Wednesday, 12 June 2013

PayTV Interactive Applications is dying slowly, but surely

Interactive PayTV is dying slowly, or was it dead on arrival? Imagine these scenarios:
  • OK TV, Have any of my favourite shows been recorded lately?
  • OK TV, Find me something nice to watch - I am feeling good
  • OK TV, I've had a crap day at work today, put something on that'll make me unwind and relax
  • OK TV, What are my friends watching now?
  • OK TV, What show is trending on the social scene?
  • OK TV, What's selling hot on Box Office today? Show me the trailer, skip the ads please.
  • OK TV, Let me see what's happening on my hangout?
  • OK TV, Give me the top five recommendations today
  • OK TV, What's the latest news headlines?
  • OK TV, What's happening with Syria today? Connect me to any Live News Stream?
  • OK TV, What's making waves on YouTube recently?
  • OK TV, Tell me the latest stats on the Formula 1 (Cricket, Football) scene
  • OK TV, What's the weather like at my mom's place?
  • OK TV, Any weather warnings I should worry about?
  • OK TV, Are there any live sports events happening in my area? Which is the closest?
  • OK TV, I'm in the mood for Star Trek - make it so!
  • etc
Get the picture? This is what interactivity supposed to be all about! TV is a passive medium, lean back, relax & watch TV. I don't want to read wades and wades of text on the screen! I've had a long day behind my PC, been coding all day or working with spreadsheets, the last thing I want is to navigate through some tiresome and clunky menu tree to find the information I want, then I must be forced to get up from my couch because the font & text is so small that I need to stand at least 3 feet away to read the screen! More work, more effort for me - I don't want to be interacting with the remote control to do stuff - I want to interact with my TV, not control my TV!

Yet, most of the PayTV operators have maintained to still support the original concept of Interactive TV - the famous Red Button, then the infamous loading time for the application, then interact with an eighties-style user interface. Whilst there are ways to workaround and improve the classic "Please wait...application is loading..." time, the original concepts have not changed that much.  There's a lot of chatter around Interactive TV 3.0 or second screen, etc - about the next wave of interactivity, that people would rather interact with a second-screen device (smartphone / tablet / etc), but this is not what my post is about.

Mostly, this post is part rant, and part explanation about the current predicament PayTV Operators find themselves. I've already a solution in my head that I think is the way forward, but it is probably disruptive to keep even the most open, objective PayTV operator running away at lightning speed! Just take a look at this absolutely cool demo shown recently at GoogleIO:

This is the future! I think Google is on the right track - Years ago, going back to 2005/2006, I was pushing my company to explore Voice & Text-To-Speech integration into Set-Top-Boxes. When we looked at Recommendations back in 2004/2005, we considered voice -- but hats off to Google, they've done it with Search, and I'm sure the next wave is enhancing their Interactive TV offering.

My elevator pitch: Times are changing! PayTV Operators must stick to their core business: Content provision, distribution, content protection & core information services. Partner with third parties to bring true interactivity to the user experience & platform. Focus more on Open Systems, don't control the whole world / ecosystem. Create strategic partnerships with Google (or other), creating a bridge between a closed PayTV world & the Open Social Apps world... 

This post is organised as follows:
  • Brief story about Interactive TV and Typical Architecture Model
  • Application Stores Overview - What PayTV Operators need to consider
  • My view of a possible Future Platform / Architecture