Scott Morrison

IPTV- Interactive Television for Everyone
By Scott Morrison

In 1948, Darryl Zanuck, a three time Academy Award winning movie producer, said that television as a technology wouldn’t last a year. “(Television) won’t be able to hold on to any market it captures after the first six months. People will soon get tired of staring at a plywood box every night,” Zanuck said.

Sixty-five years later the world is consumed by that “plywood box,” eagerly awaiting the next step in its evolution. With the invention of the Internet and computers, some anticipated a decline in television consumption but the television industry has learned from computers and is using some of the principles of the Internet in the development of television.

The Next Step: Interactive Television Using IPTV

Well maybe a better header would have been “this step” as we are currently in the middle of an important phase of television’s evolution. Many of us are familiar with using gaming devices, Roku® products, or other set-top boxes to stream content on our TV. We already use over-the-top (OTT) services like Netflix®, Amazon Prime®, and Hulu®, so the line between TV and Internet streaming is already starting to blur. What you may not be aware of is some cable providers are already switching over to Internet Protocol Television (IPTV), and using fiber or broadband infrastructures to deliver cable to the homes of their subscribers.

What is IPTV?

IPTV is exactly what it sounds like, the delivery of television programming using Internet Protocol. Using low cost set-top boxes instead of expensive cable boxes, some cable providers are already allowing users to access TV stations over the Internet using personal home networks (Ethernet ports). Some TVs already have a set-top box built in so you can connect to your TV wirelessly or via an Ethernet cable.

With IPTV, the method of delivery is different than those used for traditional television services, but what does IPTV do for the end user’s experience? While borrowing the communication methods used by computers and the Internet, the television industry borrowed a few of its concepts too, such as switched broadcast delivery, user friendly navigation, and interactivity.

With traditional television services, all channels are sent out simultaneously with your TV tuning into a specific channel. However, IPTV utilizes switched broadcast delivery and, much like with web browsers, only the content or channel you request is delivered to your television.

IPTV also borrows the home page concept from web browsers. Currently when you turn your TV on it brings up the last channel viewed when you turned it off. When you open a new web browser however, it typically takes you to a home page, regardless of your last visit. This idea has been adopted by the IPTV industry. By providing viewers with a home page, initial navigation is quick and simple. With the LEIGHTRONIX IPTV solutions LuxeVision™ and LuxeVision ipMerge™, providers have the choice of a fully customizable graphics or text-based interface and home page. This home page initiates interaction with the user, setting them up for an interactive television experience. Images of each are included below:

GUI_Screenshots

What is Interactive Television?

Interactive television is not a new concept. In fact, crude forms of interactive television have been around since the 1950s. In the 1950s a show called “Winky Dink and You” introduced the idea of interacting with the television. Children would send out for a “Magic Window,” which was a plastic screen they would put over their television set, and “Magic Crayons” with which the children could write on the window. As the show’s story line progressed, the children would be prompted to draw things such as bridges for Winky Dink to walk across, making them feel like they were a part of the show.

Now interactive TV has evolved to the point that users actually send data back to the source to determine what they view. Because IPTV uses Internet Protocol, it has the ability to tailor ads and television to the interests of an individual viewer, provide ratings and feedback systems, and layer information on top of the video file at the request of the user. Layered information can include program information, weather updates, and almost anything the cable provider makes available. With Internet Protocol, interactive television has morphed into a user-guided experience much like a web browser. Because of this evolution, the line between the Internet and television is blurring more and more as time progresses and advancements are made.

What Will TV Look Like in Five Years?

The television industry is quickly changing so when we talk about the future of television, we aren’t making predictions for decades in the future; we’re talking five years or less. In that time, the demand for the ability to interact with television will rise and IPTV will likely become the norm. Standard broadcast and cable providers are already working to provide interaction through their delivery networks and will have to continue to develop that to compete with IPTV. More and more TVs will have built-in set-top boxes and it will become commonplace to see TVs connected to a network wirelessly or via an Ethernet cable.

Interactive IPTV services and “basic cable” will all be accessible from the same place and easily navigated to through a home page. Right now the second screen phenomenon is taking off, but as the popularity of IPTV increases, it’s entirely possible that the features provided by portable Internet devices will be incorporated into the first screen’s viewing experience.

Television is currently going through an evolutionary stage as big as, if not greater than, the transition to high-definition. While exactly what TV will look like in the near future remains to be seen, the direction it is heading is clear. Television is becoming interactive and the Internet and television are merging, blurring the lines of a computer and a TV. Today that “plywood box” Zanuck referenced in 1948 continues to withstand the test of time, and we continue to stare at it.

To learn more about LEIGHTRONIX’s IPTV solutions visit: www.LuxeVisionIPTV.com

Scott has been managing sales at the national level for over seven years at LEIGHTRONIX. With 25-plus years of experience in the professional video market, Scott’s primary responsibilities include establishing and maintaining dealer distribution channels.

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