Not long ago TV was an indispensable household item and viewers spent hours glued to their TV as ‘couch potatoes’. Thus limiting their TV viewing experience to mere ‘channel surfing’. In just a few years time the viewing scenario has changed dramatically. Convergence technology converts one-way passive TV viewing into a two-way interactive experience which means the TV has become intelligent. Interactive TV technology enables television viewers to access remote servers and the Internet through their television and the digital set top box (STB). For their part viewers today have demands. They want to watch content from traditional broadcast TV as well as video-on-demand or the Internet. And they want to watch it at home or on the go. Their favored delivery device may still be a TV set or it may be a PC, a portable media player (PMP) or a mobile device. They also want to be able to transfer content between devices and locations. Interactive TV is becoming the new order of media because it combines the communicative power of TV with the connectivity of the Internet. The result is that it enables information flow not only from broadcaster to viewer, but from viewer to broadcaster.
Interactive TV systems also have the ability to offer a choice of content to each TV set or each viewer who uses that set. iTV makes it possible for subscribers to perform a wide range of functions: They can see extra news stories and sports coverage, check the latest sports results, travel information and weather forecasts. They can even play interactive games, go shopping, ‘chat’ with their friends, place bets and interact with their favourite programmes. At the core of iTV development is the knowledge of what STBs can handle today and what they will be able to support in the future. NDS has deployed iTV applications on some of the leading Indian pay-TV platforms including Tata Sky, Bharti Airtel, Hathway, DEN and GTPL. They are offering several levels of interactive broadcasting:
Alan Dishington is Sales Director of NDS India, the leading provider of digital technology solutions for the pay-TV industry. Alan has more than 16 years experience in pay television across Europe, the Middle East and Africa. He has been based in Delhi since November 2008.
Alan is responsible for providing support and services to customers in India across Cable, DTH and IPTV.
Alan was previously Director of Marketing, EMEA for NDS. Before joining NDS, he was with Sky Italia as a member of the management team responsible for successfully merging the Stream and Tele+ satellite platforms.
Alan has developed a responsible team for identifying and qualifying new cable, satellite and IP opportunities. These efforts led to determining the need for an entry level VideoGuard offering.
Enhanced TV is basic interactive TV. It extends the linear broadcast experience by giving subscribers the opportunity to avail themselves of information that supplements the programme they are watching. For example, while watching a programme on Indian cooking viewers may be offered information about holiday packages in India or a variety of recipes. Participatory TV goes one step further. In order to increase programme stickiness, NDS broadcast technology has the ability to deliver live animation of a character that can interact with a studio-based audience as well as the viewer at home. Known for making faces at the viewer and offering off-the-wall comments during a game, these applications are very popular—especially for children’s programming like Tata Sky’s Actve Wizkids, Actve Learning and Actve Topper.
Transactional TV enables subscribers to purchase products and services through their STB using their remote control. There is no need to phone call centers or send credit card information by phone. Subscriber and information services are a proven source of revenue which allows operators to promote offers and sell advertising. This is ideal for travel, leisure, sports and educational promotions. Last minute travel packages have been particularly successful.
Branded games increase channel loyalty by extending interactivity beyond scheduled programming. For example, Cartoon Network features games with the same characters that appear in its regular programming.
Along with advances in interactive applications and programming, DVRs (digital video recorders) are reaching critical mass worldwide and are quickly catching up with gradual digitisation of the huge Indian cable TV market. Industry insiders are watching closely to see what's next. With one-third of India’s population currently under the age of 15, viewer demands are certain to change. Today’s pay-TV subscribers want their media on-demand. And they want to have control over where and when they will be entertained. That’s what iTV offers them. While interactive TV is already available in almost 70% of American homes it is still in its infancy in India. The Indian market is known to have a healthy appetite for new technology and value added services like DVRs and iTV applications. As a result India is a very promising market. NDS is working with local operators to explore different business models and is designing a range of cost-effective iTV applications which will also help operators reduce churn.
With increased digitisation and digital penetration in India there will be greater consumer demand for innovative and advanced iTV applications and interactive games.
At the same time the advertisers‘ demands for targeted marketing and advertising will foster the growth of advanced solutions that are measurable, addressable and interactive and also open new avenues to generate revenue. NDS is at the forefront of the global development of interactive TV applications and already enables many of the most successful applications around the world. Based on experience accumulated over the past two decades, NDS can now use interactive TV technology developments as a basis for future services. The result is a real revolution in what interactive TV can offer.