Video services

TelcoTV: IPTV Is Stagnating

ORLANDO, Fla. -- TelcoTV -- Despite its successes so far, IPTV innovation has stagnated and won't improve until the industry finds a better way to develop and deliver applications, one TelcoTV keynoter argued today.

"IPTV innovation is too slow, and we have to do something about that," said Brook Longdon, a former Myrio executive who's now head of media and entertainment at Nokia Networks . (See Siemens Snaps Up Myrio and IPTV Roundup: What's With NSN? )

His point is that in eight years of discussing IPTV, the conversation hasn't changed much. People still talk about applications like caller ID and multiple sports angles. And the idea of ordering pizza by TV (a favorite example of keynote speakers through the years) still isn't a reality, at least not at Longdon's house.

The key to making telco TV succeed is in the content -- providing good TV. But because content owners hoover up the profits from TV and movies, telcos need to sell applications in addition to regular content if they're to generate any profit margins. And that's where IPTV has stalled, Longdon said, because of the paralyzing way in which applications are developed and released.

For example, the factors that make an application "cool" aren't the same across North America, Europe, and Asia/Pacific, yet telcos continue to obsess over building applications that can scale worldwide.

The result is that every region gets a less than optimal product, and the region with the most money to spend gets one that "sucks the least," Longdon said. "As I'm looking to align my roadmaps with my developer teams and deciding how to spend my money, I'm always aiming for the middle."

That's why the industry needs to bring in other ideas and more developers, said the NSN man, creating a phenomenon akin to the iPhone app store. "We can do that kind of thing here in IPTV."

The key, he added, is to provide development tools for free. That's the best way to get the tools into the hands of someone who can do something interesting with them.

"The killer app is being able to make things quickly. It's being able to make applications in a throwaway manner. We have to open these things up if we want to get to something other than just moving the bar forward slowly."

Along similar lines, Longdon said the industry has to agree on standards more quickly. The usual pattern -- in telco TV and elsewhere -- is for companies to push their own technologies. "I'd say it was time we, as an industry, did a better job coming together and putting some of that aside."

One way to speed things up would be to borrow standards from other places, such as Web applications. For instance, cross-platform viewing is already possible with YouTube, he noted.

Longdon's talk was a contrast to that of Ramu Potarazu, CEO of Avail-TVN , who immediately preceded him. Potarazu gave a pep talk explaining why telcos will win in the TV battles, just as they prevailed over ISPs years ago.

Potarazu did warn telcos that they have to move quickly in order to keep up with lightning changes in technology and the growing over-the-top threat, and that they have to learn how to sell video services. "You can have the best platform, but it's going to be up to each one of you to market," he said. "Marketing video services is different from marketing broadband."

— Craig Matsumoto, West Coast Editor, Light Reading

Pete Baldwin 12/5/2012 | 3:52:43 PM
re: TelcoTV: IPTV Is Stagnating

So, can anybody think of TV apps they'd be willing to pay for?  I can't.

This ties in with what Adi Kishore (Heavy Reading) has been saying for a while: Consumers mainly pick their TV service based on price (and, in the case of those who don't change, interia). That certainly doesn't help the telcos.  Not sure how they can break thorugh that barrier.


paolo.franzoi 12/5/2012 | 3:52:39 PM
re: TelcoTV: IPTV Is Stagnating


I am not sure what "TV Apps" are.  Apps are apps (at least in my mind).  What I would REALLY like is all my apps available on all my platforms or at least those that make sense.  So, I own (as I am in compare mode) an iTouch and an G1.

I can't run any of my iTouch or Android apps on my PC.  There are some (that might not make any sense) but for example I own iFitness and it could certainly be available cross platform.

So what TV apps do I want?  I want MY apps.  Are there some things that might run best integrated with IPTV?  Maybe photos or video players. 



Pete Baldwin 12/5/2012 | 3:52:35 PM
re: TelcoTV: IPTV Is Stagnating

That's a really good point.  Some of the TV apps being shown are just mobile apps moved to a bigger screen (widgets especially).

As programming moves to that three-screen model, you'd think applications would follow, and targeted ads, too.  I hadn't thought of it in those terms before.

It's going to take more openness to do it, though.  NSN was showing IPTV widgets that I think were just mobile widgets ported to IPTV -- but it was the developer (L4 Mobile) who did that.  Maybe the industry will start doing more of that, with more sophisticated apps.

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