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02.12.00 16:31:46
Saturday, December 2, 2000

Digital TV `as early as 2002`

Digital TV broadcasts of up to 30 channels will be introduced as early as 2002 under a proposal to award three to six licences, attracting investment of up to $1 billion, the Government says.
But Legco information technology sector representative Sin Chung-kai warned that because there were already a number of pay TV and free-to-air licences, he doubted digital broadcasting would attract new investors.

The Government has recently awarded five more pay TV licences on top of Cable and the free-to-air TVB and ATV.

Officials yesterday proposed adopting the European standard in awarding three to six "multiplex" digital broadcasting licences next year. Total investment from the industry is estimated to be worth up to $1 billion.

With each multiplex capable of transmitting four to five channels, up to 30 channels could be provided for TV programmes and interactive services such as home banking and shopping.

Announcing a three-month consultation, Deputy Secretary for Information Technology and Broadcasting Eva Cheng said consumers would have more choices. "Images will be very clear. In future, you will be watching [football matches] like you are there," she said.

Overseas experience has shown households may have to pay $1,000 to $5,000 for a decoder or buy a new digital TV set costing at least $7,000.

Ms Cheng said licence holders might provide decoders free or at affordable prices. Such concessions and other business plans would be taken into account by the Government.

She said the new licences would not be awarded through public auctions because business prospects would be more predictable than for third-generation (3G) mobile phone services.

"3G operators cannot be sure about the potential. But digital broadcasting is more conventional. That`s why we prefer to assess applications based on merit."

Mr Sin said the policies on 3G and digital broadcasting were inconsistent, although he said he might not necessarily support a public auction for the latter.

Ms Cheng believed existing players such as Cable TV would also be interested in trying the new technology.

Digital technology has already been applied to video-on-demand services and satellite TV. The five domestic pay TV licensees recently approved by the Government will also adopt the technology.

TVB and ATV now broadcast with analogue technology.

The Government does not recommend introducing digital technology to radio broadcasting because a digital radio could cost several thousand dollars and the business potential is said to be limited.
02.12.00 16:51:15
TV Jumps on Broadband Wagon

Although interactive video services have been talked about more than they`ve been seen during the past few years, Forrester Research estimates 4.9 million homes will have some sort of service by the end of 2000. Interactive video was in just 700,000 homes in 1999; Forrester sees that number climbing to 12.2 million in 2001.

Many devices on display are prototypes, such as an early version of a box powered by an AMD Athlon CPU that combines the functions of a DVD player, cable box, satellite receiver base station, CD player and interactive TV. The unit, which was on display at the SCM Microsystems booth, runs "Whistler," a future version of Microsoft Windows 2000, but won`t be out for more than two years.

EnjoyWeb of Sunnyvale, California is making its first public splash with a software-based media delivery system for hardware vendors like TiVo, Microsoft, Scientific Atlanta and other set-top box makers. But unlike TiVo, which manages recording of TV programs, EnjoyWeb`s software controls Internet video content that is delivered by a cable modem.

The software stores Internet multimedia that would normally be downloaded and viewed on the computer on a hard disk in the set-top device, and plays it back in full screen.

The content can also be shared with a PC, which can display a second video simultaneously.

It`s not a direct streaming service, according to EnjoyWeb officials. You select the media you want at night and it downloads from the Internet while you`re asleep, so the next morning all that content is sitting on the hard disk in a set-top box. So while you may not be able to watch live events at the, you can enjoy content that is available on demand.

EnjoyWeb expects to have its software integrated by set-top device makers by 2002.

EnjoyWeb was just one of many vendors at the show trying to push the TV and computer closer together via broadband. Integra 5, developer of The Messaging Channel, a broadband service for cable and satellite, announced a partnership Wednesday with interface company Interlink Electronics to create a broadband messaging service that enables people to send and receive messages that include text, audio and video clips and even handwritten notes.

