TV Becoming Personal Device; Google’s Schmidt Asks Broadcasters To Embrace Technology

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August 29, 2011 – 12:03 am

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Should TV Be Targeted?

The notion of addressable TV isn’t a fantasy anymore, but the reality remains a little complicated. Razorfish’s emerging practice head Jeremy Lockhorn, writing in Clickz, identifies three pain points plaguing targeted TV that the industry must deal with to move the business of targeted TV forward.

There are, of course, the familiar hurdles – technological (existing equipment was not made as a pipeline for ads), privacy (consumers remain leery of targeting) and the nature of TV as a mass medium, not a one-to-one format like the PC or mobile.

It’s that last point where Lockhorn goes out on a limb to suggest that maybe addressable TV is just not the right thing for TV. Though he insists he’s just thinking out loud and not calling for an end to the pursuit of addressable TV, Lockhorn wonders if the phone makes more sense as a targetable instrument because people tend not to share the same device. But family is often a communal experience, with friends and family often watching the same set together, even programming that’s time-shifted via DVR. Even if they don’t watch together, different people do watch the same set at different times, making it nearly impossible to know who exactly is tuning in: a 34-year-old man or woman, or a 12-year-old kid.

But the TV viewing experience is becoming a more personal device. For a generation, even less prosperous households have had a TV for each person living there. Secondly, TV and the web is becoming much more entwined, with adoption of wifi-enabled sets bringing greater similarity to all screens, whether nailed to the wall or set on lap or carried in a pocket.

Those changes will make targeted TV succeed despite the industry’s technological and political challenges.

Google’s UK Outreach

Google’s Eric Schmidt visited Edinburgh’s the prestigious annual MacTaggart Lecture to address, among other things, TV companies’ concerns about over-the-top services in general and the search giant’s plans in that area specifically. Essentially, Schmidt pleaded with broadcasters to embrace the technologies that that threaten their traditional ways of doing business rather than with the “undercurrent of protectionism in some of the attacks” they have launched against companies like Google, writes paidcontent UK’s Robert Andrews.

Google has often protested that it is not interested in being a content creator and Schmidt offered some emphatic comments to that affect – though his words belie the fact that last spring it said it would spend $100 million creating original content for YouTube, as The Guardian’s James Robinson pointed out. But networks are loathe to take the powerful company at its word. It’s unlikely that Schmidt convinced anyone in attendance.

When he wasn’t pleading Google’s case as a friend not an enemy to the networks, Schmidt took careful aim at regulators who have thwarted his plans. Schmidt highlighted the stillborn Hulu-like gambit Project Kangaroo, which was shut down by competition officials “seemingly on the basis that it would be too successful… I know hope lives on in the guise of YouView,” Schmidt said. “But, even if YouView meets its revised timetable of launching in 2012, you’ll still have thrown away several years when the UK could have been in the lead - a lifetime, technologically.”

It’s difficult to gauge how persuasive Schmidt was. Broadcasters have picked up on Google’s desperation for deals so it can get some traction on its OTT offering Google TV. Google’s recent $12.5 billion purchase of Motorola Mobility, the devices and services division of the Schaumberg, Illinois-based telco, could change things as Schmidt’s company may get involved in the manufacture of set-top boxes.

As Mark Lieberman, CEO of the targeted TV company TRA, wrote in Mediapost, with Motorola Mobility, Google gains fully half of the market in set-top-box manufacturing, giving it a more demonstrable foothold in the home.

Ultimately, it’s actions, not that words that influence the actions of those you want to influence. And Google, as one of the world’s most powerful tech companies, knows that all too well.

TWC Goes OTT

Speaking of spooking the networks, Time Warner Cable’s support of one of the established over-the-top services, Slingbox, is sure to cause some vexation in the offices of major programmers. The company will begin offering a $300 rebate to customers who buy a Slingbox HD, which allows subscribers to view shows on their computers as well as their TVs, the New York Times’ Brian Stelter reported. Oh, and the price of a Slingbox just happens to be $300.

As if TWC didn’t rattle networks with its iPad app that allows for “TV Everywhere” mobile viewing experience. Still, this latest move should serve as a wake-up call to networks. MSOs see the writing on the wall (and they’ve seen quite enough subscribers drop them this past year). By recognizing that their subscribers want to watch what they want, when they want, TWC is trying to stay ahead of the cord-cutting that is sure to come in the next few years, even as it remains barely a blip today. So where does that leave programmers? Well, as HBO Go has proved, it’s a level playing field in terms of who can take advantage of the “TV Everywhere” concept. But until there’s an adequate metric in place that can make a set of eyeballs watching a program on their iPad as valuable as the same peepers tuning into to show on TV, networks will be at a disadvantage.

Ars Technica’s Casey Johnston adds that with the Slingbox promotion, TWC is really trying to promote its Wideband internet service as a mainstream product. The company's Wideband Internet connection provides 50Mbps downloads, 5Mbps uploads, and costs $99.95 per month as a standalone service.

Still, BTIG analyst Rich Greenfield noticed (sub. required) one small glitch: certain TWC set-top box models blocks Slingbox from working when connected to your TV via HDMI cables. Greenfield expects the cable company to rectify that issue, though.

Separately, TWC Time Warner Cable Business Class, in tandem with iBahn , is using IPTV to offer a new set of "enhanced" video services to hotels, starting off with the swanky 316-room Dream Downtown, reports Light Reading Cable’s Jeff Baumgartner. The service features 60 channels (48 in hi-def), plus a range of over-the-top content features that are fed by the Internet. iBahn pitches in a video-on-demand service that offers about 40 new movie releases per month, plus access to some Starz Entertainment LLC titles. Kind of gives a nice twist on the “entertainment check-in” service apps like GetGlue and Yahoo’s IntoNow are offering.

But Wait. There’s More!


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August 29, 2011 – 12:03 am

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