Sony is bringing broadband video to its Bravia Internet Video range in Europe, with catch-up programming from a number of broadcast partners, including M6, Mediaset and Five, as well as online sites like YouTube. Several manufacturers are showing internet connected televisions at the IFA trade show in Berlin. Although they are currently promoting their proprietary portals, there is still some hope for common standards.
Five is the first British broadcaster to partner with Sony for the service and will offer episodes of the once massively popular soaps Neighbours and Home and Away, as well as other programmes from its Demand Five online service.
Internet video will also be available on other Sony products, such as broadband connected Blu-ray disc players and home cinema systems. The Sony service is already available in the United States, with programming available from more than 25 providers, including Sony Pictures, Netflix and Amazon.
“In Europe and elsewhere, more people are watching videos on their PCs than ever before,” said Nicholas Barendson of Sony UK. “This trend keeps growing and consumers are increasingly enjoying more on demand video online. However, watching full length TV programmes on a PC, hunched over a screen can be a solitary experience. Bringing on demand IP content to the TV is allowing consumers to share these viewing experiences with a greater degree of ease and simplicity.”
So for those solitary souls that are regularly hunched over their computer screens, watching Neighbours or indeed other forms of video entertainment, help is at hand.
Sony has also announced the roll out of its PlayStation Network Video Delivery service to download movies direct to the PlayStation 3 or PSP games console and share programming between them.
“It’s vital for broadcasters and other industry stakeholders to explore such initiatives if they are to gain a solid footing in the digital world,” commented Charles Constable, director of strategy at Five. “As broadband content continues to grow in popularity, Five looks forward to working with Sony to explore and learn from the exciting opportunity to bring on-demand content to the television in the home. We believe this will help us to develop a real understanding of what convergence will mean in practice.”
Five also recently became involved in Canvas, the proposed joint venture between the BBC, ITV and BT which has yet to be approved by the BBC Trust and could face further regulatory scrutiny.
Panasonic meanwhile has its own version of internet television, Viera Cast, which is also likely to be available in the United Kingdom in the first half of 2010.
Other manufacturers like Samsung are also introducing similar services with its Internet@TV widget offering.
Philips has its own proprietary NetTV platform but is also a partner in the HBBTV initiative for hybrid broadcast and broadband services that is gaining momentum. Humax and Loewe are also showing CE-HTML compatible displays.
German public broadcasters ARD and ZDF are demonstrating compatible video on demand services, while RTL has a HD Text service and Eutelsat has Kabelkiosk with programming from partners inlcuidng MTV and The Biography Channel.
The HBBTV specification is being proposed as an open ETSI standard, although it seems from the draft that there is much still to be considered.
The BBC is apparently persisting with its proposed Canvas platform. It seems that some of the technical specification is now being delegated to the Digital Television Group trade association and may well end up being aligned with the approach being adopted by HBBTV.
There is at least the prospect of common standards emerging, providing the economies of scale that will be necessary for this market to flourish.