Tag Archives: video

The best video player

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So the Olympics are finally here. 7 years ago and around 9 billion quid later, we got to see an opening ceremony that was educational, humorous and grand (how did they convince the Queen to do that?), and a first day full of world records, surprises and disappointments. Fantastic.

On the digital media side, we’ve seen the BBC revamp their homepage (which became the same template as their microsites), and the video player has slowly been improving too. But when the Olympics started for real, the BBC video player sprang to life.

First, some background.

I don’t really subscribe to the second screen theory – I’ve seen some crazy stats that TV viewers use related apps on their mobile or tablet, to what they’re watching.

I do believe people (especially my family) sit on the sofa on their iPhone playing games or on Facebook – unrelated to the TV programme they’re watching.

We’ve seen interactive TV in various shapes and sizes. From crude red-button implementations (e.g. Sky Bet) to TV apps which mimic a web browser interface.

I’ve seen demos of TV apps which allow you to tweet or watch a Facebook activity feed during a programme – really annoying and disruptive.

However the BBC video player for the Olympics provides the perfect level of interaction, additional – read ‘relevant’ – information. Then throw in PVR-style functionality (for non-techies – it’s like Sky+ with rewind, etc.)

I watched the Tour de France on the ITV website and sometimes it was frustrating not knowing who was in the lead and the peloton – I wasn’t necessarily interested in specific positions, but you need to know if the camera is with the leaders or not.

The BBC player shows event information and allows you to look at a summary of a specific athlete as well. All in HD.

Here’s to the next fortnight, with super weather and medals galore for Team GB!

Short term companies

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Recent news about RIM, the makers of Blackberry mobile handsets (when did people stop calling them mobile phones?) pulling out of the consumer market and maybe even putting themselves up for sale, got me thinking about other high profile, modern companies emerging, peaking and struggling in a short timescale.

Think about companies such as Blockbuster and TomTom.

Note that I’m not including short term, boom and bust .com-style companies from 2000, or more recent companies. I’m including companies that created a new market and had great profits for a period of time.

Have markets always been like this?

I hope that RIM recover. They found the ‘killer app’ – email – to drive smartphone usage into 21st century levels, at which point companies such as Apple and Microsoft improved the experience (mainly by moving the keyboard on to the touchscreen). However with technology become more consumer centric, I don’t think that exclusively targeting the corporate market is a successful move.

 

 

Tour de France on ITV Player

A huge congratulations to Mark Cavendish on winning the Tour de France’s green jersey. That’s the colour worn by the leader in the Tour’s points competition, which is the race’s most consistent high-finisher.

I watched more coverage of the Tour de France this year than ever before. It might be because I’ve been cycling more (myself) this year, but it’s probably got more to do with ITV’s superb coverage on TV and online.

The online coverage had a quick user registration process – literally just the email address. The benefit of the registration was twofold:

  1. Users could watch the coverage(!)
  2. Users received an email when coverage started the next day

The second advantage was very refreshing – literally receiving an email when “the Tour” started each day, and then I received notification when the entire Tour highlights was on TV and the Internet.

Websites that require registration for no apparent reason other than untargeted ‘spam’ email could learn a lot from ITV. The only piece of feedback to ITV for their online coverage is to increase the quality by increasing the video bitrate. I don’t mind the adverts because I understand they are paying for the content in the first place.

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How fickle the Digital Media industry can be

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Today Facebook held a live session to announce their integration with Skype to enable video calling between users, presumably as a quick retaliation against Google+’s advanced video calling technology.

There were a few twists in the online session (around 54,000 people were simultaneously watching) delivered by Mark Zuckerberg and Tony Bates (CEO of Skype):

  • Half of all Skype traffic is video. This is misleading because video traffic is about 50 times the size of audio traffic (the number of kilobytes across the network). It would be more interesting to know how many calls are video calls compared to audio calls.
  • Facebook chose to partner with Skype because companies are only good at what they focus on, rather than being able to do everything. A direct strike against Google. The first question after the presentation was about Google+ (just someone trying to be smart – it really wasn’t a clever or memorable question) and Zuckerberg just answered that Skype would enable hundreds of millions of users to video call one another.
  • The integration with Facebook is… unknown. When asked how Facebook will look when someone tries video calling you, Zuckerberg answered “you go to the page and something pops up”. Hmmmmm.
  • When asked what’s the financial incentive for Skype, Bates dodged the question and just answered that he wants a billion people on Skype. That’s useless if none of them are paying anything though.

When the camera panned to the audience – all the audience were on their laptops, presumably tweeting. And nothing annoys me more than people who constantly tweet at conferences. How do they listen to (and understand) what is going on?

Mark Zuckerberg is one of the most influential people over the course of the Internet, and his live audience in the room weren’t even looking at him – see the photo above. Six months ago when Mark Zuckerberg spoke, the room paid him 100% attention and thought he was the greatest thing since the Google search engine.

