The iTV Doctor Is In!: The Man on the Street

Dear Readers:

I had an opportunity to do some "man on the street" interviews this past weekend at our local fall festival. The topic was multiscreen television.

Those of us in the business understand both the clear concept and the much-less-clear reality of multiscreen television. But our friend Mr. Man on the Street tends to have a very personal relationship with television, as evidenced by his answers to questions that I posed to a couple dozen people. These responses are amalgamated.

The iTV Doctor: What do you know about multiscreen television?

Man on the Street: We have a TV in the living room, another in the bedroom and one in the kitchen.

The iTV Doctor: What devices do you use to watch television?

Man on the Street: It's a big Samsung in the living room, and a Sony in the bedroom.

The iTV Doctor: Do you even use a second-screen app?

Man on the Street: I don't know about an app, but sometimes I roll the dining-room set into the living room so I can watch two football games.

After a few of those conversations I realized I was hitting the wrong demographic. I narrowed my interviews to people who were texting on their iPhones--I reckoned they would have a tad more technical proficiency.

The iTV Doctor: Do you ever watch video on your iPhone?

Man on the Street: I watch a lot of sports clips. Sometimes a friend sends me a YouTube.

The iTV Doctor: How about regular television shows? "Jersey Shore" and stuff like that?

Man on the Street: Can you do that?

The iTV Doctor: Do you use Netflix? What do you watch it on?

Man on the Street: Netflix is cool. I watch it on my Xbox.

The iTV Doctor: Do you subscribe to cable? Satellite?

Man on the Street: We have FiOS. It costs a lot, but the Internet is wicked fast.

The iTV Doctor: How do you switch from FiOS to Netflix and back?

Man on the Street: HDMI 1 and HDMI 2 with the TV's remote control. No big deal. Except sometimes I can't find the remote control.

The iTV Doctor: You know there are other services out there?

Man on the Street: Yeah, I see them when I'm switching inputs. There's Vulu (sic), Hulu, Amazon and a bunch of other stuff. I don't watch them.

The iTV Doctor: Why not?

Man on the Street: I don't know what's on.

The iTV Doctor: Do you use the program guide button on FiOS?

Man on the Street: Sure. Mostly to set the DVR. And when I sit down to watch, I scan across the channels.

The iTV Doctor: Do you ever find that you missed a show that you didn't know was on? Something you would have liked?

Man on the Street: That happens all the time. Somebody tells me about a show, and I'm too late. I've even tried to find things I missed On Demand, but they don't have everything I want.

The iTV Doctor: How does that make you feel?

Man on the Street: To miss a show and not be able to find it? It sucks.

The iTV Doctor: What if there was a way to get notified when something you want to watch is coming up? Or maybe even a show that your friends like.

Man on the Street: That would be cool. That would be VERY cool.

Earlier this year, I interviewed Sefy Ariely from Orca Interactive. We talked about the explosion of video content that operators have to deal with on their EPG's. Orca Interactive has morphed into Viaccess-Orca, a division of Orange (a France Telecom company). And they've enhanced their offerings; specifically personalization of the program guide which they'll be showing off at the CTAM Summit October 14th-16th. I asked Sefy, now EVP Americas for Viaccess-Orca, to give us a little guidance.

The iTV Doctor: Sefy, you say that the more screens you have, the greater the need for personalization. Why is that?

Sefy Ariely: Multiscreen television and personalization are linked now more than ever:

  • People have much less time to browse through many options; they expect intelligent discovery tools. The competition for attention is very strong and people have a preference for services that save them time and effort.
  • Content Discovery (via direct search, passive recommendations or casual exploration) needs to be personal in order to bring only the relevant results. I clearly have no use for recommendations that address my children's viewing preferences.
  • From an operator's perspective, the operator-subscriber relationship can only be fully leveraged when we put our familiarity to good use.
  • The personal profile is one of the tools for maintaining consistency across the different devices.
  • Personalization facilitates social interaction and peer-group viewing.
  • Consumers expect it; all digital interaction is becoming more and more personal.

The iTV Doctor: What does Viaccess-Orca do?

Sefy Ariely: Viaccess-Orca assists pay-TV operators and content service providers to take advantage of all the changes in digital video delivery and consumption by allowing them to bridge the gap between the legacy ecosystems and current technology, in order to compete more aggressively in the market. Today, most of that has to do with harnessing multiscreen video delivery to serve their strategic goals of "Counter-Defend-Attack-Initiate":

  • Counter: Block emerging OTT competitors.
  • Defend: Retain "cord-cutters" and entice the "cord-nevers."
  • Attack: Solicit business from consumers that are not connected to the operator's physical network.
  • Initiate: Leverage new monetization opportunities to battle eroding margins by creating more premium bundling, exploiting new advertising opportunities, etc.

The iTV Doctor: How do you do that?

Sefy Ariely: By doing what comes naturally to us and is so unnatural to others. Our products are backend, centralized products that have been developed for IP technology, have been designed for integration with third parties and have been developed to be independently reliable and robust. That is the opposite of many legacy plants that we see today that were set up on a per-market basis with an architecture that was based on replication rather than centralization.

We provide a Unified Service Platform that is comprised of four core components (Content Management, Business Management, Content Protection and Content Discovery/Personalization) that have all been developed internally and have been deployed in the pay-TV market for years. This core is robust enough to scale well for millions of subscribers (and not just multiple instances for multiple markets that total in the millions), and the edges are flexible to allow the operator to be independent in addressing new devices/user experiences. The backend integrations have been validated numerous times across the world and can be adapted to the vagaries of a legacy MSO backend. The result is that an operator can now collapse separate service "silos" onto a single platform, just as Orange have done in Europe.

The advantages are that the trickiest elements of the integration are conducted among those core components within the USP, so the outcome is a consistent ecosystem that is aligned, today and in the future. It's even won us a few awards [ this year.

The iTV Doctor: That transition has to be a pain in the neck (and elsewhere).

Sefy Ariely: No shift will be easy. It can take time and it obviously needs to be carried out in parallel to the production systems. We are coming off of the largest IP platform migration ever attempted [iTV Doctor: at Orange France] and it has been done using a methodical, phased approach, not a forklift. Since our products are not welded to any specific hardware component, the decision on maintaining or replacing legacy terminals and legacy infrastructure is entirely up to the operator. We learned our lessons a long time ago and we separated out the elements which require the highest degree of customization (such as UI), so the operator can take direct responsibility or contract a specialist.

The iTV Doctor: Sefy, I gotta ask. Will we see you at the TVOT NYC Intensive on December 10th?

Sefy Ariely: Wouldn't miss it for the world!


The iTV Doctor is Rick Howe, who provides interactive video consulting services to programmers, advertisers and technology providers. He is the recipient of a CTAM Tami Award for retention marketing and this year was inducted into The Cable Pioneers. He is also the co-author of a patent for the use of multiscreen mosaics in EPG's. Endorsed by top cable and satellite distributors, "Dr" Howe still makes house calls, and the first visit is always free. His services include product development, distribution strategy and the development of low-cost interactive applications for rapid deployment across all platforms.

Have a question for the iTV Doctor? Email him at

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