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Why I’m going to IPTV world forum – March 23rd 2010

I’ll be staying for the three days at the event next week. I always spend long moments hesitating whether such a time commitment is reasonable. I thought I’d share my thinking in case it helps you make your mind up (and helps me decide whether to fork out a couple of k€ to go to NAB next month or not).

When I worked at Orange, heading international IPTV deployment, I gave one of the first talks from a major IPTV player at one of the first versions of the show in 2005 or thereabouts. It was about the technical challenges of IPTV deployment from a Telco perspective. IPTV World Forum holds a little sense of nostalgia for me.

In the early days Junction ran the show, and I remember it feeling like a special occasion. It’s probably the nostalgia speaking or maybe the fact that as it wasn’t yet mainstream we all felt a bit more leading edge. I suppose I can replace "feel good" factor from being a pioneer then to a "feel good" factor from knowing I was here first. To illustrate the newfound importance of the show, big decisions now get initiated at Olympia and the IPTV WF awards get fought over more and more.

We’re not supposed to decide which show to go to based on the quality of the tea and biscuits (no don’t pretend you never do). In this respect IPTV WF is pretty good on logistics, except maybe fort the A/V equipment that forces me to sit in the front rows if I want to both see and hear.

The main reason I’m going is networking. There’s only so much you can do with LinkedIn & Co and face-to-face meetings do make a difference. I know at least half the companies exhibiting and over a dozen speakers so it’ll be worthwhile just to catch-up. I also need to generate some new leads for my consulting business (;-€).

I'm looking forwards to awards ceremony at the end of day one. Only the English can make a pompous event fun as well (mind you the great food & drink helps). As I'm a judge, I can’t really talk about that till the results are out … but there were loads of good entries this year.

There will be demos of some really new things I want to see at the exhibition. This year I’m looking forward to seeing the BeeSmart free middleware that’ll be launched during the show. I’m also hoping ROVI will show their new promising looking EPG offerings. As I missed the NDS widget demo at IBC I was hoping to catch up on that but I can’t see them on the exhibitor list :o( - maybe I’ll have to go to the NAB show after all.

I wrote an blog entry here on the rosy future for the IPTV Monitoring market so I’ll be asking all the vendors like Mariner, Bridgetech, Ineoquest, Agama and the new kid in town from India called First Media what they think about that i.e. do they too see a blue ocean of opportunities?

I hope to do a post-show blog on the future of interfaces so I’ll also hop into booths from some middleware people like Dreampark and Nagravision.

Many of the usual suspects from the STB arena will be at the show so I’ll be checking out where they are in terms of chipsets & new deployments (although these tend to boringly all be confidential). But the ecosystem is constantly changing as the box makers move upwards or sideways in the ecosystem so I’ll be looking out for any exciting demos from booths like Netgem, PACE, SoftAtHome, Echostar, Awox and Amino.

I’m a bit disappointed in the content recommendation supplier line-up. Recommendation is still a stumbling block that we haven’t fixed. Hopefully Gravity R&D will have a better demo than they showed at the Prague show. I don’t know why the more mature suppliers like Jinni aren’t coming to the show. That’s food for thought for another in depth analysis.

I always drop into the Edgware booth not only because it’s invariably one of the nicest but mainly because they are a surprisingly interesting company to talk to; they have a real vision.

Oh and I’ll make a point of having a proper talk with the Canadians from Evertz because I kind of botched it last time in Prague and have heard they deliver a monitoring good job for Sasktel in conjunction with Mariner Partners who btw will also both be presenting at the show.

With over 100 exhibitors I expect it will take me at least a day and half to see everything I want to, and As I’m chairing during day one I’ll be there the whole time.

There’s some luck involved in choosing the best conference to listen to unless you know the speaker beforehand. Most speakers do go to the trouble of writing interesting fresh slides and are really worth listening to. However as with any mainstream conference, some vendors that pay a lot to get to say basically what they want amazingly get away with too much sales pitch. You should complain to the organizers if you see this. I certainly do. Telcos with big IPTV deployments who also get red-carpet treatment sometimes go around with the same slide deck from conference to conference; I’ve identified the speakers by now, but it's always worth listening to them if you haven't heard it before.

In the end I clearly do recommend going (twitter me @nebul2 to meet). If you decide not to come, several of us will be reporting from the show on Videonet.

