During Wednesday’s “Cable 3.0: Personalizing Services Beyond Web 2.0” session at the SCTE Conference on Emerging Technologies (ET), panelist Kshitij Kumar, the president and CEO of TellyTopia, told the audience about his 10-year-old son who had asked to subscribe to Club Penguin – an online virtual world for kids.
“Are you willing to give up something for it?,” Kumar had asked him, and his son had replied, “Yes, TV.”
The interactive, on-demand, community-based world of the Internet is a tough competitor for cable, especially when it comes to the younger generations. Traditional cable competitors include satellite and IPTV providers, but new, emerging competitors are over-the-top content providers – both PC-based (YouTube, Hulu, MySpace, Joost and BitTorrent) and TV-based (PC-to-TV connection, media extenders, Internet-connected STBs and TVs).
But the Internet can’t switch TV programming from the television to an iPhone, and it doesn’t have the thick pipe and the lean-back experience that cable offers, Kumar said.
The point of Cable 3.0 is not to replicate the Internet on the TV, the panelists assured the audience. The point is to offer consumers premium content, Internet content and personal content, not only on the TV, but on other platforms as well – to offer a “blending” of services.
“There’s value beyond Web 2.0 for the cable world,” said panelist Jack Kozik, the CTO and director of IMS application architecture for Alcatel-Lucent. Subscribers have multiple devices, networks and applications, Kozik said, and in a hyperconnected world, cable operators can plug in to that by offering a blend of the broadcast, Web and phone worlds. “Service blending is a critical function,” he said.
Applications that are possible from the blending include Caller ID on TV with call handling, remote parental control, family tracker (where consumers can see where family members’ cell phones are) and multi-domain emergency alerting (where consumers are alerted if their child dials 911 via a STB, phone and/or the Web, and can then tell their child’s location via the remote control).
But how do we get cool-looking stuff like this – as well as 3D graphics and personalization – on the TV screen, asked Steve Calzone, a principal systems architect for Cox Communications. And then he answered: We start with open platforms.
What the industry needs is open service infrastructures, open protocols, open languages, open operating systems, open programming, open interfaces, and content protection and security domains, he said. The industry needs to upgrade to stay competitive – upgrade devices, infrastructure, platforms and intelligent peripherals (smart phones, home networking).
Paul Kagan, the chairman and CEO of PK Worldmedia Inc., asked the panelists about the word “upgrade.” Can we realistically expect cable to embrace this upgrade, he asked, and how much are they willing to accept, and how soon?
Kagan’s suggested that most of the upgrading that needs to be done now can coincide with new applications. And as for selling it to Wall Street, his advice was that cable operators are not simply keeping subscribers, they are enhancing their user experience, and you can’t just give away new applications.
And the new applications are very intriguing: personalized homepages on the TV; playlists, friends (similar to MySpace) and communities on the TV; a video search engine on the TV. And these applications lend to new advertising opportunities, including interactive ads and overlays.
“Only the best features and the ones that make sense will come to the TV,” Kumar said. And as far as winning subscribers back, Kumar said this requires network-based PC-TV (nPC-TV) integration, interactivity, user-generated content, long-tail content, communities, content sharing and, most importantly, letting consumers know that “cable gets it.”
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