Integra 5 will begin testing The Messaging Channel in January of 2001. In addition to the e-mail service, it will provide instant messaging and chat rooms using a broadband connection but connected to the television. The system uses a remote control or voice input instead of a keyboard.

Comcast Cable Communications (CMCSA) is beefing up its interactive services. The company announced it would also deploy Wink Communications` interactive e-commerce TV services. Wink`s Enhanced Broadcasting allows advertisers and cable networks to enhance their broadcasting so watchers can buy a product they see advertised with a click.

Comcast also announced a deal to offer Juno`s Internet access service to its customers. Juno is taking a similar track to AtHome in pushing its services to broadband cable providers. Juno is also working on a deal with Time Warner, which recently struck a deal with Earthlink to offer broadband services.

Tribune Media Services, a subsidiary of the Tribune Company (TRB) media giant, introduced an interactive movie guide, called Zap2it Movies. It will carry full-length movie trailers normally only shown in theaters, and provide the show times of movies in the viewer`s area. The broadband cable service is similar to a website that the Tribune launched earlier this year.
02.12.00 17:07:36
TV Commercials Get Personal

NEW YORK -- The "idiot box" that you rely upon to pump mindless entertainment into your home now has a brain that will enable it to feed you very specific, very personalized ... advertising.

In his keynote Wednesday at the ETV world trade show, Kim LeMasters, ReplayTV`s CEO, said that Personal Television Devices -- more commonly known in the real world as digital video recorders -- will soon outsell VCRs and DVD players.

LeMasters also said that digital video recorders will soon outpace DVD players and VCRs in performance and features, including the ability to deliver personalized ads.

"We let you have full control over the TV," LeMasters said, comparing watching TV with a PTD to the Web surfing experience.

He then qualified that statement by noting that viewers don`t have an "emotional connection," to the Web, but do to their TVs, which is why people are more apt to feel safe buying products that they have seen advertised on TV.

Perhaps noting the skepticism that greeted that remark from the mostly techie crowd, LeMasters rolled out the statistics: A typical household watches seven hours of TV per day and has more TVs than telephones.

As for the love affair with PTDs, LeMasters, numbers culled in research by his company suggest it`s almost love at first sight. Only 10 percent of customers rated TV watching as "very appealing" before buying their digital video recorders, LeMasters said. Afterward, 74 percent changed their minds and suddenly felt that TV was big fun.

(One wonders how many hours they are now spending in front of the tube.)

The first thing most users do when they begin to use Personal TV is to delete all the commercials from their favorite shows, noted LeMasters, who predicted that advertising agencies are clever enough to figure out ways around this issue.

LeMasters also claimed that RePlayTV`s research indicates people will happily record and then watch commercials many times if those commercials appeal to them.
02.12.00 17:10:35
LeMasters also predicted that successful advertising in the future would have to be perceived as a public service instead of an intrusion.

In a separate conference, ReplayTV`s nemesis, TiVo, announced the launch of a subscription video-on-demand and pay-per-view video-on-demand for broadband subscribers of TiVo`s Personal TV services.

TiVo also will be "offering" TiVo direct, an interactive program that allows advertising content to be delivered to users via their TiVo service.

TiVo Direct content will be added to the hard drive of digital recorders carrying the TiVo service prior to retail distribution. The first participants in the TiVo Direct program include PGA Tour, Starz Encore, Showtime Networks, iFilm and Guthy Renker.

Viewers will really like these ads, promised Stacy Jolna, TiVo chief programming officer.

Jolna explained that the advertising would include innovations such as interviews, outtakes, and original short films available only to TiVo subscribers.

For those who like their advertising to be portable, CinemaElectric`s PocketCinema will be the "movie of the future," said CinemaElectric CEO Jim Robinson.

PocketCinema is "optimized for wireless and handheld devices, but it`s platform-agnostic," noted Robinson. PocketCinema`s clips, typically a mix of ads and content, are the visual version of an MP3 file.

