Guest Commentary: TV and the Internet: Can TV Be All Things to All People?

Oct 5, 2008  •  Post A Comment

In a recent Motorola survey, 73% of Millennials—that always-on generation ranging in age from 16 to 27—reported that the Internet is better suited than television to provide them with the content they want, wherever and whenever they want it. At the same time, more than half still rely on their TV sets to watch TV programs and movies—that’s more than any other medium.
This contradiction between what Millennials want and what they currently do won’t last long. Millennials have been surrounded by broadband, cable, Internet, computers and cell phones since birth—and as the digital vanguard, they will define the future of content. To remain competitive, the content delivery industry must provide the individualized, interactive applications Millennials want. There is a new area of opportunity to differentiate service offerings by porting the experiences of the Internet over to the TV at a higher value and quality.
High Interactivity, High Value
To keep up with consumer expectations, most service providers are in various stages of planning and implementation to offer interactive, high-quality experiences. As service providers have discovered, these experiences can be delivered affordably and effectively through Internet Protocol and its inherent two-way structure. IP provides a flexible platform for delivering next-generation video content and rapidly creating and introducing new interactive services. With IP as the enabling technology, service providers can develop applications to meet the demand for two-way interactive services but need to be cognizant of consumers’ increasing expectations for high-quality video experiences, regardless of the viewing device.
Two-Way Interactivity
Two-way services—which enable users to interact with content—have been top-of-mind, especially as technologies such as Tru2Way have been in the spotlight. But perhaps an even more important trend, multitasking, will have the most impact on the design of two-way services. The Millennial generation alone has expressed great interest in features that would continue to blur the lines between TV and Internet experiences, bringing more interactivity to one device. In the Motorola Millennial Survey, more than two-thirds (70%) of respondents reported that they multitask while watching their favorite TV programs, while 79% said they are interested in on-screen Internet links about program content and 56% would like to interact with their favorite TV shows.
At its core, this interactivity comes down to delivering the next wave of rich media experiences for the home, driven by new, innovative applications. And consumers are speaking out about what they want. Countless reports have quantified which experiences consumers are looking for: gaming; on-demand; caller ID on the TV; extra programming information; camera angle selection; photos, music or e-mail on the TV; messaging via the TV; interactive purchasing features; and even family calendars. The list is limited only by imagination.
Delivering these new applications and interactive services requires optimized networks that combine bandwidth capabilities, delivery methods and enabling technologies into a sleek, efficient infrastructure. And though end users will not care how their interactive TV experience is enabled—just that it is enabled seamlessly—IP is and will be a critical part of this mix.
Superior Quality
With an IP backbone, the connected TV holds great promise to be almost all things to all people. The winners will be those that can deliver these compelling, interactive experiences better, faster, stronger—providing the best quality at the highest value to the consumer.
How can this be accomplished? By making the most of what you have. For example, high-end services such as high definition can consume a lot of bandwidth, but as HD content volume and distribution ramps up, many are looking at migrating to technologies such as MPEG-4, which offers twice the bandwidth savings, or a mix of MPEG-2 and MPEG-4 compression, allowing providers to deliver high-quality video economically.
Open platforms, like those found on many IP set-tops, also enable greater application innovation on existing networks. For manufacturers, open platforms provide scalability and flexibility to differentiate themselves. For content providers, they provide efficient investment decisions and personalized offerings. For developers, they provide a broader opportunity for innovation. And for consumers, this means access to more rich media experiences.
Though not without challenges, this personalization and interactivity can be accomplished—and it can be accomplished on the TV set. With whole-home solutions and innovative application development, the future will not be TV versus the Internet, but TV and the Internet.
Marty Stein is senior marketing director of Motorola IP Video Services.


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