Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Impressions from IBC 2 - Sony and DECE

With apologies for the time lag (work has been particularly crazy recently), here's the second summary of my conversations from IBC. This time the interviewee was Spencer Stephens, SVP of Technical Services for Sony Pictures Entertainment and the topic was Google TV and DECE.

Stephens believes that there are two key game changers for IP - connected TVs and the move from physical to digital content 'lockers'.

With regard to the first, Google TV is a game changer. Stephens wasn't a fan of Apple TV as it's just an add-on to the TV, unlike Google, which is a hybrid of TV and the Internet and enjoys some of the benefits of both. It integrates EPG, DVR, purchased content and so on. Personally, my concern with Google TV is that it disintermediates broadcasters by focusing on content brands. Consumers are more likely to search for 'Top Gear' than for 'BBC 2'. Branded channels are a way round this, but I feel that they immediately restrict the value of Google search - I can find stuff using the EPG search equally easily. The only upside I can see is if Google TV can search across multiple devices attached to a home network. If so, that would be a genuinely cool feature for the mass market.

On the move towards digital content lockers, Stephens predicts that in 2012, 20% of the content sold globally will be delivered digitally (12% of revenues), up from 1% in 2008. At the moment, the limitation on e-sell through is the walled garden silos that limit consumption to a single platform. This is the rationale for Ultraviolet, supported by the DECE consortium. In DECE's opinion, there are 6 roles in the content ecosystem that will enable the transformation to a single digital content locker:
  1. Content Provider
  2. Retailer
  3. Locker Access Service Provider (which streams the content)
  4. Digital Service Provider (provides order fulfilment for the retailer)
  5. Client (device) implementer (I guess that means Sony and Cisco, looking at the partner list)
  6. DECE co-ordinator (which manages access to the locker)
In this ecosystem, I can access my content on any device, at anytime and from anywhere. Me, I'm a cynic. This is one of several DRM schemas out there - Disney's Keychest being the other notable example. The trouble is that they've just created a larger silo, locking everyone into another stiffling closed ecosystem where a consortium generates innovation. And again, there's a prisoners' dilemma, because unless everyone goes into the consortium, the best place to be is outside as having different technology could easily swing the game in your favour. Chances of Apple ever being involved? Zero. Likewise Google, I should think.

As for the six part ecosystem, it's yet another attempted carve up from the companies that have hitherto failed to capture value out of the digital content ecosytem. Good luck with that.

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