Connected Home 2011: It's About People, Not Kit

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Gideon Summerfield, head of product development, Base79 (which, until recently, was myvideorights), pointed out that the inherent laziness of the consumer shouldn’t be underestimated. “We’ve all watched [a film] on TV along with adverts even while we have it as a DVD sitting on the shelf,” he said.

There was consensus that CE firms have been guilty of labelling product with long lists of acronyms and that the industry needed scenarios where it talked more about the benefits and less about the features of a product— something Jobs also preached.

Saunders’ advice was to not cheat the consumer and to allow the product to breathe in the marketplace. “Allow time for consumers to interact with technology and then take it forward based on those learnings. Sometimes we don’t get it right, but it’s not cynical. The consumer protection, if you like, is in the product’s brand equity.”

The sanctity of the TV experience in the living room was referenced over and over again. Stuart Savage, technical manager of LCDTV R&D Europe for LG Electronics, said, “What you see coming out of the front door is just a fraction of the brainstorming that goes on behind the scenes. You only know if it will really work when you get it in front of the public. The fundamental thing about TV is that it should be simple.”

Set-top box developer Amino has had its hybrid OTT platform adopted by Telecom Italia, and a year into the project, Amino CEO Andrew Burke said it had drawn key lessons about getting the TV experience better.

“It’s about selecting VOD effectively, about an EPG and UI which delivers a very televisual experience, so there is no distinction between content delivered by web TV or VOD,” he said. “It’s about getting the basics of PVR, DVB-T, and channel change right. We think we have got the televisual bit right, so now it’s about how we introduce apps and games on demand in a way that we don’t scare the consumer.”

He elaborated: “There is no vanilla experience, no commonality. Some consumers are very advanced. We have to think how we satisfy the needs of 16- to 24-year-olds who are more technically savvy as well as the guys for whom bringing up iPlayer on a big screen is a challenge. We are even thinking about offering levels of experience from the same box so that there can be a very simple user experience or a full-on experience.”

It seems clear then that a connected TV strategy needs to respect the consumer’s values and needs far more than it does at present. It also needs to be joined up, which, if this roundtable event was anything to go by, should not be beyond the wit of man despite market competition. Indeed it would seem in everyone’s interest to prevent market fragmentation and to be more transparent in showcasing the positive advantages of a product.

“What the convergence of technology and content seems to mean is that we all have to work more closely together to get product to market, even if that means greater dependency on software companies,” said Saunders. “We all have to understand each other’s business model and get to the point where we can build services and solutions that make sense to the consumer.”

Mecklenburgh said that Virgin Media was exploring ways of making content search more joined up. “If people have lots of favourite content selections in various places, then how do we bring all those together? It’s easy to create separate islands of data. How do you make sure the big platforms and major services like TiVo and Facebook and the BBC are able to share viewing data information with each other—enough information so that the consumer can in fact get what they want and when and on the device they want.”

Lindsay-Davies said he believed that the industry is already moving to a stage where, by design and experience, we are beginning to understand what consumers will do and what they don’t like.

“We have come a long way in a short time, and as technology matures, we will solve a lot of these issues. We are already learning those lessons really well to create better product for the future.”

This article originally appeared in the Winter 2011 issue of Streaming Media European Edition. 

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