Connected TV World Summit Highlights Industry in Flux

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One of the key themes emerging from the Connected TV World Summit in London this week was the state of ultra-high definition (UHD 4K or "full" UHD at 8K). UHD is clearly being pushed by the TV manufacturers, which want to create more immersive experiences and sell more pixels. However, it seems that they’ve forgotten a few key facts. Firstly, there’s a lack of 4K content to watch, and that won’t change much for a year or so, even with the UK’s BT Sport service announcing they’ve commissioned Ericsson to build them some UHD channels. But something else is important, at least for domestic tranquillity—you really need to move your chairs closer to your UHD TV to appreciate it, or buy a screen twice the size of your current HD TV.

So, rearrange your house and wait for UHD content. But there’s one more thing. The first phase of 4K TVs will evolve with better dynamic range (HDR+), said Matthew Goldman, Senior Vice President Technology, TV Compression at Ericsson and that will make pictures even more lifelike. As suggested by muttered comments about 3D TVs echoing around the conference, it may be worth waiting a while before going out to buy that brand new UHD TV.

On a brighter note, as multiple services deliver premium content to viewers, the home becomes more connected. OTT suppliers such as Nagra recognise an opportunity to grow their business. Securing content on multiple screens and integrating with multiple 3rd party analytics, content, and payment suppliers means, in theory, that other connected devices, from fridges to home security, could all piggyback on this existing connected infrastructure. This is something that Altech in South Africa has already been promoting, through its Node product, for example. But its not an easy sell, because consumers tend to buy an OTT product or service to get great content, not to unlock their front door.

Perhaps its not surprising that confusion is the big problem for consumers: multiple routes to get to the content, and different platforms offering hugely different experience, especially with ad-supported VOD (AVOD). Watch the same programme on one platform and get a single preroll ad, and on another get almost 15 minutes of ads, persisting through all the ad breaks (yes, the UK’s ITV was named), before you can catch up on the last 10 minutes of your favourite show. There’s also confusion around the brands when the value of producers and broadcasters themselves is mixed up—in the UK you can watch The Walking Dead from Fox delivered by Sky into a NowTV box. Which brand will a viewer remember? Judging by the complaints when the VOD rights expired in March, angry fans blamed Sky, despite Fox’s comments that the audience clearly understood it was a Fox International programme!

The UK’s Channel 4 appears to have understood the viewer’s confusion, and has—in their own words "bleeding obviously"—rebranded its entire suite of on-demand apps and sites into a single digital destination or "channel" called All 4. Identifying the way viewers think of TV content, it has also simplified the navigation to just three main categories of "On Demand," "Now," and "On Soon,"  as well as search. And, seemingly in common with every other broadcaster at the conference, Channel 4 is collecting registration data and tracking behaviours, and will be targeting adverts, content, and communications to viewers to deliver a premium and personalised experience.

Fox’s Caleb Weinstein remembered the good old days of daily ratings. Today, the challenge is how broadcasters can get all the metrics in one place. Live, catch-up, repeats, archive … aggregate and present all of these and you’re on to a winner.

Lastly, the Connected TV World Summit revealed some of the latest buzz-words so you can appear up-to-date. TV and STB remote controls are now "the brand in the hand." OTT services offer flexible "skinny bundles," and electronic sell-through EST is now joined by D2GO (download to go). Use these at your next meeting and feel the power. Until the next conference.

If there is one message to take away from the Connected TV World Summit (other than the excellence of the venue, Kings Place), it was nothing more than "know your audience and delight them." Or, as PayMedia’s Justin Hewelt expressed it, its all about "real-time customer insight." Whether you are an operator, content producer, or aggregator, it seems that there really is nothing new under the sun.

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