They can be downloaded from the Web and played on PCs, handheld devices and the next generation of cell phones, which are expected to have larger displays.

Robinson didn`t seem concerned that PocketCinema clips might be edited, altered, created and traded for free via file sharing applications like Scour and Gnutella.

"The new generation of software must be designed from day one to be pirated."
02.12.00 17:18:55
S. Africa Broadband Plan on Hold

What seemed like a good idea at the time was apparently ahead of its time. Plans for a revolutionary broadband service in South Africa have been placed on hold.

After months of experimentation with the content possibilities of a satellite-delivered residential broadband portal with South Africa`s biggest ISP, M-Web, it seems the customer base necessary to make the venture profitable isn`t there.

"We are currently not planning to release any consumer broadband portal right now," said M-Web`s head of strategy, Bruce Cohen.

M-Web is already running a highly successful corporate and long-distance education digital satellite broadband project in South Africa, through its subsidiaries, Siyanda and Shoma.

But M-Web was hoping to broaden its operation. M-Web`s broadband initiatives are aimed at capitalizing on the convergence of traditional media -- television, personal consumers and the Internet -- in both the corporate and residential markets.

"It just seems that, while inevitable, a residential broadband portal is not feasible yet," said Glenn van Loggerenberg, a convergence media producer who consulted on the project. "Not if the aim is to attract a sophisticated audience to a new wave of media products for the sake of profit."

According to van Loggerenberg, such an investment is difficult because it is unlikely that a socio-political climate "where desks are rare for the majority of the population will spawn an immediate demand for consumer broadband desktop services beyond the technological aspirations of a privileged few."

But South Africa does have a history of producing surprises.

Apart from broadband market leader Siyanda and No. 2 InfoSat, the level of awareness of broadband technology is still very low in South Africa, said professor Christo Doherty, the South African Broadcasting Corporation chair of cyberbroadcasting at Rhodes University`s Department of Journalism and Media Studies.

Even at the government-owned broadcaster, Doherty says, "there seems to be little or no awareness of broadband at SABC, let alone a broadband strategy." He says that SABC has just moved into narrowband with a news site modeled on

"Part of the problem is that SABC sees itself addressing a national audience with middle- to low-income levels," Doherty said. "The Internet is still seen as a tool for the rich."

According to Siyanda business manager Derek Van Wyk, pricing is the major economic force that has conspired against a faster adoption of broadband technology by consumers. "The actual cost of bandwidth is a general topic everyone sympathizes with."

Then there is the problem of finding suitable content to broadcast over a broadband platform to residential consumers. "One does not simply want to re-broadcast existing television content; therefore it is important to source new and exciting content for a broadband medium."

To acquire broadband content in Africa, Van Wyk says that only two options are available: either to create proprietary content or to acquire it through international partnerships. Both strategies, says Van Wyk, have complications relating to economic or copyright issues.

Doherty said the biggest hurdle in residential broadband is the "cost of the rollout; the limitation of the existing infrastructure; and the regulatory environment."

It`s an awful lot to overcome.

"The future profit potential for such a system will only become clear if one of the variables in the equation changes," van Loggerenberg said. "That is, if content aspirations are minimized, the consumer demand for residential bandwidth increases, or satellite bandwidth becomes cheaper."
02.12.00 17:27:14
It`s the End of TV As We Know It

LAS VEGAS -- Say goodbye to prime time and mind-numbing channel surfing.

Say hello to interactive media services, where enhanced television, DVD-quality movies, music, and the Internet are delivered together to your living room.

But it won`t happen overnight -- and it won`t be easy -- because it requires the cable networks, satellite providers, ISPs, set-top box manufacturers, and Web portals to join hands and not fight over top billing.

The forging of these new partnerships takes center stage this week at CES as WebTV, TiVo, and America Online show off new interactive services.

