Monthly Archives: April 2009

Eutelsat French freesat offer FRANSAT launches against TNTSat in June

So – Eutelsat has finally broken its silence about its role in the creation of a second French Freesat platform. The Eutelsat free-to-air satellite platform will launch in June, dubbed ‘FRANSAT’ – in competition with the Canal Plus-operated SES Astra-delivered TNTSat.

As we noted here, it was something of a mystery why Eutelsat, which has traditionally offered analogue re-transmission via Atlantic Bird 3 at 5° West degrees to France’s terrestrial blackspots, had kept so quiet about its plans to convert this installed base to digital – and left it so long. As a result, SES Astra has made hay while the sun shines, and its TNTSat service now claims around a million customers.

In a press release this morning, Eutelsat notes that the majority of France’s 18 free-to-air DTT channels are already transmitting from Atlantic Bird 3: by simply buying new kit comprising a digital decoder and access card, existing homes with dishes pointing to this location will be able to pull in the complete DTT offering in two months’ time, including the four HD DTT channels (TF1 HD, France 2 HD, Arte HD and M6 HD) which began broadcasting last autumn.

On sale for €99 euros, the non-proprietary FRANSAT decoders will be available at retail from multiple suppliers.

On the face of it, the offer is an attractive one for those analogue Atlantic Bird subs who have not already elected to take the rival TNTSat service, since customers will not have to pay to have their dishes re-aligned from the Eutelsat bird to the SES Astra one. The question is – how many of those homes are left?

The trick-mode trigger: a new paradigm for TV advertising in an on-demand world?

As the traditional TV world migrates to an on-demand environment (‘over-the-top’ or otherwise), the evidence so far has been that where viewers are given the opportunity to, they will generally fast-forward through the ad breaks.

Various strategems have been adopted by broadcasters and advertisers to get round consumer resistance to interruptive advertising, generally involving some sort of implied bargain. For instance, the benefit of being able to make up for having missed a popular programme by viewing it in ‘catch-up’ mode is commonly set against the fact that the ads in the catch-up stream can’t be ‘zapped’. Similarly, if you want to watch an on-demand movie without any commercial breaks interrupting the action, it’s often impossible to skip the ‘pre-roll’ ad welded onto the front of it.

Well, on the evidence of three separate exhibitors at last week’s IPTV World Forum, a new paradigm is evolving. It hasn’t got a name, yet, so let’s invent one: ‘trick-mode triggers’ (you heard it here first).

The idea is to exploit the fact that on-demand viewing allows viewers to interrupt their own viewing by using VCR-like ‘trick modes’ such as pause, rewind and (yes) fast-forward – the very feature causing the zapping issue in the first place.

Connected TV has already mentioned the use of the ‘pause’ function in ANT’s Amazon application, which triggers a window showing ‘contextual’ DVDs or books available to purchase at the Amazon store. However, NDS – the private technology firm owned by the Permira Funds and News Corporation – also featured it when demonstrating the latest version of its Infinite TV technology, which Connected TV reviewed after its first showing at last year’s IBC trade-fair in Amsterdam.

Geoff Todd, NDS’s director of sales and new business initiatives, referred to it as ‘on-pause’ advertising. In the example he demonstrated, pressing ‘pause’ during the replay of a cookery programme created a Flash-based wrapper around the video advertising a relevant ingredient. In fact, this type of trick-mode related feature has been implicit in Infinite TV’s targeted advertising platform from inception, although the capability wasn’t emphasised at IBC.

The platform allows the effectiveness of different types of targeted ads (e.g. ‘pre-roll’ versus ‘on-pause’) to be compared, and their subsequent application refined. “[Infinite TV tells you] which kinds of ads have been consumed,” said Todd. “If trick-mode works better, you can pull the pre-roll or mid-roll ad.”

The third example at the show came from set-top box manufacturer ADB, which was showing Stream Group’s Solocoo online TV portal being accessed from one of its hybrid DTT-IP hybrid models.

In the demonstration shown, the trigger wasn’t the result of trick-mode use, but instead arose when the viewer decided to use the familiar left-and-right arrows on the remote control to check what was currently playing on adjacent channels, using the mini-EPG at the bottom of the screen display. At this point, the mini-EPG displayed a YouTube icon, which when the red button was pressed, offered a choice of relevant YouTube video-clips to play back. The relevant factor, however, is that the call-to-action was displayed when the viewer chose to interrupt their own viewing.

As we have noted here before, interruptive advertising may be something of an aberration – one reason viewers dispense with it when they can. But placing advertising or other calls-to-action in the breaks viewers create for themselves as part of their on-demand viewing experience could well prove to be much more acceptable – particularly when the trigger invokes contextual promotional material.

(NB NDS is a sponsor of the Connected TV blog)