The eighth annual IP&TV World Forum in London was the last. From now on it will simply be called TV Connect. For all platform operators and service providers there are now new threats and opportunities in the form of devices and displays that can directly deliver connected television experiences. For many the conversation is still dominated by technology rather than programming, but there are indications that is beginning to change as the market matures, as informitv reports.

When this conference first began eight years ago, IPTV was still in its infancy. Telecommunications providers were seeking to use internet protocols to deliver television services over their own networks. The discussion tended to be about technical issues, like latency, jitter and packet loss, rather than how viewers would really benefit from a better television experience. It turns out that depends on evolving established business models as much as technology transformation.

YouTube was only just getting started, but even then the possibilities of online video were clear. It has since become possible to deliver online video services like Netflix and the BBC iPlayer over the top of third-party broadband service providers. It is no longer clear that this requires a closed managed network. Service providers are also embracing these over-the-top approaches to extend their reach.

Now, global consumer electronics companies are getting involved, with network-connected devices and displays designed to deliver high-quality, high-definition television and video services from the internet, introducing a new era of smart, connected television. But there still seems to be a role for service providers to offer a coherent and consistent user experience, not to mention programming for which people will be prepared to pay.

Connected television will be a reality for millions of consumers. We forecast that by 2015 around half a billion connected televisions will have shipped. By then, they may have a real reason to connect them as well, as services mature and become mainstream.

IPTV was always about technology. An ampersand was introduced between the IP and TV in the name of the event to acknowledge the wider application of internet protocols to television, but this still reflected roots in network engineering rather than its social application. The new brand attempts to embrace the broader connected television experience.

“While managed end-to-end telco IPTV will always be at the core of our coverage, our industry now encapsulates so much more,” explained Gavin Whitechurch of Informa Telecoms & Media. “Our market is rich with alternative service terminologies: from multiplatform and multiscreen, to TV Everywhere, mobile TV, Smart TV and Connected TV, and OTT TV to Personal TV. We believe our future — and that of the industry — is to bring together those different strands, and more, as we develop a world of connected entertainment.”

TV Connect will reflect the broader implications of broadband and broadcast convergence on internet protocols.

“The business and technical challenges that our community is now wrestling with involve using the flexibility and addressability of IP to deliver a wide array of services,” continued the director of what will become TV Connect. “These range from Smart TVs and TV Apps, to OTT and multiplatform TV services, advanced content discovery and UI, new generations of advertising, to the connected home, and to the content delivery networks that underpin all of these.”

Over seven thousand people attended the IP&TV World Forum, up 10% on the previous year, reflecting the continuing importance of this event. The show floor was buzzing with serious men in grey suits that were there to do business.

It was notable that the opening sessions of the conference focused on the audience and the use of social media like Twitter, rather than technical issues. The keynote on the second day was about the evolution from telco to mediaco, and the clash of cultures this involves. The third day opened with a presentation on the Global BBC iPlayer, stressing the importance of editorial selection of programming.

That is not to say the discussion has moved entirely on from the underlying technology but the conversation is no longer solely about the underlying infrastructure.

This was not so obvious out on the show floor, where the big players had smaller stands than in the past and there were many more new entrants demonstrating end-to-end solutions. As the technology becomes commoditized it is difficult to see how they can all continue to compete.

Multiscreen was a key theme. Almost anyone can deliver online video to a television, tablet or smart phone screen these days because in reality it is not that hard. Turning that into a simple and seamless user experience remains a challenge, judging by many of the demonstrations. It is difficult to be impressed by an electronic programme guide, no matter how slick it is, and many are not. Offering compelling programming is another matter entirely.

These technology vendors seem intent on presenting television as an electronic movie rental store, and few seem to have any real understanding of how television is actually viewed, or indeed any appreciable affection for the medium.

This is in contrast to the broadcast trade shows, where practitioners are prominent and even the smallest stands may have something to say and sell that is relevant to their industry. Unlike the television programme markets, where the distribution deals are done, evidently absent was any connection with the people who make and sell programmes.

The annual IP&TV Industry Awards were perhaps predictably dominated by telcos and technology vendors.

  • Telstra won the best TV service innovation award for its T-Box service in Australia.
  • Alcatel-Lucent received best network technology for IPTV with its Velocix content delivery network.
  • Mariner Partners received recognition for best quality improvement solution with a system that assists in installation.
  • BT Vision picked up best service growth achievement, although deployed in less than 700,000 homes, it added more new customers than Sky and Virgin in the second half of 2011.
  • DIRECTV and Samsung were awarded best multiscreen TV service for their Whole Home Media Centre, allowing a Samsung display to access a set-top box in another room.
  • Motorola Mobility received best rights and asset management for TV with its SecureMedia adaptive streaming solution.
  • Ericsson was awarded best component or enabler for its encoding and segmentation products.
  • AT&T and Cisco had the best TV consumer device for their U-verse Wireless Receiver.
  • Huawei received best multiscreen TV solution for its MediaCloud solution.
  • Orca Interactive, now a Viaccess subsidiary, was recognized for best service delivery platform for IPTV.
  • AT&T received the award for best TV app with an application that allows users to link their tablet to a U-verse TV receiver.

Over the last eight years the market has matured considerably. As IP&TV becomes TV Connect, there is still much to be done to connect the worlds of television, telecommunications and technology, and still more to do to involve media and entertainment production and distribution, consumer electronics devices and displays, and ultimately the end user experience. Nevertheless, this remains the pre-eminent forum to focus on broadcast and broadband convergence.