‘The Vikings’ This was just a fraction of the excellent creativity in costume design. More to come on Wednesday, November 2. 2011. Most of the photos were taken under the Vaults, where everyone gathered for a parade. October 31, 2011This years Halloween party commenced this past Saturday, October 29. 2011. ‘The Queens’.
Connected TV services are “TV-like experiences” and should be subject to a higher degree of regulation than internet content access through a PC, according to Ed Richards, CEO of UK media regulator Ofcom.Richards, speaking at the Oxford Media Convention, said: “Converged or connected TVs, which incorporate broadcast, video-on-demand and open internet services, are considered to be closer to a TV-like experience. Audiences therefore expect content over these devices to be more regulated than internet content accessed through PCs and laptops.”Referring to a study carried out by Ofcom with 200 members of the public to assess attitudes, Richards said that “protecting minors from harmful content is seen as one of the most important parts of existing regulation” and was ranked as a higher priority than protecting privacy.Richards raised the possibility that this could include a second look at the partial self-regulation of video-on-demand services by ATVOD, the industry body set up to watch over such services.“It seems undesirable for these [connected TV] services to be subject to full broadcasting style regulation – by and large they belong to a different form of service and come from a very different context,” said Richards. “But we do need to consider whether to develop the approach in relation to existing co-regulation for video-on-demand to offer greater assurance and to ensure there is public trust in the approach to regulation as these services become more and more pervasive and significant.”Richards said there was a case for common media standards to cover all digital media, including TV, internet video and the digital activities of print publishing groups. “In this context I wonder therefore whether there may be a fairly simple opportunity to establish a core set of principles and aims which are held in common across a diverse media terrain with different regulatory environments.”Richards said that, while Ofcom should not be given responsibility to police the newspaper industry, it could play a role in producing a common set of principles for journalists across media following the Leveson inquiry, currently investigating the practices of newspapers in the wake of the UK’s phone hacking scandal.
Selling up to The Walt Disney Company could give subscription on-demand service Netflix a route into the lucrative sports content game, according to a research house.Disney has plans to monetise its ESPN cable channel as an SVOD service, and buying Netflix could supersize its ambitions, Simon Murray, principal analyst at Digital TV Research told DTVE‘s sister title, TBI.“Streaming live sports is going to be huge in the next few years,” he said. “Netflix has said in the past that it isn’t interested in sports, but, of course, Disney owns ESPN. Imagine a Netflix platform that carried live sports – that would be pretty impressive.”Netflix’s share price shot up yesterday upon rumours Disney was giving serious thought to an acquisition of the market-leading SVOD service, which operates in 188 territories.Another analyst, Ampere Analysis research director Richard Broughton, said an acquisition would “substantially” improve Disney’s bargaining position in film and TV content negotiations thanks to Netflix’s global reach.Digital TV Research’s Murray said that HBO’s success launching SVOD service HBO Now without compromising its carriage deals was a positive sign. “HBO offering an OTT platform in the US has already shown that the risk of cannibalisation is quite small,” he added. “Maybe Disney’s deals with pay TV operators – especially in the US – wouldn’t be harmed that much.”For Netflix, the upside would come from scale, Ampere’s Broughton added. “Netflix would gain access to Disney production assets, which could help shave costs – particularly for originals,” he said. “That’s important for a low margin business like Netflix.”Furthermore, a merged business would “acts as a hedge against further broadcast TV declines”, said Broughton. “Disney’s single largest business line is media networks, which is facing intense pressure from cord-cutting partly caused by Netflix,” he added. “If the trend does continue, owning the prime culprit is a safe strategy.”However, analysts have warned there were a number of potential obstacles. These include rights issues and pay TV movie exclusivity, as many Disney films are part of long-term rights agreements, and the debt load Netflix would place on the Mouse House.“I am not at all convinced Netflix would be a good fit for Disney,” said Tony Gunnarsson, senior analyst of TV practice at Informa-owned research house Ovum.“Disney has always strictly stayed clear of anything that might be seen as shocking, controversial and/or overly adult – for fears of upsetting American cultural sensibilities.“On the basis of Netflix’s original programming alone, which from Orange is the New Black to Chelsea and beyond is intentionally all those things, I don’t think there is any realistic chance of this ever happening.”“Despite its focus on originals, Netflix is still reliant on acquired content,” said Broughton. “The reaction from other content owners in terms of willingness to sell to a rival’s platform could mean a Disney-owned Netflix faces steeper content acquisition costs and potentially new rivals set up by other content owners.”
