Saturday, May 19, 2007


The new age of media is all about interactivity. We see that trend unfold via blogs, Web forums, user reviews, etc. all over the Internet. But how about interactivity with your television screen? No, not the type you’re thinking of (hint: It doesn’t involve cousin Joe screaming at the TV when his home team doesn’t score.)

IPTV is the buzzword. Okay, I have to insert a disclaimer here: That’s according to my brother, who works on Microsoft’s IPTV product. But a recent Google News search for IPTV revealed the following sample of headlines: “Motorola to Buy Another IPTV startup,” “IPTV drives merger and acquisition surge for telecoms equipment makers” and “BroadcastAsia 2007 to focus on IPTV.” But also: “Can IPTV really compete?”

IPTV is a new form of delivering television, as the acronym implies, via Internet Protocol. Internet providers, such as AT&T, provide you with access to the Internet via cable modem and also transfer data into video stream to display it on the television set.

But IPVT is not simply watching the Internet via your TV tube.

It means that you can potentially get the same advantages from watching television as from surfing the Internet. Read that sentence again. That’s huge! The opportunities are vast. Interactivity is just one benefit.

With cable, you can only set the screen to one channel at a time, much like radio. But with IPTV, you can send multpile video streams directly to a set up box, which can display multiple videos at the same time.

You can watch a basketball game from three different angles, or you can view a video inside a screen, for example different channels at the same time. Video will truly be on demand when you actually want it. You could vote for the next American Idal straight from your remote. Or zoom into that detail or manufacturer’s information on James Bond’s car, during the newest 007 movie. Incoming calls to your phone during your favorite sitcom will be easy to deal with because caller ID is displayed on your TV – since AT&T provides both information anyway. Or you can discuss Oprah via IM chat with your friends while you’re watching. The possibilities are limited by our imagination.

What does this all mean for the broadcasting world? If we think about how the Internet has exploded in the past decade or so and how it has become such an integral part of our daily lives, it’s fair to say IPTV is the future of television.

Television viewers have traditionally been more captive and more passive than Internet users. (Note how we refer to television audiences as viwers, and to Internet audiences as users.) IPTV will certainly change the way we watch TV, and if nothing else, I hope that it will force us, media people, to think about providing content that's more intelligent and engaging.


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