European TV Apps end 2011 with flurry

Growth in the European TV apps market has exceeded expectations on various fronts as 2011 concluded with a flurry of activity by both app vendors and service providers. UK hybrid digital terrestrial and Internet TV service Fetch TV introduced an app for Panasonic Smart VIERA TVs in December, planning to follow up with an app for the Samsung Smart TV platform during Q1 2012. IP Vision, the UK company behind FetchTV, promises apps for further connected devices, including Blu-ray players and PCs, as well as other smart TVs.

This capped a trend all over Europe, with France Telecom’s Orange coming in earlier by launching an app for the iPad in May 2011. The move provided access to leading French TV channels including TF1, France 2, France 3, and TV5 Monde. Then, in Sept. 2011, three German broadcasters, home shopping channel QVC, private broadcaster Vox, and regional public broadcaster NDR, leapt in with apps to deliver interactive services based on the Hybrid Broadband Broadcast TV (HbbTV) standard, which is taking continental Europe by storm. For example, QVC used HbbTV to drive an on-demand catch-up TV service, as well as being able to search for products on six shopping channels, each devoted to single themes such as fashion or jewelry.

Then, in Dec. 2011, Swedish app developer Accedo finished the year with two announcements. First, it signed a European wide partnership with Smartclip, one of Europe’s leading video advertising firms based in Hamburg, Germany, to integrate pre-roll video ads into Funspot, a widely deployed gaming application for Smart TVs. Smartclip will “monetize” the Funspot games by allowing in-gaming pre-rolls to be inserted in major European markets, including the Nordics, UK, Germany, France, Italy and Spain. Funspot provides a range of casual games including board, arcade, strategy and puzzles, which are designed to work in a living room setting, and address a diverse audience. It is already available on smart TV sets and set top boxes from Samsung, Philips, LG, Panasonic and Roku.
Accedo followed this up by announcing collaboration with content security firm Irdeto to create TV Everywhere services for pay-TV operators, broadcasters and content providers. This will combine Irdeto's newly-launched TV Services platform with Accedo’s suite of reference applications, to enable rapid creation, deployment and monetization of multi-screen user experiences across tablets, connected TVs, Apple iOS, and Android devices. This will exploit features of Irdeto’s TV Services platform, including search and recommendation capabilities from APRICO Systems, multiple-device content synchronisation facilities, as well as video bookmarking, scheduling and programming via STB control on a companion device.

The suite of reference applications created by Accedo enables consumers to interact more closely with content, by playing along with TV programs and live sports games, compete against friends, assemble communities around their favorite content, and participate in real-time interactive polling, gaming and voting.

Several service providers also ended the year with app announcements, including Swisscom, Switzerland’s incumbent Telco, through a series of enhancements to its IPTV service “Swisscom TV.” These included new TV apps for a weather forecasting service, news, video-on-demand, and sport-themed content.

Europe’s thriving app field is related to its status is the world’s largest and most dynamic region for IPTV, which automatically provides the return path that apps need. According to broadband research firm Point Topic, Europe accounts for 43 percent of the world’s 50 million IPTV subscribers, although to some extent the figures are skewed by France, which alone has 11 million IPTV subscribers or over 20 percent of the global total. This is ahead of China in second place at 10.5 million, despite it having over 20 times the population.