Ex-YouView CTO Rose Lines Up tBone TV for IBC Launch

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Anthony Rose, the former CTO of next-gen IPTV project YouView and BBC iPlayer who left the corporation at the end of 2010, is back with a start-up venture, tBone TV, which will have its first public demos at IBC in September.

At the BBC, Rose was responsible for realising the corporation's plans to create a unified embedded media experience across its online properties. tBone TV, which he has co-founded on £5 million of investment, takes this concept a stage further.

Anthony RoseRose wants to make second-screen synchronization with the TV accessible with an API, making it possible for third parties to build apps based on the tBone platform.

"For example, a tBone app could help to discover content based on what your Facebook friends are watching at any given moment, or deliver additional web content based on what's covered in the news," Rose explains. "This will be the biggest disruptive thing ever in this space."

"It's immensely exciting when you can see what your friends are watching on TV. Real-time analysis will let you search TV by where the audience is going. It will finally transform TV from a one-way experience into a two way interactive experience. We're not trying to make TV difficult. We know people like to veg. This is Veg 2.0 -- a new fun way of watching TV where you can learn about what's on TV and to interact with friends."

tBone TV is available as a free app download on smart phones and PCs, and as a software plug-in on a range of smart TVs and set-top boxes. Look for partner announcements later this year. Rose hopes to make the first public demos of the technology at IBC where tBone plans to have a presence in a number of stands.

"The number of mobile companion viewing screens is growing and there will be a huge growth in the number of people using such apps while they watch TV. We think we have a great consumer proposition which is on the money," says Rose.

Rose also has some sage advice for broadcasters and video-on-demand content providers seeking to reach consumers across multiple distribution platforms:

"Plan to make your content available across as many devices - particularly smart TVs - as make sense, and to do that you'll want to operate your own portal site across those platforms. One option is to get a range of third parties to build those portals for you, perhaps with company 1 creating your portal on TV devices and company 2 creating your portal on mobile devices and company 3 building your VOD portal on PC platforms. But beware -- although it will look like you have a branded proposition on multiple platforms, someone else will own the users on each platform and as new versions are iterated you won't be in control of the process. You could end up not being in control of the log-in or recommendation systems or own the relationship with the consumer across all the platforms you're on, which may be okay in the short term, but which you'll regret in the longer term.

"The word on the street is that content providers are looking to exit those kind of multiple third-party build-and-run relationships and ensure that they own their own interfaces going forward.

"Option two is to own and manage the portal yourself on each platform, something which has historically been expensive, but the cost is rapidly coming down and there are an increasing number of companies who can build pieces of it for you.

"At which point you ask which platform should I target? What I try to do is group devices by similar technical operation. For example, a Samsung TV, Sony TV and HbbTV all have HTML browsers and can play H.264 content. So that's a great set of key pieces of development that you can share across multiple devices, allowing you to now create a single branded user interface that can work as across them all."

Another question surrounds DRM and content protection. For free-to-air broadcasters this is not such a big issue, but for a provider with premium content it is a potentially huge headache.

"The take away point is that as a content provider you'll need to support multiple DRMs from Widevine, MS PlayReady, Marlin, or whatever is required for the smart TV or mobile platforms that you want to be on."

 As far as YouView is concerned he says, "This is a fast moving space and something that is innovative in 2010 still needs to be innovative in 2012. A key YouView feature is the introduction of a backwards EPG which addresses a clear user need, but I also see a number of other devices now offering that functionality. YouView has a great USP here, but as more and more content providers make their content available on multiple existing platforms it's important to bring that product to market rapidly."

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