Roundtable: IPTV potential is there (Part I)

  • Lean-back viewing still strong with adult segment
  • Younger generation lead way with multi-screen

Roundtable: IPTV potential is there (Part I)
THE first-ever roundtable held by Digital News Asia (DNA) was on IPTV or Internet Protocol TV. Held on the 17th of May, it was kindly hosted by one of our Pioneer Sponsors, storage specialists NetApp, in its brand new office digs in 1Mont Kiara.
 
We choose IPTV because a roundtable on the subject has not been hosted by a media organization before and we thought the remarkable progress that Telekom Malaysia Bhd has been making in getting over 370,000 customers for its UniFi service which comes bundled with its IPTV play, HyppTV, would make for an interesting discussion on the future of IPTV in the country.
 
In this first of two parts (Part II will appear on June 4), our panelists spoke about the potential of IPTV and asked if the introduction of connected TVs poses a threat to IPTV.
 
The short answer to the questions was, yes, there is potential for IPTV to grow its market share and no, connected TVs pose no threat, at least in the short term.
 
The panelists were: CS Goh, founder of end-to-end IPTV provider SelectTV Sdn Bhd; Jeremy Kung, general manager of new media at Telekom Malaysia; Lam Swee Kim, general manager, New Media & Interactive, Media Prima Bhd; Arjun Arasu, chief marketing officer, TIME dotcom Bhd; and Richard Griffiths, vice president of IPTV at Astro.
 
Among the key takeaways from the first part of the discussion were that, in the IPTV world, content is everything.
 
Second, when you strip away all the bells and whistles of IPTV, at the end of the day, it is nothing more than just a platform to deliver your content.

Roundtable: IPTV potential is there (Part I)While customers may like the value-added services on IPTV packages such as catch-up TV, interactive features or video-on-demand, in terms of priority, these rank low, notes Griffiths (pic), who has been involved in IPTV for 10 years.
 
"No one is going to make a decision to buy your IPTV service based on your VAS (value-added service)," he says.
 
But they will, based on the content you are offering. To this, there was unanimous agreement.
 
“As an end-to-end IPTV provider, we see this content challenge with our customers in India, Thailand and especially Singapore,” says Goh.
 
There was a short discussion on why IPTV pioneer MITV had failed. The panelists concurred that they were up against Astro which had much better content, the key determinant of signing up for a paid TV service.
 
But above that MITV also was hampered by its high user penetration cost as it had adopted a hybrid approach of terrestrial and broadband.
 
Besides these two challenges, it was also the fact that users had to actually tune their own set-top box that killed MITV, the panelists believe.
 
Roundtable: IPTV potential is there (Part I)As Lam (pic) asks, "When was the last time you actually tuned your TV?”
 
Changing nature
 
Kung feels there is a lot of potential for IPTV in Malaysia, with room even for up to three players.
 
But such is the changing nature of the technology that he says if he were starting out today, he would go for a managed Over The Top (OTT) platform in the sense that the customers user experience is guaranteed.
 
This guarantee is achieved by paying a service provider to ensure the IPTV player's content is delivered with a consistent and high quality to the customer. This way, the customer wins with a great viewing experience, the network owner gets paid for delivering the content, and the IPTV player gets to charge a satisfied end customer.
 
Instead the situation you have today is where the company that owns the last mile is not getting any revenue from delivering the OTT player's content. Speaking like a telco man, Kung (pic) says that OTT players just use the network, pay the service provider nothing, and milk the revenue.
 
Arjun, who was recently shopping for a new TV set, says he has come to realize how much the TV has changed even today.
 
With the connected TV, consumers can even synch their TVs to their tablets and enjoy live feeds.
 
Roundtable: IPTV potential is there (Part I)However the vast majority of consumers are not aware and probably don't care, aside of course from the youngsters. Arjun (pic) notes that today's adept youngsters are tomorrow's adults, which means this group will be strong adopters of connected TV features.
 
Griffiths disagrees. “I am always wary when people say the whole way we consume content is changing. Sure, we are delivering content in different ways and people, with time, young people, will consume that content in different ways.”
 
To suggest that this interest to consume content in different ways will remain as these kids grow up and face the same time pressures adults do is to ignore fundamental human behavior.
 
The lean-back factor
 
Most of the panelists felt that when people come home tired after a long day at work and settle in front of the TV, all they want is a lean-back experience with content pushed to them, not them pulling content.
 
Roundtable: IPTV potential is there (Part I)However, Goh (pic) feels that the more powerful technology at play today can actually allow a consumer to enjoy the lean-back experience but with content intelligently pushed to them via their service provider.
 
TV makers are highly incentivized to do that as they tell Goh they want to move consumers away from other screens, back to theirs.
 
“Analytics is so powerful today that your service provider or even TV maker can follow what you like to watch via social media and, coupled with knowing your hobbies, etc., can push the relevant content to you even as you lean back to enjoy your own channels.”
 
Content massaging is how he describes this, saying that SelectTV has already been testing this out and the response has been very positive. However the caveat to this working is that premium content has to be included into the mix of this 'content massaging'.
 
None of the panelists saw any threat from connected TVs to IPTV, though Arjun made an insightful observation. “What's to stop Astro from coming up with an app pre-installed on the TV?"
 
Griffiths loved the idea as not having the set-top box means a few hundred ringgit saved per customer. However with the customer experience being of paramount importance, Astro will not go there yet until the user experience via an app matches that of the set-top box, he says.

Roundtable: IPTV potential is there (Part I)Kung (pic) feels that within the next three to five years, the set-top box will not be in use anymore as the TV set itself would integrate such features.
 
“For instance, features like Digital Rights Management can be embedded within the connected TV environment. We have tested it and content providers are okay with this as long as you can assure zero piracy,” he says.
 
It’s just TV, plain and simple (Part II)
 

 
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