TiVo has announced a deal with DirecTV that marries its personal TV service with the satellite broadcaster`s content. The service will enable customers to record up to 30 hours of programming and provides an updated version of TiVo`s VCR-like software that can pause, rewind, and fast-forward live and recorded television.

Through redundant TiVo and DirecTV programming guides, users can schedule recording shows by selecting a genre, actor, director, or keyword up to two weeks in advance of its airing. Pricing has not been announced, and the service is slated to be available in the second quarter of this year.

TiVo was also showing off a new digital video recorder from Sony, which is scheduled to ship this spring.

While TiVo is focusing on providing services that simplify manipulating television, many other companies including America Online, Sun, Intel, and WebTV were demonstrating more ambitious plans to deliver Internet functions and content with broadcasts.

In the DirecTV booth, AOL was showing off "AOLTV," which will add AOL services such as email and instant messaging to televisions that connect with DirecTV receivers. Pricing and availability for the new service have not been announced.

Intel, Sun Microsystems, and WebTV were all showing off enhanced television that adds information and interactivity to the broadcast stream. In its home of the future exhibit, Sun demonstrated an interactive music program from the BBC that enables viewers to vote on their favorite bands and change camera angles while watching a weekly pop music show.

JavaTV marketing manager James Theberge said that European broadcasters have agreed on Digital Video Broadcasting for digital broadcasts, and that compatible televisions and set-top boxes should start shipping in the fourth quarter.

In the United States, however, it`s the ATSC standard adopted by the FCC that required broadcasters to start delivering content digitally in November 1999. Theberge said US receivers probably won`t hit the mass market until early next year.

Public broadcasting stations in the United States have been the biggest proponents of digital TV, said consultant Jack Gamiche of the Broadcast Interactive Group. Gamiche said broadcasters in Oregon have been delivering digital content to schools for more than three years.

"It’s a great opportunity for broadcasters to do multiple streams (including video and data) for education purposes," he said.

While public television has been quicker to understand the benefits of digital TV, Gamiche said the private sector is still struggling with a business model to develop content. He said digital TV may be seen on PC monitors before TV screens since it`s easier to add a US$300 video card to a PC than to buy a new TV.

Intel and WebTV were showing off enhanced TV that can overlay statistics onto sports broadcasts, add detailed product information on shopping channels, and let viewers play along with game shows. More than 100 companies have joined the Advanced Television Enhancement Forum, which uses HTML to display text and graphics alongside traditional broadcasts.

Nearly 500 hours of enhanced TV programming is available on WebTV, marketing director Rob Schoeben said. Schoeben said enhanced broadcasts can be used by its analog cable set-top boxes and the digital satellite receivers from EchoStar`s DISH network.

Thomson Multimedia and Philips Electronics announced they will be the first to develop cable boxes that combine Internet access, enhanced TV, and digital video recording using technology from WebTV. The boxes will be available later this year, but pricing was not announced. WebTV may add instant messaging at a future date.

A startup with a much smaller presence at CES but even bigger dreams is The less-than-year-old company wants to add DVD-quality movies and music into an all-in-one device.

ZapMedia showed off a prototype of a recorder and service that allows customers to listen to Internet radio, download MP3 music and movies on demand, and also provides Internet access and the ability to record digital video.

The Atlanta-based company will act as a media portal and is pursuing relationships with record labels, video content owners, and hardware manufacturers.
03.12.00 10:58:08
Microsoft forciert Digital-TV


