News Round-Up (IV)

--Disney/ABC Releases New Version of the ABC Player App for iPad
--Edgeware, Teleste Partner on VOD Solution
--Ensequence Tapped by Showtime to Bring EBIF-Based Interactive TV to its Sports Programming
--Ensequence-Commissioned Survey Shows Consumer Interest in Interactive TV
--ETSI Publishes New Version of MHEG ITV Middleware Standard Incorporating Interaction Channel

The [itvt] editorial team is on the road this week, so we are covering most stories in round-up/summary form, and we anticipate that there will be some additional interruptions of our regular news publishing schedule beyond that. We apologize in advance for any inconvenience to our readers.

  • Disney/ABC Television Group has announced the release of a new version of its ABC Player app for the Apple iPad, following the release of the 3G version of that device. According to the company, the new version features enhanced landscape viewing options, orientation lock support for all screens, parental ratings information for all available episodes, improved player controls for rewinding and fast-forwarding content, and, of course, 3G streaming support. Disney/ABC says that the ABC Player app has been downloaded over 400,000 times since the iPad's April 3rd launch, and that over 1.5 million episodes of ABC series were started via the app in the first month following its launch.
  • Edgeware and Teleste have announced that they are offering an integrated VOD solution "for cable operators looking to expand their subscriber services into on-demand services while preserving investments in their existing networks. This solution, enabled by the Teleste MyCast platform, manages the end-to-end service by handling content, integrating with conditional access and subscriber management systems, and providing the user interface with an easy-to-use VOD portal," the companies' press materials for the new solution explain. "Teleste Mycast also provides VOD playout control by managing the cable network resource utilization, i.e. video channel allocation. Key to the successful implementation of the service is Edgeware's Orbit-2X distributed video server. From the server the video is streamed over cable to the customer's television. The commands from consumers' personal computers and smartphones are mediated through Teleste MyCast to the video server." According to the companies, the solution has been deployed by Finland's Turku Cable.
  • Interactive TV authoring company, Ensequence, has announced that it has been selected by Showtime Networks as its "developer of choice to help bring EBIF interactive TV to the network's sports programming." The first fruit of the relationship is the Showtime Sports Interactive app (see the article published on, April 22nd), which Verizon FiOS TV has offered in conjunction with Showtime telecasts of mixed martial arts and boxing. Showtime is also running the app's backend operation with the Ensequence iTV Manager Programmer Edition. "The Showtime Sports application is designed to pull consumers further into the experience of the fight," Ensequence explains in its press materials. "After responding to an on-screen prompt, viewers were able to access fighter stats and profiles, as well as live polling, a trivia game, a fight calendar and control over custom widget settings. The interactive experience appeared to be 'floating' as it hovered above the video telecast. Designed to look like a vintage trading card with vintage style illustrations and a slightly distressed appearance, Showtime Sports Interactive was carefully crafted to be easy to use and to look optimal even with the graphic limitations of lower-end set-top boxes. Viewers have complete control of the experience, enabling them to explore content during fights or between rounds and also hide the application using their remote control at any time...Showtime Sports Interactive is the first national EBIF application to offer voting via the remote control. Rather than requiring viewers to call an 800 number or vote via a text message, voting by remote is intuitive, the results update in real-time on the screen, and there is no additional charge for the viewer to participate. The Showtime application is also the first national EBIF application to be offered in HD, delivering crisp graphics and ample on-screen real estate for interactive content."
  • In other Ensequence news: The company has announced the results of a quantitative survey of over 2,000 US adults that was conducted online for it by Harris Interactive. The survey was designed to provide insights about the interactive TV features that viewers want most from their pay-TV providers, and to track changes in interactive TV interest since the last online survey Ensequence commissioned from Harris Interactive back in late 2007. According to the survey: 55% of drama viewers want to interact with programming (up 5 percentage points from 2007) and 30% would like to set recordings and reminders for upcoming episodes; 74% of reality viewers want to interact and 55% of reality show viewers would vote for contestants; 70% of sports viewers would like to interact while watching a sporting event (up 5pp from 2007) and 40% of sports viewers would like to get scores, news and information from other live games and matches; 73% of viewers would like to use their remotes to interact with TV commercials for a product they are interested in; 58% of viewers would request free samples (up 9pp from 2007); 43% of viewers would locate a local retailer who carries the advertised product (up 2pp from 2007); 45% of viewers who subscribe to a pay-TV service are at least somewhat likely to purchase a product from a tcommerce-enabled 30- or 60-second spot; 37% of viewers who subscribe to a pay-TV service are at least somewhat likely to purchase a product they are interested in during a show that they are watching; and 17% of TV subscribers would definitely or probably switch service providers to get interactive features.
  • ETSI, the European Telecommunications Standards Institute, has published the latest version of the MHEG interactive TV middleware standard. According to MHEG industry group, IMPALA, version 2.1.1 of ETSI standard 202 184, as the new version is officially designated, "contains a raft of very significant updates to the original ETSI MHEG specification from 2004, representing the most important increase in the technology's capabilities since its inception. These include," a press release from IMPALA continues, "support for the IP-based MHEG Interaction Channel, which enables hybrid broadcast broadband receiver operation via an IP connection--already being used by Freesat in the UK for catch-up TV services--and full support for HD graphics with increased color depth and screen resolutions."


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