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Social TV Forum 16/03/10 15:00

[lang_en]The Social TV Forum takes place on March 16th at Olympia in London. Ben is chairing the panel at 3PM on technical Challenges of bringing social media onto the TV. Panelists are Kevin Baughan, Head of Technical Strategy, Virgin Media, Martin Jarrold, Cheif, International Programme Development GVF, Andrew Kearney, VP TV Products, UPC Broadband and Guillaume de Saint Marc, VP R&D New Initiatives, NDS. Guillaume from NDS will kick the discussion off with a short presentation of what those challenges really are. I'll write something up for v-net.tv.[/lang_en]

[lang_fr]Le Social TV Forum a lieu le 16 mars à Olympia, Londres. Ben sera chairman d'une table ronde à 15h sur les défis techniques pour amener les médias sociaux ("social media") à la TV. Kevin Baughan, Head of Technical Strategy, Virgin Media, Martin Jarrold, Cheif, International Programme Development GVF, Andrew Kearney, VP TV Products, UPC Broadband et Guillaume de Saint Marc, VP R&D New Initiatives à NDS seront les intervenants. Guillaume démarrera avec un rapide aperçu de ce défi technique. Vous trouverez un compte rendu par la suite sur v-net.tv.[/lang_fr]

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Why Iid invest in TV monitoring if I were a banker

When Justin Lebbon, the guy behind videonet, read my latest blog post on the significance of Ineoquest’s winning a deal with France Télévisions, he pointed out that to get onto Videonet, posts have to be longer. It probably wasn’t meant that way, but it felt a bit condescending.

Hmmpf! So I started wondering why I'd felt the urge to write just a short post on a seemingly run-of-the-mill press release about yet another sale.

I had written about the customer being a TV station and the vendor being the leader in head-end monitoring from the IPTV space, so that maybe we were going towards a global leader in the IP TV (notice the space) monitoring space. So with just one small point to make I had one short blog entry to post.

But Justin’s point has been irking me to dig a bit deeper.

It turns out I wrote about a tree that was hiding a forest.

The TV world relies more and more heavily on IP for contribution, transport and distribution to and within the home. At the same time, the whole marketplace is also maturing. Different stakeholders are beginning to emerge and a new content economy will eventually stabilize.

We still don’t know if our IPTV world will become a market dominated by vertical or horizontal stakeholders or maybe something in between.

In the vertical world, content would flow from one stakeholder’s environment through another’s to be delivered to customers of yet another network. To catch-up on a missed Channel 4 program you might use a C4 widget on you TV that stream content through a network managed by Cable & Wireless. But for a BBC program you’d use iPlayer. We would seem to be headed in that direction if the Ineoquest - France Télévisions deal is at all significant. Service Level Agreements or SLAs are paramount to remain competitive in such a world. What better than QoE measurement to manage such agreements?

In the second more horizontal world, the same stakeholders would be producing and delivering content-based services to their own customers. Walled garden IPTV or Telco-TV is of this world. TV stations would carry on not caring all that much about IP quality because it wouldn’t be their problem. Although not IPTV, Sky’s products are from this world where the same company produces much of the content and delivers it themselves. Market regulators would hopefully ensure that customers would rarely be more than a click away from the competing service and in this world (looks like Britain pulled a short straw on this), QoE would remain the best metric to work on to control churn.

TV stations are still basically Content producing organisations. When transmitting through traditional broadcast networks they can always ascertain the quality of delivery by the random sampling of a few points. This worked fine for traditional analogue terrestrial and satellite, and also to a certain extent for digital terrestrial, cable and satellite.

IPTV represents extra difficulties because not only do the video streams have to go through many more layers in the network. Operators are still in many cases just learning how to properly configure IP networks for video. Fierce competition is also forcing them to use underlying infrastructure that is at the bleeding-edge of new technology.

However, if IPTV were only about Live TV, it would just be harder to get right, basically playing in the same ball court as before.

What makes quality management so different is that IPTV services have always been about more than live TV. From the source of video signal to TV set we’re moving from a one-to-many to a one-to-one architecture. As soon as VoD, delinearization or Social TV show their scary heads, we shall have to take a whole quantum leap into another level of complexity.

I haven’t seen any reliable and public stats for VoD session quality in managed networks, but you only need to glance at some Web forums to see that things aren’t as rosy as VoD system vendors and operators would have us believe, even in a walled garden environment where QoS is supposedly guaranteed. I’ve been using such a managed service at home for 5 years now and with maybe 60 films rented, I can say that about one time in 10 the VoD viewing experience gets interrupted or even cancelled. If I’m then prepared to spend 10 minutes to half an hour on the phone, I can get a refund.

Now if I ask you where are TV stations focussing their attention at the moment, the BBC’s iPlayer will probably come to mind. With an iPlayer type of service TV stations’ increase the value of their own content by making it available after airtime (I guess a very expensive premium service will one day let you access the content before airtime). Their content is being transmitted over IP on a one-to-one basis using their brand name. So TV stations are getting caught up in the Quality of Experience issues themselves.

But beyond the iPlayer example, as the IPTV ecosystem matures, different stakeholders are emerging. In some markets, one operator will provide head-end services for another competitor. Elsewhere, wholesaling is becoming commonplace. Take for example Cable & Wireless in the UK who can carry IPTV streams from a third party head end to someone else’s DSLAM. Their responsibility - enshrined in an SLA - is to deliver the content with the same quality the received it. Traditional network QoS metrics don’t always capture the whole picture. If the TV service is also monitored end-to-end wholesalers can commit to SLA’s.