Redmond - Microsoft hat mit drei US-Digital-TV-Unternehmen Verträge über die Zusammenarbeit im Bereich des interaktiven Fernsehens beschlossen. Mit der Kooperation mit ACTV, RespondTV, und eCity soll der Ausbau der Fernsehplattform Microsoft TV beschleunigt werden.
Die drei neuen Partner bieten Softwarelösungen für digitales Fernsehen an. Dazu gehören unter anderem Hintergrundinformationen zu laufenden Sendungen, Chatforen, interaktive und zielgruppenspezifische Werbung sowie die Möglichkeit, über das Fernsehgerät Produkte zu verkaufen. "Damit wollen wir sowohl Softwareentwickler als auch Kabelnetzbetreiber zufrieden stellen, die damit profitable, neue Services über ihre Plattformen verbreiten können", erklärte Alan Yates, Marketing-Vizepräsident von Microsoft TV. (pte)
03.12.00 13:24:36
2005: 66 Mio. digitale "konvergente Verbraucher" in Europa
Report zur digitalen Konvergenz

Ein Report der interaktiven Medienberatungsgruppe Digiscope, der von Phillips Global Media veröffentlicht wurde, geht von fast 70 Millionen "konvergenten Verbrauchern" in Europa im Jahre 2005 aus, die alle drei wichtigen digitalen Plattformen nutzen: Digitales Fernsehen, Mobilnetz und Internet. 1999 waren dies nur 1,6 Millionen.

24.11.2000, 10:41 Der Report mit dem Titel "Digital TV, Internet & Mobile Convergence - developments and projections for Europe" besagt, dass auf die Konvergenz, wie sie weithin verstanden wird, noch viele Jahre gewartet werden muss; dabei müssen erhebliche kulturelle und technologische Hürden überwunden werden. Die eigentliche Bedeutung der kurz- bis mittelfristigen Konvergenz sei die Entwicklung des "konvergenten Verbrauchers" und die Art und Weise, in der die digitalen Plattformen eine viel höher entwickelte, interaktivere und zugänglichere Beziehung zum Kunden ermöglichen.

Barry Flynn, Autor des Reports, dazu: "Die Botschaft des Reports besteht darin, dass auf viele der wahrgenommenen Werte der Konvergenz tatsächlich noch Jahre gewartet werden muss. Die digitale Entwicklung hat de facto zu mehr Serviceaufsplitterung als zu Konvergenz geführt. In Europa entwickelt sich aber schnell ein bedeutender Markt mit `konvergenten Verbrauchern`. Die neuen digitalen Plattformen ermöglichen eine viel anspruchsvollere Entwicklung der Beziehung zum Kunden, seine Vorlieben und Abneigungen können plattformübergreifend zurückverfolgt und gepflegt werden." "Auf dem neuen konvergenten Markt wird der Verbraucher-Metacontent, die Inhalte über die Verbraucher, genau so wichtig sein wie der Inhalt selbst. Die Inhaber des Metacontent werden auf dem neuen konvergenten Markt äußerst mächtig sein, und Unternehmen wie BSkyB, Vivendi, NTL, Vodafone und UPC scheinen besonders gut positioniert, um diesen schnell wachsenden Markt für sich zu nutzen", so Flynn weiter.

Unter Verwendung des Konzepts der "kritischen digitalen Masse" enthält der Report Daten aus ganz Europa über die Penetration des digitalen Fernsehens, des Internet und der Mobilfunkkommunikation, um für jedes Gebiet einen Digiscope Convergence Index zu entwickeln sowie die plattformübergreifenden Infrastrukturmöglichkeiten von elf Schlüsselmärkten in ganz Europa sowohl im Jahre 1999 als auch im Jahre 2005 einzuschätzen. Der Digiscope Convergence Index soll Hinweise zu den europäischen Märkten liefern, die am besten für die Einführung von Services geeignet sind, die auf den konvergenten Verbraucher ausgerichtet sind. Die Landesindizes weisen aus, dass Skandinavien und das Vereinigte Königreich die höchste Penetration plattformübergreifender Verbraucher und die besten Gesamtinfrastrukturen für alle drei Plattformen aufweisen, Belgien und Italien dagegen sind die Schlusslichter.

Der Report, der Anfang Dezember veröffentlicht werden soll, ist für 995 Pfund bei Phillips Global Media erhältlich.

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Digital TV `as early as 2002`