Curated by: Luigi Canali De Rossi

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Internet Television And The Need For Open Standards: Open Internet Television - A Letter to CES

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Open internet television: a grassroots dream or a collaborative effort for a greater good toward which we can all work? This is the question that Jeremy Allaire and Adam Berry of Brightcove ask publicly in this open letter they have released for the Consumer Electronic Show taking place now in Las Vegas.

Photo credit: Ivan Stevanovic

The failure both by the industry missing to offer and by the consumers failing to demand the embracing of effective open standards for internet television still prevents us all from getting the best that could really be from the fantastic marriage of online television and traditional TV.

Further limitations are also to be attributed to the fact that present internet video fruition devices have different set of standards, there is no consistency of formats, most devices don't provide direct open access to popular video sharing sites and none of these devices offer a simple and open development models for web service developers to create and deliver custom content and services.

"Most content publishers are shut out or don't bother to invest in feeding content into the closed systems. Consumers lose out on the content they could be watching, and manufacturers miss out on the sales they could be driving for new devices."

It goes without saying that the real solution is the adoption of industry standards that allow TV sets "to join PCs and mobile phones as first class citizens on the open Internet", in a way that makes it rightdown easy to connect any TV to the Internet, allowing easy and immediate browsing and watching of online video content.

"The solution is not simply to turn TVs into PCs with traditional web browsers."

Open Internet Television: A Letter to the Consumer Electronics Industry

by Jeremy Allaire and Adam Berrey

Dear Consumer Electronics Industry Leaders,

Like a rerun that has played for several years, 2008 is kicking off at the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) with the promise of convergent devices that will allow video to easily reach the living room through the open Internet.

But like past years, the offers are disappointing.

They're too complicated, too costly and, most importantly, too closed.

Wasted Opportunity

Photo credit: Ophelia Cherry

Internet TV is already transforming how people are entertained, educated and informed.

The Internet is becoming the new distribution platform for video content and a clear rival to cable, satellite, and terrestrial broadcast.

The sheer volume of commercial and original video content on the open Internet is vastly outstripping any prior platform for video distribution.

Hundreds of millions of videos, which range from short and funny user-generated content, to the best of blockbuster broadcast television, to tens of thousands of commercial and non-commercial channels of programming, are now available instantly and on-demand through the Internet.

Today, the primary consumer device for finding and watching that content is the personal computer (PC), but the opportunity is there to make that device the television, which can present video content in a way that PCs will never match.

The result would be to turn the average home entertainment center into a portal onto an amazing spectrum of content across every genre from around the world.

Unfortunately this opportunity is being squandered for both the industry and consumers by the failure of CE manufacturers to embrace an open standard for delivering Internet video content directly to TVs.

Today's Internet TV Convergence: Dead on Arrival


There are two major problems with the attempts we've seen to date for bringing Internet video to TVs:

a) they're too complicated and

b) they're not open.

The strategies that have gotten the most attention focus on connecting TVs to PCs using a variety of different connector devices including Windows Media Center extenders and Apple TV.

The thinking behind this approach is that consumers will use their PC to find, download and organize content that they will then watch on their TV. While this may meet the needs of advanced PC users, for the typical TV viewer, the extra step of connecting a PC to their TV is too complicated.

Even worse, having to move the basic browsing experience from the couch to a chair in front of a PC changes the whole experience of watching TV-robbing it of serendipitous channel flipping.

An even greater limitation than complexity is the fact that today's strategies are fundamentally closed:

  • Each device has a different set of standards and requirements for using online video content, so there is no consistency of formats and user experience.
  • Most devices don't provide open access to any video service that is hosted on the open Web, and instead require direct deals and relationships with the device vendor.
  • Related to the above, none of these devices offer a simple and open development model for web service developers to create and deliver custom content and services.

Unlike the PC-based web and the mobile web, which are both built on open standards, the consumer electronics ecosystem offers no consistent set of open standards for online media to reach televisions.

The failure to embrace open standards means that no ecosystem can flourish around the technology.

