Category Archives: OTT Video

The Connected TV Usability Index – coming soon…

The Connected TV blog seems a good place to announce a new venture which farncombe, which hosts this site, is currently working on. This new endeavour involves benchmarking the usability of connected TV devices.

Those of us with access to a connected TV experience – whether on a smart TV, games console, laptop, tablet or set-top box – will all have our favourite bugbears about the connected user experience: the number of clicks it takes to call up a particular piece of on-demand content, over-complex remotes that don’t match what’s on the EPG, screens that are difficult to navigate, etc. etc.

But is it possible to create a standardised set of objective, quantifiable tests with which to assess and compare the user-friendliness of all these different screens?

Well, farncombe thinks it is. Using the knowledge and experience of its engineers at the Farncombe Test Lab in Vauxhall, London (which is already carrying out technical testing on some of our clients’ hybrid receivers), as well as the EPG design knowhow of its user experience practice, WeAreAka, farncombe has worked out a standardised battery of tests that assesses the most common ‘user journeys’ on connected TV devices, the types of feature that improve usability, and the kind of bad UX design practices best avoided.

Over the coming months farncombe will be refining its thinking, testing an initial batch of connected TV devices, and publishing some of the early results as a new industry monitor provisionally dubbed ‘The Connected TV Usability Index’.

The intention is to create a benchmark for viewers and industry alike, by regularly reporting which connected TV devices are ‘best in class’ for a particular usability category – and thereby helping consumers make a more informed choice as they migrate towards this complex emerging market. The first manufacturers are already signed up.

Farncombe believes that manufacturers and operators alike will find the index a valuable tool to help them understand how to enhance the TV viewing user experience.

If you are a connected TV device manufacturer and you believe your user experience is best-in-class, then there is still time for you to be involved at no cost. Please click here to contact us.

If you want to share with us your suggestions about those features you believe should be on our shortlist – and even those which are the most irritating – then we welcome your comments.

Watch this space for more details!

Only 37% will buy connected TVs for broadband – YouGov

A survey by UK pollster YouGov suggests that well under half of UK consumers (37%) planning to buy a Connected TV will buy it because it is broadband-enabled. Instead, the most common reason for intending to buy one is simply having a more up-to-date TV – a factor cited by 50% of potential purchasers.

YouGov found that the most important feature of Connected TVs amongst people who already owned one was the picture quality (cited by 96% of owners) followed by the size of the screen (93%) then sound quality (89%).

Furthermore, only half (53%) of Connected TV owners correctly identified a Connected TV as a TV that connects to the Internet without the need for another device; while one in four (25%) Connected TV owners have never used it to connect to the internet.

YouGov commented that the profile for adoption of Connected TV sets in technology terms was “very similar” to that of iPad owners: “These are the kind of people who are willing to make a big ticket purchase without quite realising what they’ve bought.”

Other data shows that amongst owners of Connected TVs, over one third (36%) have a Sony, followed by Samsung (33%) then Panasonic (16%). However, almost two-thirds (62%) of people planning to purchase one in the next 12 months are considering Samsung, followed by Sony (48%) and Panasonic (40%).

Meanwhile, over one quarter (26%) say they plan to buy an Apple TV, even though the manufacturer has not yet launched one.

The research is likely to be a major talking-point at the Connected TV Summit later this week, at which farncombe will be speaking as well as chairing.

Report: 2.65m US pay-TV subs ‘cut the cord’ in 2008-2011

Some new evidence from the US claiming that ‘cord-cutting’ may be a real phenomenon after all.

Today’s Morning Bridge cites research from Convergence Consulting Group saying that “2.65M Americans between 2008-2011 canceled their pay-TV subscriptions in favor of those offered from internet streaming services.” Convergence predicts that by the end of this year, “as many as 3.58M consumers will cut their cord.”

The Bridge adds that in a separate report, Leichtman Research has found that the top 14 US MVPD operators added 175K fewer subs in 2011 than in 2010.

Claims about the impact of cord-cutting have frequently been disputed because it is difficult to gauge what proportion of customers are churning out of pay-TV simply because they’re cutting back on their entertainment expenditure during the recession, or for other reasons unrelated to the availability of OTT services such as Hulu and Netflix.

Update: Leichtman Research has pointed out to Connected TV that it was Convergence Consulting Group and not themselves which was responsible both for the 3.58M cord-cutter prediction, and the conclusion that OTT was the culprit. This was not made clear in the Morning Bridge article, and the above post has been amended accordingly.

Sky to launch pay-as-you-go OTT service in the summer

UK pay-TV operator Sky is to launch a new OTT service called Now TV this summer, which is set to compete in the UK with existing Internet movie platforms such as Netflix, Lovefilm and Ultraviolet (of which Sky is a member).

The new brand will be distinct from Sky’s, although it will be positioned as ‘powered by Sky’. The operator’s CEO, Jeremy Darroch, said in a speech to the Media Guardian Changing Media Summit 2012 that it would be available on a wide range of devices and offer instant access to “a range of high-quality Sky content, with no install and no contract.”

Movies will be the first content to be made available, expanding to offer sport and entertainment in due course. Customers will be able to pay monthly for unlimited access to Sky Movies or rent a single movie on a simple, pay-as-you-go basis.

The range of connected devices covered will include “PCs, Macs, laptops, tablets, mobile phones, games consoles and connected TVs.”

Although Darroch only narrowed down the launch-window for Now TV to “later this year” in his speech, the site where customers can register their interest specifies a summer launch.

Intel: a new breed of ‘virtual cable operator’?

The Wall Street Journal has reported that Intel is developing an over-the-top video service for US consumers, apparently positioned as a ‘virtual cable operator’ which would sell US TV channels nationwide in the manner of a traditional pay-TV ‘bundle’.

The vehicle for the service would, according to the WSJ, be an Intel Internet-capable set-top box.

The news is intriguing for several reasons: it was not that long ago that Intel was reported to be abandoning efforts to sell its processors to manufacturers of connected TVs, a strategy it launched in 2007.

Intel did say at the time that it would maintain a presence in the set-top box market, where it has met with a measure of success through deals with Comcast in the US and Liberty Global in Europe. Those agreements have been tempered, however, by the recent loss of its high-profile deal with Google TV, which has now chosen to go with the ARM-based Marvell Armada 1500 chipset instead.

Intel’s move may, in fact, be a reaction to this.

Of greater significance, perhaps, is the notion of a ‘virtual cable operator’, which runs against the apparent trend towards distributors being disintermediated by the Internet.

In fact, farncombe was arguing two years ago that a new type of intermediary online player was required to make the OTT video sector more efficient and economic.

Farncombe postulated at the time that there were two possible models for such intermediaries:

  1. In order to differentiate themselves from their competitors, they would invest in exclusive premium content on their own account or with a partner; or
  2. They would regard their strength as lying within their role as “commodity” providers of access to multiple content providers, and would not seek to invest in the video platforms themselves or in “direct” content agreements.

Although it’s not yet clear whether Intel intends to invest in premium content, it appears to be following the first model rather than the second.