MTG has agreed to sell its 75% stake in youth broadcaster Trace in a deal that values 100% of the business at an enterprise value of €40 million (approximately SEK 392 million).MTG agreed to sell its majority stake in the media group to TPG Growth, a division of investment firm TPG that has more than US$13 billion of assets under management.The move is the latest sign of MTG’s digital-focused strategy and follows the sale last year of its Czech TV assets for €116 million and its Baltic broadcasting business for €100 million.“Our focus at MTG is on the accelerated digital transformation of our broadcasting businesses, and the rapid expansion of our MTGx digital entertainment portfolio,” said Jørgen Madsen Lindemann, MTG’s president and CEO.“Trace is a great business that we have enjoyed developing together with its talented management team over the past four years.”MTG has been making increasingly big steps into the digital world, investing €82.6 million to increase its shareholding in mobile and browser-based games company, InnoGames, from 21% to 51% last May.In July it closed its US$55 million acquisition of US games publisher and developer Kongregate while in November it launched a US$30 million investment fund, targeting minority investments in “high-potential” US and European online gaming businesses.Trace is an Afro-urban entertainment firm that owns a number of music and entertainment-focused TV channels, as well as radio, online and mobile assets – including the Trace Play streaming service, which it is currently rolling out around the world.The company is big in Sub-Saharan Africa, France, the Caribbean and the Indian Ocean area, and claims its services are available in 160 countries to more than 200 million viewers and listeners.MTG’s sale of its Trace stake is subject to regulatory approvals.
“People familiar with the internet and devices including the iPod and the iPhone want their TVs to work the same way. That means intuitive recommendation engines and easy-to-navigate screens.”There is no getting around the fact that Apple’s iPhone has effected big changes in the mobile phone industry, but the iPhone effect is reverberating elsewhere, not least in the pay-TV business.In the mobile world, handset leaders including Nokia and Motorola have rushed to change the look and feel of smart-phones to compete against the slick and sexy iPhone. From touch screens to launching their own versions of Apple’s app store, the industry is trying to ride Apple’s wave of coolness.But soon the attributes of Apple’s easy-to-use and fashionable handset could come to a TV set near you. “The iPhoneisaton of pay-TV is underway,” says Ivan Verbesselt, senior vice-president of marketing at conditional access and interactive TV specialist Nagravision, part of the Kudelski Group. For Kudelski the road forward seems to be to follow the iPhone lead and get better user interfaces and applications into their clients’ hands as fast as possible.For example, the days of simple (and pretty inflexible) programme grids are on the way out. People familiar with the internet and devices including the iPod and the iPhone want their TVs to work the same way. That means intuitive recommendation engines and easy-to-navigate screens. And the next phase of the revolution could be just around the corner: the widgetisation of the TV.How far away are we from selling TV apps much like iPhone offers mobile apps? Likely not so far away at all. The point is that, as in the mobile space, customers will start to expect better and more flexible navigation and access to all kinds of content. What is required for TVs, set-tops and their EPGs are new user interfaces that bring together linear, VOD, PVR and web properties in one place.The iPhone factor is also about allowing many developers to write apps for the phones, opening up creativity while Apple holds onto a gatekeeper role to make sure the new app – whether a song identification service or a game – doesn’t crash the system.If this kind of flexibility doesn’t make its way into the set-top box, savvy customers will look elsewhere. If their pay-TV operator doesn’t provide what they want, they can use the PC or, increasingly, the built-in browsers that are popping up on TV sets. The bottom line for cable and satellite operators is clear: if they don’t provide a compelling customer experience they will lose their customers to others who will.Of course all of this is coupled with the ongoing convergence of internet and TV technology to create something new. And with the emergence of IPTV providers and over-the-top services including YouTube and Hulu, the competitive heat will only increase.Over-the-top services increasingly will be built into set-top boxes and TV sets. Yahoo! TV is one example. Sony loading its own user interface onto its new, broadband-enabled TV sets to give its customers instant access to Sony movies and music videos is another.“There will be more than a small battle for control of the user experience,” says Alex Osadzinski, executive vice president of product at Nagravision, and formerly a Silicon Valley venture capitalist. Osadzinski joined Kudelski less than a year ago to help it figure out what new products it needs to focus on. “Set-top boxes are not dead but they will start appearing with built-in user interfaces or server-based UIs.”The ability to “do TV widgets” is going to become increasingly important. Widgets are of course simply small applications but how close are they to TV middleware? Osadzinski says they are very close and that one builds on the other. This is at least one reason why Kudelski is keen to increase its control of Open TV, the middleware company that allows on-demand and online services for pay-TV operators. “UIs have to evolve and the last thing we want to do is develop our own APIs and middleware when we have OpenTV, which is already doing that,” says Osadzinski.Getting control of the 70% of OpenTV shares that Kudelski does not already own has proven quite tough, due to opposition from Discovery Group, the largest independent investor in the middleware company. Kudelski says it is interested in controlling OpenTV for its software development capabilities (perhaps also for the US$114m (e80m) of cash on its balance sheet) but Discovery wants a higher price for its stake than Kudelski has so far offered. Of course perhaps as important for Kudelski is the large installed base of set tops that include OpenTV. This gives the owner a way to get quick and wide exposure for its current and future applications.Given the pressure on pay TV to secure its current and future customers, OpenTV could be considered important ammunition and a good way to catch the iPhone trend. For others keen to stay ahead of the curve of TV widgetisation, the watchwords surely have to be innovation and flexibily.For the pay-TV industry as a whole, catching the iPhone wave is a priority that it can ill afford to miss.Kate Bulkley is a broadcaster and writer specialising in media and telecommunications. email@example.com.