying interactive TV. Despite much talk about ITV being the hot commodity to lure viewers, there hasn’t been significant deployment of interactive content over the past 12 months.
“Millions of set-top boxes have been deployed, but mainly for offering more channels,” said iMIX board member Eric Shanks, who is also vice president of enhanced programming for the Fox Television Group. Mr. Shanks has spent the past few months conducting a road show of Fox Sports Extra and Fox News Extra enhancements to demonstrate their technological possibilities to U.S. cable and satellite TV operators. His goal is go get some deployments on various platforms by year-end, and he sees the conference is yet another way to strategize a clear-cut plan to do this.
“It’s great to get a group of distributors together to figure out what our common goals are-to get good ideas on how ITV can succeed: it happens in the small groups that get together and talk and do lunch,” he said. “And Mark [Miller] is great about getting hot speakers.”
For Mr. Shanks, “hot speakers” are people on the verge of deploying something big-like Brad Beale, senior vice president of DirecTV Global Digital Media, which is primed to deploy UltimateTV.
Mr. Beale sees 2001 as the year of content and services, albeit a “cautious rollout.” Three obstacles stand in the way: difficulty of making technology cheap enough to be affordable, lack of business models to cash in on the technologies available, and the challenge of convincing consumers they want the new services.
Jo Parkinson, head of enhanced television for ntl-the United Kingdom’s largest cable operator-is making her way from Europe to the conference to present a case study on “Misadventures in Enhanced TV” as well as to schmooze with colleagues about getting content providers to develop programming that current technology can support.
Customer feedback from cable operators is something that Carlos Silva Jr., vice president, AOL TV Studio, is anxious to hear about at the conference.
“You always get these top 10 lists in different analysts’ reports and surveys,” Mr. Silva noted. “But I’d really like to hear about what people are really paying for.”