News Round-Up (VI): Opera, Toshiba, PlayJam, Freeview, Tesco, Project Canvas (YouView)

--Opera Browser to Be Offered on New Toshiba HbbTV Devices
--PlayJam Games Now Available on Freeview Set-Tops through Partnership with Tesco
--Project Canvas Incorporates as YouView, Names Richard Halton CEO

Due to the large volume of interactive TV-related news generated over the past few days, we are covering stories in this issue in round-up format. Our regular news coverage will return shortly.

  • Oslo, Norway-based browser specialist, Opera Software, has announced that a customized version of its Opera browser will be offered on Toshiba's latest HbbTV sets in Europe, the REGZA VL and WV series. (Note: HbbTV--short for "Hybrid Broadcast Broadband TV"--is a pan-European initiative which was launched in August, 2009 and which describes its goal as "harmonizing the broadcast and broadband delivery of entertainment services to the end-consumer through connected TV's and set-top boxes." According to the consortium behind it, the HbbTV standard is based on elements of existing specs, including OIPF, CEA, DVB and W3C specs. The standard was recently approved by European standards agency, ETSI--see the article published on itvt.com, July 5th. The HbbTV consortium's founding members are ANT software, the EBU, France Televisions, Germany's Institut fuer Rundfunktechnik, OpenTV, Philips, Samsung, SES Astra, Sony and TF1.) According to the company, the customized browser is based on the Opera Devices SDK, which uses the same core architecture as the Opera desktop browser. UK consumers will "have the added benefit of having access to the BBC iPlayer on their televisions," Opera states in its press materials.
  • Interactive TV games company, PlayJam, has announced that its games are now available on Freeview set-top boxes (note: Freeview is the UK's free-to-air digital terrestrial platform) sold by retailer, Tesco. "Tesco's Freeview boxes delivering PlayJam via a dedicated interactive TV channel have been on sale since June 2010," PlayJam states in its press materials. "A connected PlayJam service will be available in IPTV Freeview boxes from Autumn 2010 onwards. Around 18 million UK households currently watch Freeview on their main or second sets, and Tesco expects to sell some 10 million Freeview boxes over the next three years." Other distribution outlets for PlayJam's games include pay-TV services, such as Sky and DISH Network, Sony's and Samsung's connected TV platforms, and Rovi's EPG's. The company claims to have generated over 6 billion downloads from its library of 500 casual games over the past few years. "By extending our distribution via Freeview, many more UK households are likely to start PlayJamming," PlayJam founder and chairman, Jasper Smith, said in a prepared statement. "Our huge library of over 500 titles offers free and pay-to-play games for all the family and with Freeview boxes usually found in at least 2-3 rooms per home, frequency of play should also increase."
  • Project Canvas--an initiative that sees 1) the BBC and UK public-service broadcasters, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5, 2) UK ISP's, BT and TalkTalk, and 3) UK broadcast transmission company, Arqiva, partnering in order to attempt to develop a common standard and interface for the delivery of online catch-up services such as the BBC iPlayer, the ITV player and 4oD, as well as other Internet-based services (including VOD and interactive TV widgets), to broadband-connected Freeview and Freesat set-top boxes--has announced that it has incorporated as YouView TV Ltd., and that it has appointed as CEO BBC veteran Richard Halton, who previously served as Project Canvas's director. "From next year viewers will have the choice of a subscription-free YouView set-top box that will combine their favorite digital TV channels with the last seven days' catch-up TV, as well as bringing a full range of on-demand services and interactive extras straight to the living room," YouView states in its press materials. "YouView, which expects to launch in the first half of next year, will introduce a program guide that goes backwards as well as forwards. This will enable people to easily see what's on now alongside everything they've missed in the last seven days, including programs from broadcasters like the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Five, which already have an on-demand offering. Set-top boxes will include a Personal Video Recorder so viewers can pause live TV or record an entire series at the touch of a button. Viewers will also be able to simply search for the kind of programs they like by genre, interest or locality, including films, sports and new content from the Internet. Plans to offer an applications store will also give viewers new types of services and levels of interactivity with their favorite programs. YouView set-top boxes will be available for a one-off fee, with no contract. They may be offered at special rates as part of new or improved broadband packages. To get the full range of on-demand and interactive services, viewers will need a broadband connection from their chosen Internet service provider." Said Richard Halton: "We are creating an exciting consumer brand which will stand for a better TV experience for UK homes. Connected TV creates all kinds of creative possibilities, for existing networks as well as local services and new developers of interactive applications. It all adds up to great news for TV audiences. I look forward to working closely with the creative and developer communities to open up exciting possibilities for viewers to discover and enjoy content in new ways." (Note: Paid Content UK has a fairly detailed report on a press briefing which Halton delivered last Thursday and in which he provided more detail on the YouView platform.)

 

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