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Dr Giles Wilson, CTO at Ericsson Solution Area Television, is unmoved by the buzz surrounding over-the-top video and connected TV and gives unmanaged video experiences a three star rating compared to the five stars reserved for managed television services like telco delivered IPTV. He believes that consumers do not care what kind of managed network they receive content from – explaining the current interest in hybrid managed IP/satellite and managed IP/terrestrial services. But they do care about quality and he is convinced that only a managed network service can meet expectations.
Ericsson has made a point of explaining its own definition of hybrid services, a term which is now widely used to mean broadcast television combined with over-the-top video. The company, which provides a wide range of television solutions from IPTV middleware and video compression to content management and VOD platforms, talks about hybrid as meaning managed IP (like a telco IPTV service) combined with broadcast satellite or broadcast terrestrial TV.
According to Wilson, Ericsson Consumer Lab asked 7,000 people in seven countries about what they find compelling in television services and the highest ranking answer was ‘quality’. “Over 70% of people place ‘high quality’ in the category of ‘very important’, where they would be willing to pay for the benefit. Given HDTV launches, that is hardly surprising,” he adds. “When it comes to managed versus unmanaged services I think both can work but the five star service is clearly the one offered by managed delivery.”
Wilson refers to anecdotal observations that over-the-top content still looks good on the big television screen (something we are going to see lots more of thanks to the proliferation of connected TV devices) but points to the lower bit rates. “You cannot change the maths,” he declares. And while acknowledging that adaptive bit rate streaming technologies remove the problem of buffering and high start-up times, they also result in variable quality video delivered to the consumer. “Both [managed and unmanaged services] can work, so the question is whether quality is important,” he argues.
Wilson questions whether the success of online catch-up services like BBC iPlayer is because people like television delivered over the Internet, because they like to watch television on the PC or because time-shift television is compelling. He argues that consumers are interested in content and services rather than delivery networks, while Ericsson consumer studies show that people still want to watch television on the big screen. So the key to online catch-up success, in his view, is the compelling nature of time-shifting.
“Time-shifting is something that really works for users so eventually all services will have to be available on a time-shift basis,” he predicts. “Linear services will not go away. The number of channels watched in the world will increase and linear programming remains the foundation of television services that need to launch, but advanced on-demand services will be critical to the success of IPTV platforms.”