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IPTV: Watching the Future Unfold

by Walter Schoenknecht~ April 25, 2006


According to the experts, you are present at the dawn of the IPTV revolution.

In a panel discussion entitled, "Next Generation Television -- The Content Provider's Opportunity," the consensus was clear.

"The talk is over; IPTV is here," said moderator Phil Corman.

The Monday afternoon Super Session, sponsored by chip-maker AMD, provided content creators with an opportunity to check in on the state of what some feel is the next significant migration for program content, IPTV.

According to Corman, director of worldwide partner development for Microsoft TV, IP-delivered television, or IPTV, is as much characterized by what it isn't as by what it is.

"This is about TV -- not PCs, cell phones, streaming or the Internet," Corman said. "It's about making it seamless and transparent to move [content] from TV to other devices."

In his opening remarks, Corman stressed that despite the fact that Internet-delivered video has come to mean small, highly compressed clips, IPTV is all about full-scale standard- and high-definition content.


Panelists represented the three major components of the IPTV rollout.

Alcatel's Derek Kuhn, director of marketing and business development, spoke from the vantage point of a major developer of delivery infrastructure equipment and applications. Jeff Weber, AT&T product and strategy vice president, was able to relate experiences from AT&T's already-launched IPTV operations. And on the content side, Helene Dina brought the Disney ABC Television Group's perspective to the table, from her role as vice president of digital media for the company's ABC Family and SOAPNet operations.

As moderator Corman and the panel discussed both the current state and potential future of IPTV, several common themes emerged. One was the degree to which the viewing experience would become increasingly personalized for an IPTV audience.

"The whole idea of what's broadcast and what's on-demand is beginning to change," Corman said. Viewers' access to system-delivered applications like personal video recorders, picture-in-picture and on-demand programming would provide a host of options for how, where and when to consume entertainment.


An attendee asked the panel if others in the IPTV food chain would assert control over the viewer's experience.

"It's clearly not going to be the service provider, at least not in the traditional sense," answered AT&T's Weber.

Corman said, "I think it's important that we (Microsoft) have no control over the user experience."

Disney's Dina told questioners that for content providers, the trappings of the delivery platform were not a big concern. "We believe in agnostic platforms," she said. "It all goes back to one question: How does this enhance my viewers' experience?"

Another major theme that emerged during the discussion was the sense that this infant technology would need to define itself over time, and that no clear roadmap -- or rules -- existed today. As multiple questioners pressed for hard-and-fast details of how IPTV would work, all the panelists uniformly replied that it would take time for a business model to emerge.

Moderator Corman closed the session with one final prediction: "A few years from now," he said, "we'll look back and wonder how we watched TV the old way."

© 2006 NAB