Smart TV and the Connected Home



We're delighted that Nicolas Bry, SVP at Orange Vallee, France Telecom's 2 year old 'skunk-works-to-market' group, will be stimulating the 'Connected Home' session at the Telco 2.0 EMEA Executive Brainstorm next week in London .

To stimulate the brainstorming he'll describe 'SoTV', which is about defining a new type of TV-based internet experience - integrating entertainment with search, apps, gaming and other services. He recently wrote a thoughtful piece on his blog below, which helps us to understand where he's coming from.

A key question is this: if the TV is becoming the 'Smart TV', how can we avoid the mistakes of the move from phone to 'Smartphone', in terms of ceding power to other players? Who should telcos partner with to keep a strong position in the ecosystem, and how should they do so? Here is Nicolas' blog post:

Smart TV and future of Television

I've been through a very interesting article from Mark Suster, an experienced manager in the digital economy, who is now working at GRP Partners since 2007 as a General Partner, focusing on early-stage technology companies. It is called The Future of Television and the Digital Living Room and was released at Fast Company's web site.

Mark identifies 10 major issues that the TV industry will face in the next 5 years, and I have tried to put a few comments after a short summing-up:

Over-the-top video distribution

"How will OTT devices such as Apple TV and Google TV succeed in the market? How will traditional TV companies fight back against them, providing on-demand themselves, and leveraging MSOs' (Satellite, Cable, Telco) strong distribution networks and new technology entrants such as Boxee?"

My guess is that it will be interesting to see whether MSOs will remain static like they did on the smart phone market, and progressively lose ownership of their customers to the benefit of players controlling the OS and the App Store, such as Apple and Google with Android, or if MSOs will modernize their distribution platforms and extend them with shared OSs and App Stores designed for TV at international scale, by partnering between telcos and with international industrials providing hardware and software. Thus they would manage their customer ownership, and keep offering media the best distribution networks.

Attempts at "moving up the stack"

"Television manufacturers and MSO's are scared to see the world is changing and of what that means for hardware and pipeline providers. They try to move to the App business, but it will not stick, they will never succeed in these businesses because software is not a core competency. The smartest hardware providers & MSOs are the ones that will sign unique and daring partnerships with startup technology firms."

This refers to my above comment about partnership between MSOs and technology firms. The big change is that TV is getting international in the sense that you will be doing a lot more than watching TV on a TV set: you will read recommendations, follow hyperlinks from what you watch to complementary information and related content, you will search and get sponsored links adapted for TV, you will launch TV applications, in particular casual games or programme-related e-commerce services. That's what we are setting up at Orange with SoTV.

These services are not local, like the advertising on national broadcasting was: they are developed at international scale by various technology firms. To handle the variety of partnerships with flexibility and to build some that will be permanent and shared from one country to another, like the App Store, MSOs should group their forces and rely on a common modular set of TV software. Because Orange countries all have different markets and network configurations, we have designed SoTV from the start to be modular, versatile, and to provide the full range of "smart TV services", completed by a range of international partners pre-integrated on SoTV.

The

"second screen"

"One of the most exciting developments in television & media to me will be "second screen" technologies built initially on iPads and extended to the plethora of devices we'll see over the next 3-5 years. The 15-30 crowd will feel like this is what TV was meant to be: social."
We are intensively working on second screens at SoTV, to see how they can complement TV, and build connected experiences across devices: with smartphone and tablet, one can prepare, watch, control, interact, share, in an individual usage that does not disturb the traditional collective TV usage in the living room. I can be both with my family and with my friends.

This multitasking behaviour will not only impact TV set and second screen: on the TV set, we design an interface that enables simultaneous information & content bubbling-up according to what I'm watching and to my profile.

How to present multiple sources of content on a TV screen in an effective and non-intrusive way is a challenge that broadcasters like BBC and France 24are starting to address in the emerging connected TV market.

Content bundling

"The idea of forced bundles will seem archaic. Smart companies will figure this out early."

Torso TV

"Think of about the rise of Japanese Anime, Latin American Telenovelas, Korean Drama, or the rise of Bollywood entertainment from India. It's not a mass, mainstream audience but I would argue that it's "global torso" content that will be meaningful at scale. NetFlix has won the battle for the "head end" of content from films with their "Netflix everywhere" strategy. But the market is still open for Torso TV and ViiKii and countless others are racing to serve fragmented audiences the good stuff."

YouTube meets the television

"What Zynga understood is that you need to go where the consumers are, capture those audiences, build a direct relationship and then diversify channel partners. This is happening in spades now on YouTube as a new generation of viewers is being served up by a new generation of TV production houses that are currently under the radar screen of many people. As the Internet meets TV, YouTube will continue to be a brand to be reckoned with served up by Google TVs."

Actually, when we first started the user interviews about mashing up Internet services and Broadcasting on the TV set, one of the main levers was "to watch my Dailymotion or my Youtube directly on the TV set". Then, after a while, came "That would be great, by the way, to have access to the full Internet". That the reason why we started focusing on a new generation chipset delivered by Intel that enables full Internet browsing and various forms of video decoding, and built an increasingly close partnership with Intel in designing SoTV.

Content discovery-new metaphors

"The best online video search tool (in terms of usability) that I've seen is Clicker. Search from Clicker on Youtube is better than search directly on Youtube. Google isn't that good at video search today. Will this change in a world of Google TVs? Boxee prides itself on social TV & content discovery. Will their next version blow us away and be the way we search our TVs? Will the MSO / EPG world improve (answer: not likely)? What about discovering content on our TVs via Twitter or Facebook? Or some unforeseen technology? Will we discover stuff through second-screen apps?"

Content discovery is key: on TV, you don't so much search, you also like to see the content bubbling up to you. That's what we do when we zap from one channel to another, and that's what the TV Genius study about EPG proved by showing that our EPG does not have so much influence over what we decide to watch. SoTV interface has many places to push content smoothly into the viewing experience. What we're looking for are partners that will feed these streams, by their ability to scroll the web and detect valuable content across universes: video, web sites, games, applications.

Gaming & TV

Disney acquired Playdom and Club Penguin. EA bought PlayFish. Google has had long-standing rumors around Zynga. It's clear that games will feature in the Internet meets TV meets Video world. They're all battling for mindshare & share of wallet. Watch for continued game creep into TV."

We will even play games without remote control ("Keenu motion control")!

Social media meets digital content

"It's clear that when people watch movies now they Tweet about it when they get out and this has an impact on box office sales. Social media buzz can boost or bury content."

Social TV, multitasking, second screen, let's host the conversation and unleash the power of connection!

The changing nature of content & the role of the narrative

"The future of TV & Film will be as different as the transition from radio to TV was. 50 years from now, our initial Internet meets TV shows won't seem just as quaint."

Let's talk about transmedia (= 3D storytelling) and the renewed way to tell stories at the digital age, and how a story can travel across various media. 3D storytelling is a 3 dimensional approach combining storytelling (multilayer) + media (usage & capabilities) + interaction with the audience (participation, community, virality). For examples of transmedia immersion, have a look at the Transmedia Lab blog.

This article is like an echo to the path we have taken in developing SoTV: it feels good reading it! As we are innovators, we had to go one step further and define our belief to get the creation started in a sustainable way ("belief as the cornerstone of innovation"): openness is our belief, when Internet mashes up with the TV, culture mix respecting both original cultures, online services blended with TV broadcasting.

Come and meet Nicolas next week in London at Telco 2.0