January 15, 2013

Top Video Takeaways from CES 2013


With the mammoth crowd cleared, the announcement noise backed down to well  under 100 decibels, and Vegas returning to its regularly scheduled programming, it’s time to separate the loud noise from the relevant video news from the consumer electronics industry’s largest gathering.

Intel’s TV service

By far the most-conspicuous in its absence was anything on what had been over-reported to be a new service from the chip innovator. Depending on what you read where, it was going to be a service with a new set-top device, programming and the ability to watch TV channels a la carte.

Sounded great but didn’t happen – a huge Homer Simpson moment.

Far more importantly, however, was news of Intel working with Comcast to create a gateway for the cableco’s network that will allow Comcast to stream video programming to consumers without them needing a traditional STB.

Intel, as always, is providing the chip brains and brawn for the work-in-progress effort.

The Comcast-Intel news is far more important than what was predicted, as new ways to deliver video to the home always trumps adding another player to the crowded dedicated box- and-a-service OTT market, where success is still being pursued.

AT&T Digital Lifestyle

If you want to watch something other than TV, keep your eyes on the fast-expanding home security, automation and control services market for services providers. AT&T joined the carrier fray at CES, which already reportedly includes cable operators such as Comcast and Verizon.

Operators are rushing to this space chiefly because it represents fertile new ground for them, including selling equipment, installation, a service subscription and mobile apps, for starters. These are new revenue opportunities for providers and alluring new offerings for consumers who want to see and control their most expensive asset.

Capabilities have raced far beyond simple alarm monitoring capabilities long offered by the likes of ADT to include views of your home and property thanks to cheaper and more advanced cameras.

Add the ability to control utilities such as electric and heat and you’ve got consumers’ attention big time.

The Connected Home

These three words don’t come with a detailed definition, but that’s because this over-arching effort is ever changing. Where once it meant connecting routers, laptops and PCs and TVs to form home networks, it now extends to ordinary household devices – anything with a chip in them that can be connected (preferably wirelessly).

And the more you can connect, the more you can add to the list of devices you can monitor and control from the burgeoning services mentioned just above. This drives the value of these offerings skyward at a time when everyone’s looking to control household costs while keeping an eye on the prize.

If you thought remotely controlling your DVR was handy, you really need to take a close look at the current and potential value of controlling your connected home.

Smart TVs

(Or as we call them in Boston: wicked smahhht TVs) Many were announced at CES and size can matter, but what’s more at stake here is that TV makers don’t seem to be adding basics like Wi-Fi to their sets fast enough, or at low-enough price points. As a result, many new TVs are a dead end for streaming video services (and photo sharing) content-blocking consumers who are excited about reaching beyond their traditional pay-TV service but can’t.

Instead of hyping larger sets with even higher definition, TV makers need to get back to connected basics and make smartness the lowest common denominator. The wider you open the door to video opportunities to consumers, the more that will rush through.

Single-function TVs, even with thin, high-def screens and 3D viewing, need a higher IQ to drive the video industry forward.

Tablet Mania

You read hear first that tablets beat out world peace and money on a generic holiday wish list according to the CEA before yearend. That should give you an explanation for why the proliferation of these video-capable devices is akin to a virus in a sci-fi movie. More were announced at CES, adding fuel to the wildfire.

What’s more important to focus on here is not the devices, but instead how content owners and distributors are – and plan to – deliver video content and handling capabilities to these devices. Watch the apps closely as well. As a smart screen with displays between smartphones and TVs, everyone in the video ecosystem sees opportunities – and challenges – in making them something you can’t do without, for long at all.

Cisco’s VideoScape

The networking kingpin has had countless visions, architectures and multi-stage strategies since its inception. Some lack detail and supporting products when they are unveiled and even revisited. And Cisco has made its share of missteps in video with the Flipcam and the tablet they had hoped to create.

Still, they’ve been focused on services providers and video since they shelled out $6.9 billion for Scientific-Atlanta in a deal announced in November 2005, and have added many pieces since, such a NDS, to advance their grand video plan beyond straight hardware.

Who wants a vendor without a long-term vision?

Too often the enabling network infrastructure required to deliver all the business-relevant advances execs is behind the curtain. Enterprise and service provider IT alike look to Cisco for vision and deliverables.

Rest assured that Cisco has been working on the latter.

And as is the case with many large players in the video ecosystems, it’s important to follow the money (watch the companies in which they take equity stakes) as it gives you a good idea of what they consider important beyond the assets they already possess.

The Power of Video Search & Discovery

One of those companies is Digitalsmiths, which announced an agreement with Time Warner Cable to provide content recommendations to its subscribers. To provide recommendations, you must first know what you have for assets, where to find them, and how to deliver them in a contextual manner.

Today’s cable TV guides are rudimentary at best as are there search capabilities (often alphabetical by TV show or movie name…sigh).

And with many paying for countless channels plus on-demand library titles, recommendations, however generic, are the key to leveraging video assets and boosting subscriber satisfaction. I’d rather have content options come to me than have to endlessly seek what I can’t find or am not aware of.

You can’t watch what you aren’t aware of. Cable operators and others are aware of the situation and have teamed with companies such as Digitalsmiths, Jinni and others to expand and therefore enhance the viewer experience.

These takeaways provide a clearer picture, focusing on the relevant business of video technology developments, that can help you connecting the pixels to form a robust video strategy for your companies and your customer constituencies.




Edited by Braden Becker



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