Set-top box allows your TV to reach the content that you want to watch
RM5m spent on R&D to produce platform that will allow content providers to monetize
[THURS FEB 28, 4PM: Story updated to include pricing]
SELECT-TV Solutions Sdn Bhd, a leading regional end-to-end IPTV (Internet Protocol TV) solutions provider, certainly knows the game well. It started out by providing clients, including the world’s tallest building the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, with set-top boxes to run the in-room entertainment systems for the ultra-swanky Armani Hotel.
Select-TV chief executive officer C.S. Goh (pic, left) quickly realized early in the game, around 2002, that this was going to become a commodity business and decided to add value by including content to his end-to-end offering.
Over the years, this has given him a good understanding of the content game too, specifically video content. For instance, observing consumer behavior across many countries has also revealed to him how consumers want to pay for that content. “It’s buffet offerings all the way. The ala-carte method just won’t work.” This buffet offering can be as short as one month.
He also came to a simple realization which he has then blended with a current trend he sees happening to now launch a set-top box that he believes is the answer to the current gap in the lives of consumers – of not being able to find relevant content to them.
Enter Emagine, a set-top box available exclusively on online shopping mall Lazada for RM399; also, watch out for the Emagine store, coming by the end of the year, to give us an Apple Store-like experience.
But you also need a broadband connection of at least 5MB and Emagine recommends UniFi or Time dotCom’s broadband offerings. (It has no commercial relationship with either party.)
What seeded Emagine was this: “There is just so much content out there that we cannot find it. And perhaps, we don’t even know that it is there. But, if we knew how to find it, we would consume it,” Goh believes.
So, while guys like me happen to think there is actually too much content in the world, there are clearly many who feel otherwise, which I find a bit scary but that’s an article for another day.
The trend that Goh sees is of consumers moving away from the lean-forward experience of watching video content on our various gadgets to wanting to enjoy watching that content on our HDTVs while ‘leaning back.’
He believes in this enough that he has invested between RM5 million and RM6 million (US$1.6 million and US$1.9 million) in research and development (R&D) to come up with Emagine, which essentially will be your gateway to the world of video and music content available on the internet. “Emagine allows your TV to reach the content that you want to watch,” he says.
If you are like me and you say, “Hey, isn’t that your smart TV of today that also connects to the Internet?” No, according to James Chong, chief ‘emagineer’ (pic above, right). “They have taken an app- and icon-based approach which tries to recreate the PC experience on the TV,” he notes.
While Emagine offers a plethora of features (see end of article), its goal is simple: It aims to offer consumers an unparalleled experience in interacting with their high-definition TVs in the most intuitive manner possible.
It is all about the user experience, stress both Goh and Chong. Which is why they plan a flagship store for Emagine ala Apple style; and which is why they have spent a lot of time watching how consumers interact with their TVs, including smart TVs, and have come up with their Emagine remote control and the user interface.
Everything has to be a few clicks away. For instance, buying movies will only take two clicks, says Chong. The same action on another set-top box will take five, he claims. The built-in payment gateway is provided by iPay88, an emerging regional e-commerce payment provider based out of Kuala Lumpur.
The built-in payment mechanism becomes important because at some point, Goh believes that consumers will pay for premium content. From its launch today (Feb 28), it will already be offering an on-demand karaoke service from Malaysian company iOK with 50,000 songs on your TV, in your living room, in English, Chinese, Malay and Indonesian.
Subscription is done straight from the box, with no calls or emails, no registration, no contracts. It is all about the user experience. The first 6,000 subscribers will get the first month free. All premium content will be ad-free. Current pricing is RM19.99 per month or RM99.99 for a 6-month subscription.
The business model is going to be on revenue share basis with all content owners. But for now, it is going to be a numbers play. “We want to get our Emagine into as many homes as possible,” says Goh, declining to share what the first-year target is. “Once we have the numbers, the online video content owners will be open to offering their content to consumers.”
If that happens, Goh would have achieved his goal of becoming the platform on which content providers can come on to sell their content to more consumers.
Try getting a channel on Astro,” he says. It will obviously cost you a tidy sum, but the revenue share method of Emagine will attract all kinds of content providers -- that is, once it hits the numbers.
Highlights of Emagine, according to Select-TV:
Beautiful, intuitive and responsive user interface that makes browsing, searching and managing online videos quick and easy; Select-TV says it studied the way a person watches TV and then custom-designed an online and on-demand video viewing experience for the TV that provides seamless navigation.
In addition to the 200-plus and growing selected Emagine Net TV online channels in English and Chinese, Emagine also curates and hand-picks top online videos through Emagine Picks, so users can easily discover the latest and most popular entertainment and educational online videos directly through their TVs. Select-TV claims that Emagine will soon allow users to watch videos shared by their friends on Facebook and will recommend video content based on their watching behavior in the future.
It allows users to personalize their viewing experience by adding their own favorite online channels, create and share their own custom online video playlists, and watch and bookmark playlists shared by the Emagine Community, directly from the TV.
Emagine allows users to share and comment on the online videos they’re watching and even upload their photos to Facebook from their TV.
It offers built-in Shoutcast Radio with more than 40,000 free-to-listen online radio stations across 25 genres.
It offers full high-def Media Player capabilities with three USB 2.0 ports and a dedicated SD card slot, allowing users to watch their videos and listen to music from their external hard disk or a thumb drive and view photos and videos from their camera SD card directly on TV.
Emagine’s HD Media Player supports MPEG2, MPEG4, H.264, AVI, MKV and other major video formats in High Definition 1080P; and all major music and photo formats.
It has embedded Intel Wireless Display (WIDI), which allows Intel WIDI compatible laptops to share content and their screens wirelessly on TV in full high def.
Home server capabilities allow users to stream content wirelessly from their computer to their TV. It is also DLNA compliant, which allows users to beam videos and pictures from their mobile devices to the TV with third party downloadable applications such as Twonky Beam, available both for iOS and Android devices.
Emagine has a built-in payment platform for subscription to premium content instantly and directly from users’ TVs.
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