Defending the licence fee

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Photo courtesy of Marco Bernardini on Flickr

The public (and press) are too quick to criticise the BBC for the licence fee. I’ve said before that I think we get fantastic return on investment for our £150 a year – with top quality radio, TV and Internet content.

This week though, I got another pleasant surprise from the BBC. Despite having a two year old flat screen TV without the latest Internet-apps capability, I pressed the red button whilst watching one of the BBC channels because I saw ‘iPlayer’ on the red button prompt.

And there it was – iPlayer. On my TV.

So I browsed around and started watching something from iPlayer on the TV. Completely on demand, with pass and play functionality – everything you get from the website equivalent.

The impressive-ness of the experience was that iPlayer was streaming content over the Internet on to my TV without me realising that the TV could do it!

Quality is OK – although Mrs H didn’t find it a problem, I could see that the bandwidth needs to be increased to give a TV-quality experience.

So a round of applause to the BBC for once again delivering something beyond expectation. A special commendation should go to Panasonic of course for also delivering beyond expectation! And both for doing it without increasing the cost.

Review of my 2010 predictions

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Back in January I made 10 predictions for Digital Media for 2010. Being open and transparent, how did these predictions fair over the year?

  1. Reinvestment in Digital Media.
    2010 was a great year for agencies. We have implemented a number of very large websites, both brand new brands and existing ones. In terms of reinvestment, clients are now looking into cloud computing and full disaster recovery.
    Prediction rating: 10/10
  2. Lack of new products due to R&D being slashed in 2009.
    Looking back at new applications and products – what was released that made a big impact? The iPad (at the beginning of the year before being launched it was referred to as the iSlate). I predicted that the end of the year would see some launches, and Kinect was released in November. Before you start commenting that 2010 was the year of 3D TV, they were in fact launched in 2009.
    Prediction rating: 10/10 

  3. A number of live events on YouTube.
    Well, in September they launched live streaming. However I doubt most people really noticed. I’ll knock some points off because I said “live is where the value is”.
    Prediction rating: 8/10

  4. More Flex applications, less Silverlight.
    Hmmm – more site are using Flex (BBC iPlayer download for example). HTML 5 changed the landscape significantly, and due to the ongoing spat between Apple and Adobe, agencies are nervous about any single vendor, and will move to the latest version of HTML instead.
    Prediction rating: 3/10 

  5. SecondLife to further decline.
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    Second-what? The LindenX has just flattened out for the last couple of years – which means no more money is coming into the platform.
    Prediction rating: 9/10

  6. The UK to start accepting blogging at the same status as the US.
    Absolutely. UK news programmes now interview blogging experts for their views and opinions. Blogs are quoted in the press (errr, but so is Twitter, so maybe it’s just reporters’ laziness).
    Prediction rating: 10/10

  7. Offline browsers make a comeback.
    Perhaps 12 months ahead of it’s time, this prediction didn’t materialise. Before you think there is a gap in the market, we have been approached by a number of vendors in this space.
    Prediction rating: 2/10

  8. The FIFA World Cup sees huge use of video over mobile & broadband.
    It’s easy to forget the World Cup this year. If you were streaming it though, your view of the summer was probably very different to England supporters. Internet traffic reached a record peak (of almost 1Tb/sec) due to video over mobile and broadband. 
    Prediction rating: 10/10

  9. Expect ebooks to take off.
    Ebooks have exceeded all expectations for booksellers, so I was correct there. However magazines, sports programmes and other paper publications have been slow to move to ebooks, mainly because Amazon and other ebook retailers want such a high slice of the revenue. So if you’re a football club that sells a programme for £3 or £4, you really don’t want a new middleman taking 20-30% of your revenue to sell the book electronically.
    Prediction rating: 5/10

  10. 2010… the year of Web CRM
    There is still a major opportunity for a cloud based platform with efficient pricing. I do not understand why there isn’t a white label SSO platform out there. Let me know if you can recommend one.
    Prediction rating: 0/10

Pretty good going overall. Any more accurate and I’d be an octopus.

I’ll post an article on 2011 predictions next week.

Photo courtesy of Shine 2010 – 2010 World Cup good news.

The Facebook Village

We recently held an event with Facebook, where they showed a video of what would (could?) happen if you put RFID bracelets (a bracelet version of an Oyster card) on 650 teenagers and tracked them for a few days in a fixed environment.

OK, I admit that as a parent it’s quite a scary concept, however the teenagers took to the concept en-masse – statistics like 35,000 uploaded photos for those 650 teens would be classed at successful by virtually any brand.

So is this the future? Will our children have an RFID tag in their mobile phone which automatically tags where they are, what they’re doing, all their phone’s photos and uploads them to a central place on the Internet (for the time being, Facebook)?