There are two new kids on the entertainment block – the Internet Protocol Television and Interactive Television. Both are touted to be killer TV viewing systems designed to wipe out the existence of free TV shows as we know it.
What are they, really? Why should we (free TV viewing aficionados) be afraid of them? Or should we? Are they the answer to the problems of commercial television today?
IPTV – Internet Protocol Television
Touted as the new standard for all TV viewing, IPTV is slated to be just that by the year 2025 and beyond. Minus the technicalities, IPTV is simply a set-top box connected to a broadband and a TV set.
The user will simply load through the broadband all the hundreds of thousands of TV programs he chose (including movies, sports games, classics, etc.) into the hard drive in the set-top box. Once the shows are downloaded, it can now be played in the TV set.
Some of the main features (and promises) being bruited by IPTV promoters are the following:
- The initial capacity of the hard drive is 300 hours of programming time, expandable to whatever you want once the technology becomes available.
- Download time will become shorter and shorter as broadband speeds become faster and faster, and in high definition quality. (A two-hour movie can be downloaded in a few minutes.)
- Because the programs will be from the Internet, the choices of suppliers will be much wider – broadcast, cable, satellite, video stores, dedicated movie Internet sites, etc. Coupled with the almost unlimited availability of program materials is the absence of restrictions from the usual watchdogs in the industry.
- IPTV will assign “channels” for individual content providers who, in turn, will have their own guidelines for program deliveries. Some will provide free content to users with a given IPTV product. Others will be through subscriptions, others will be strictly on a pay-per-view deal and still others will be a combination of all of the above arrangements.
- There won’t be cable and satellite services anymore as we know them, but only as suppliers to IPTV. Meantime, DSL and wireless internet services will still exist as conduit in bringing broadband internet.
What would be left of broadcast television will be time-sensitive shows (news, live coverage events, etc.). Everything will be exclusively available on demand through IPTV.
iTV – Interactive Television
Interactive TV is the ultimate advertiser’s dream come true. Though loaded with enough buttons and choices, iTV is more than what meets the eyes. The main point of iTV for advertisers is the ability to monitor what the viewers watch and buy.
It would then keep demographic databases for use by the advertisers. The advertisers will then direct their advertisements to the right target market based on the recorded demographics and viewing habits compiled by iTV.
For the viewers, the main feature of iTV is the electronic programming guides (EPG). The viewer will have a personalized EPG that controls the TV set to open and show only the programs the viewer wants (or suggests that he or she may like). It can learn to anticipate the viewer’s choices and even assists in choosing the hours of programming.
The EPG can auto-program the VCR so the viewer will not miss anything. It can also set off alarms on the showing of certain shows. In short, it customizes itself to fit your profile.
Everything you do on the iTV will cause the unit to react and respond, making it live up to its promise of being the embodiment of the modern television experience. This goes both ways for advertisers and viewers alike.
The one burning question free TV show viewers ask is simply this: Are free TV shows still “free”?
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