Interactive TV News Round-Up (III): Green Button Media, Hulu, IMPALA, metaio

--Green Button Media to Use "Oggle" as Consumer Brand for its Connected-TV Platform
--Wall Street Journal Article Paints Troubled Picture of Hulu
--IMPALA Hails Release of v 1.3 of the CI+ Standard
--metaio Uses Digital Image Recognition Tech to Enable Touchscreen-Style Interactive TV Experience

Because the [itvt] editorial team was busy last week working on the TV of Tomorrow Show 2011, we are covering recent news in round-up/summary form. We anticipate that it will take us a few days to catch up with all the news we plan to cover: so if your company has sent us a press release or briefed us on an announcement, and you don't yet see your news covered in this issue, please bear with us. Our regular daily news coverage will return shortly.

  • Green Button Media, a company headed up by Pace co-founder, Barry Rubery, has announced that the consumer brand of its connected-TV platform will be Oggle. "Viewers whose connected-TV sets feature Oggle can expect to enjoy the same experience with their Web-enabled television than they have grown to love with their smartphone," the company states in its press materials. "Oggle will be a standard feature of a new generation of connected TV's from leading manufacturers and retailers and will also be available as set-top boxes. It includes an innovative online program guide, an app store and range of other intuitive viewer-friendly advanced functions, as well as leading sports, games and media content for the whole family. Oggle also comes with all the major social networking applications and great content such as Amazon, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, etc. pre-installed as standard, making watching TV a more interactive, engaging experience."

  • The Wall Street Journal last week published an article on Hulu which, as one commentator put it, portrays the broadband video service as "a hopelessly dysfunctional venture at odds with itself over its future direction." "Hulu, a pioneer of Internet TV, is in internal discussions to dramatically transform itself," wrote the Journal's Sam Schechner and Jessica Vascellaro. "The free online television service has become one of the most-watched online video properties in the US and a top earner of Web-video ad dollars since its 2008 launch. But its owners--industry powerhouses NBC Universal, News Corp. and Walt Disney Co.--are increasingly at odds over Hulu's business model. Worried that free Web versions of their biggest TV shows are eating into their traditional business, the owners disagree among themselves, and with Hulu management, on how much of their content should be free." Among other things, the Journal reports that News Corp. and Disney are considering removing some free content from Hulu and are moving to sell more programs to its competitors, such as Netflix and Apple. In addition, the article continues, Hulu's management has discussed reinventing the service as "an online cable operator that would use the Web to send live TV channels and video-on-demand content to subscribers."

  • The International MHEG Promotion Alliance (IMPALA), an organization that was set up in 2006 by Strategy & Technology, Cabot Communications and EchoStar Europe to promote use of the MHEG middleware standard beyond the UK (where it powers the free-to-air Freeview and Freesat services), contacted [itvt] last week with a statement of support for the newly released version 1.3 of the CI+ standard. "Among a long list of enhancements, the new version--administered by CI Plus LLP--now includes HD MHEG capabilities," IMPALA wrote. "This is in response to a desire from operators to enable a visually richer graphical user interface (GUI) for interactive CI Plus applications such as VOD...The MHEG-based CI Plus Browser allows a range of interactive services to be delivered direct to the TV, including video-on-demand (VOD) and universal electronic program guides (EPG's). The standard--which is seeing ever-increasing support and live deployments--allows operators and broadcasters to secure video content via a small CI Plus Conditional Access Module (CAM) inserted into the Common Interface (CI) slot included in all iDTV's above 30cm sold in Europe, plus a growing number of CI Plus-ready set-top boxes. Testing of the MHEG-based CI Plus Browser is carried out by the CI Plus-approved test facility, therefore helping to ensure interoperability of interactive MHEG applications across all conformant receivers. Under the CI Plus License Agreement there is an 18-month period before the new version becomes mandatory. CI Plus v1.3 conformance will therefore become mandatory for new receivers no later than the 1st of August 2012. However, compliant receivers may be available on the market before then if driven by operators."

  • metaio, the company behind the junaio augmented reality browser, contacted [itvt] last week to let us know about a recent interactive TV collaboration with the ProSieben show, "Galileo," that employed its digital image recognition technology. According to the company, an interactive TV-enabled broadcast of the show allowed viewers to "actively participate and respond to questions in a quiz, get individual feedback on their results and compare their performance with that of other viewers. It is like having a TV set with a touchscreen," metaio's materials continue. "All that is needed is a smartphone with its camera pointing at the TV screen and of course the app junaio, which can be downloaded for free at the Apple iStore or the Android Marketplace. The idea of interactive television with viewers being able to cast their vote in real time, to transmit their opinion or to participate in a quiz show has been around for decades. To date though, popular entertainment shows were only able to offer a very limited form of viewer participation using batteries of call centers. Despite the enormous expense, usually only a small number of persistent callers actually get through, apart from the fact that communication is not really bi-directional. Now, for the first time, and at very little expense, everybody can actively participate, provided he has a smartphone available. All that is needed is to quickly download the junaio app and to click on the 'Galileo smart' channel. To get the best results during the 'Galileo' quiz, one should point the smartphone camera directly at the displayed choice of alternative responses and close enough to the TV screen. This is because junaio uses a technology called digital image recognition. The scanned screen image triggers communication with the station's server via Internet and thus establishes a bi-directional transmission of information. With just a click on the touchscreen of the smartphone, the viewer's response is transmitted. Results are displayed instantly, both at the station's end and on the smartphone. The viewer will see immediately whether his answer was right or wrong, which percentage of viewers answered correctly and how many questions he has gotten right himself so far. Those who missed the show will be able to visit the 'Galileo' Web site later and run through the quiz there as well. This can be considered a first important step towards truly interactive television. It is not hard to imagine the different opportunities this technology opens up." Said metaio CTO, Peter Meier: "Viewer polling is one thing. Another idea could be to offer films or documentaries based on audiences' spontaneous choice. Or to make additional information available, such as a chef’s recipe, and transmit it at a viewer's request directly on his smartphone. Breakthrough technologies such as junaio will provide the media industry with entirely new possibilities of user interaction." A video demo of the interactive "Galileo" broadcast can be seen here.


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