Here in France one sees some pretty complex setups with for example a Bouygues Telecom IPTV customer having a service delivered through an SFR network when the video head end service is provided by Canal+. In this case Bouygues Telecom would also have an agreement with Orange to rent the last mile.

Over-the-Top or OTT content has mainly been associated with free YouTube like services; that too is changing. Even in the unlikely event that it does stay totally free, there’s only one YouTube so the quality of service delivered to people’s sitting rooms will be a key differentiator.

The emerging playing field forces the larger content creators like France Télévisions to look further down the distribution line. Even as far down as the person in front of  the screen. Their distribution possibilities are also exploding while presenting differing technical challenges in terms of Quality of Experience. In the IP space, should they concentrate their efforts on Telco-TV distribution or should they be putting more effort into their own OTT distribution? TV widgets present one of the greatest threats and opportunities they have seen for years.

To remain relevant and retain their independence TV stations will seek means of leverage to control or at least to influence different distribution channels or sometimes just to be able to make an informed choice as to which one to use. Their content represents their fundamental value so it’s only not surprising that they’ll want to protect both its quality and its integrity.

That’s why – Justin- I believe the Ineoquest deal is significant. Now will you post this?

Benjamin Schwarz

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French Public Broadcaster goes IQ

I'd don't usually comment on press releases about vendors making another sale, but this one is significant.

IPTV operators represent a red sea of cut-throat monitoring competition. Most of of the operators I know already use Ineoquest or will do so soon.

TV stations, who are relatively new to IP networks, represent a more enticing blue ocean where everyone should have a chance. But if that market also gets Ineoquested, then we’re getting closer to having a true leader in the IPTV monitoring field.

The downside is that monitoring may become like the IT market of the 1970's where decision makers always chose big blue (IBM) because that way if something went wrong they wouldn't be blamed ...

But leadership need not become dominance and the upside is that we might now get some momentum on relevant standards which will hopefully be open like TR135, so good luck IQ, as long as you remain humble and nimble, show us the way.

Ineoquest have a press release here.

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Alphabetical list of IPTV monitoring solution providers

To keep this list down to manageable size, I'm only including companies that provide a complete solution for monitoring an live IPTV service.

There are start-ups mixed with decades-old companies. Later-on I'll share some info on classifying these companies.

  • Absilion (Netrounds)
  • Agama
  • Agilent
  • BridgeTech (Sencore)
  • Cisco (VQE)
  • ExFo (Brix)
  • First Media (m-View)
  • Ineoquest
  • Infovista
  • IP Label Newtest
  • Ixia
  • JDSU (Volicon)
  • Mariner Partners (xVu)
  • Miranda
  • Mirifice
  • Mixed Signals
  • Opticom
  • Pixelmetrix
  • Psytechnics
  • Radcom (more of a VoIP specialist)
  • Shenick
  • Spirent
  • Symmetricom
  • Tektronix
  • Telchemy
  • Video Clarity
  • Witbe

Please comment to add to this list.

Ben

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Looking for a Public Relations Intern

Who we are and we can offer

  • We are a brand new 4 person European media communications startup looking for our intern.
  • We do PR in the TMT market with a twist: our people are actively engaged in other projects as well (technology, marketing, strategy, writing).
  • We therefore bring a real world approach to communications and networking.
  • We believe that there is no one way to do good PR and are always looking to improve.
  • We have 2 signed up clients that provide TV and Telecoms solutions and several more in the pipeline.
  • We have a physical presence in Paris, London and Leiden near Amsterdam.
  • We operate virtually, with partners and events in the Middle East, the USA (San Diego) and elsewhere.

Who you are

  • You have a valid passport, preferably a driver's license too and speak and write English. Other European Languages would be useful.
  • You are inquisitive, energetic and capable of taking initiatives.
  • You are very comfortable with social networking and love mining the web for information, we don't even mind if some people call you a a social media junky.
  • You can be based in Paris or Leiden near Amsterdam, but are flexible and mobile, and don't mind crashing out on someones sofa if need be.
  • You are happy to attend trade-shows in other cities helping man booths or hunt for information.

What you will do with us

  • Help manage social media accounts.
  • Research new topics for our clients.
  • Work on our  future website and those of our clients.
  • Proofread blog entries, write some as appropriate.
  • Attend trade shows.
  • Help benchmark our clients' PR against their competitors' and partners'.
  • Be part of the team!

Our deal

  • We will mentor and train you in the field.
  • If needed, we can also provide formal internship supervision & participate in your final exams.
  • We will mutually commit to at least 6 months together with a standard notice period.
  • This will be a payed internship with a competitive package.
  • Start date: ASAP.

Contact

Our Website isn't up yet (which is one reason why we need you), but here's who we are:

Ben Schwarz - http://www.linkedin.com/in/schwarz see also https://www.ctoic.net

Vanessa Vigar - http://nl.linkedin.com/in/vigar

Marta Twardowska - http://nl.linkedin.com/in/mtwardowska

Philip Hunter - http://uk.linkedin.com/pub/philip-hunter/13/625/ba0

And some others ...