The IP Vision Fetch TV service received the award for Outstanding Achievement in Connected TV at the Connected TV Summit in London. Based on existing standards, Fetch TV already delivers much of what prospective platforms such as YouView aspire to provide. Public service broadcasters are seeking standards that will give them more control, but seem divorced from commercial reality.
Fetch TV is a hybrid service that combines digital terrestrial television with video delivered over broadband. It incorporates both the BBC iPlayer and the Sky Player online video services. The retail product providing the Fetch TV proposition is a full-function high-definition digital video recorder manufactured by Netgem, which is a shareholder in IP Vision,
Eddie Abrams, the chief executive of IP Vision said that winning the award “validates our ongoing commitment to innovation, and to delivering the best TV experience possible”.
IP Vision has been critical of the YouView joint venture, which has yet to launch its hybrid broadband television platform, backed by major broadcasters and broadband service providers. It cited the Fetch TV platform as evidence of a competitive market that is already delivering connected television services.
Indeed, the Connected TV Summit, now in its second year, is itself a sign of the fertile territory being flooded by the confluence of broadband and broadcast, albeit creating a fractured landscape.
While public service broadcasters in the United Kingdom are backing YouView, a number of European broadcasters are supporting the less ambitious HbbTV standard. Already adopted in France and Germany, a number of other countries on the continent are expressing and interest and it will soon be subject of a pilot service in Spain.
Speaking at the Connected TV Summit, Peter MacAvock of the European Broadcasting Union called for a single European standard. Although there may be potential for harmonisation based on common factors, the prospect of a single standard still seems as distant as a standard remote control across Europe.
The issue is not new, as Anthony Smith-Chaigneau, chair of the DVB-GEM commercial group, reminded delegates. Europe failed to establish MHP, now known as Globally Executable MHP or GEM, as a common standard for interactive television. Suitable standards already exist, it is simply a question of using them.
The EBU, which represents service public broadcasters across Europe, recently published a number of Principles for Internet Connected and Hybrid television in Europe, which seemed more concerned with protecting the interests of broadcasters rather than those of viewers. For instance, they aim to avoid any overlays without the consent of the broadcaster or an active decision by the viewer. They also require that broadcasters be given access on request to any data collected relating to the use of their programmes and services.
While it is easy to understand why broadcasters might want such provisions, it is difficult to see how they can realistically expect to impose them. As the EBU proposal observes: “In this new environment, there is a risk that broadcasters will lose their direct relationship with the audience and become dependent on intermediaries that control essential parts of hybrid platforms”. Indeed, welcome to the world of commercial reality.
Fetch TV is based on standards, and incorporates a Freeview+ accredited digital video recorder, but does not purport to be a standard platform. It demonstrates that individual vendors can successfully differentiate their products and services based on already available standards. Sky has made its online video on demand services available on Fetch TV, if only to show that it is willing to distribute its programming on such platforms.
Although Fetch TV has a window of opportunity to establish itself, it will no doubt face a marketing onslaught from YouView if and when it finally launches.
Fetch TV was also among three services that received awards for Outstanding Connected TV Service, together with LoveFilm and Sony Bravia Internet Video. Three awards for Outstanding Technology Innovation went to NDS Snowflake, the mpx video management and publishing system from thePlatform and the Ericsson IPTV Remote.
The first Connected TV Awards attracted eighty entries across the two categories and were judged by an independent panel of experts, including William Cooper of informitv.