Most content publishers are shut out or don't bother to invest in feeding content into the closed systems. Consumers lose out on the content they could be watching, and manufacturers miss out on the sales they could be driving for new devices.

The Open Alternative

Photo credit: Niserin

The solution is an industry standard that allows TV sets to join PCs and mobile phones as first class citizens on the open Internet.

The open standards that defined web browsers on PCs ignited whole new industries, brought hundreds of millions of people together through the Internet, connected us all to a vast array of information, and changed fundamentally what it meant to use a computer.

We need a set of open standards that make it straight forward and easy to connect any TV to the Internet, browse and find video, and watch on-demand streams from anywhere in the world.

The solution is not simply to turn TVs into PCs with traditional web browsers, because fundamentally the experience of using a TV is different than using a PC. There is no keyboard or a mouse, only a remote.

So we need a new set of standards that are specifically designed to enable the browsing and watching of Internet video on a television set using user interface conventions that are appropriate for the device.

As we see it, the standards should be built around four basic pillars:

  1. Direct Network Connectivity

    Photo credit: Darren Whittingham

    TVs should be connected directly to the Internet through home networks, Wi-Fi, WiMAX, and Ethernet.

  2. Internet Media Browser

    Photo credit: Solarseven

    Every TV should have an Internet Media Browser (IMB) designed for finding, browsing and viewing video from the Internet. Unlike a web browser, the IMB as a standard should be designed around a narrower goal of browsing and viewing streaming video and music. The IMB would be like the traditional cable electronic programming guide (EPG) for Internet content. With the IMB, consumers should be able to browse through any media catalog published on the Internet and stream the videos and audio directly to their TV. The IMB should handle playback with standard codecs including MP3, Flash Video (VP6), H.264, and VC-1. Finally the IMB should support a simple, standardized programming model that would enable ad insertion and analytics integration through web protocols.

  3. Catalog Publishing

    Photo credit: Foottrack

    To get listings and content into the Internet Media Browsers, we will need a standard for any Internet publisher to publish catalogs of media content. Most likely using XML, this standard would provide a simple way for any website with media content to list that content along with the metadata, such as title and description, and pointers to the physical files. This standard would mean that regardless of the device, an IMB would be able to easily display the listings and access the streaming content. The relationship between the publishing standard and IMBs would be like the relationship between RSS and RSS readers.

  4. Registration Services

    Photo credit: Hans Doddema

    The final component is one that would create a natural bridge between web browsing on a PC and Internet Media Browsing from a TV. The core of this is a standard for registering devices with an online service where consumers can save links to the media catalogs they'd like to access from their TV. With this mechanism in place, it would be easy for someone to click a link from a web page to say, "I want to watch this on my TV," and have the video or collection of videos registered online and automatically made available on their TV the next time the turn it on. By making this an open standard, companies providing cloud services could compete in an open market place and consumers could choose the service they want whether it's from a manufacturer, social network, portal or someone else.

The description here is meant to paint a high-level picture for what is possible and catalyze movement in a new direction.

The CE industry and the Internet industry already have well established standards bodies that can define the specifics, and it's time those standards bodies take up the challenge of creating open standard for browsing and playing streaming Internet media directly on TVs.

Making the Leap

Photo credit: Yuri Arcurs

The core technology and content is ready.

There is already a thriving online video economy on the Web that is providing incredible value to consumers, content publishers, advertisers, and PC manufacturers.

CE manufactures need to wake up and get on the bandwagon.

You need to stop focusing on closed systems and help to usher in a new era in open Internet video distribution that can touch every television set on the planet.

Opening television to the Internet will let content publishers do what they do best, give consumers a vastly better experience than they have today, and ultimately drive growth in the CE industry.

Jeremy Allaire Adam Berrey
Brightcove Chairman & CEO
Brightcove SVP of Marketing & Strategy

Originally written by Jeremy Allaire and Adam Berry for Brightcove and first published as "Open Internet Television: A Letter to the Consumer Electronics Industry" o January 7th 2008.

Jeremy Allaire and Adam Berrey -
Reference: Brightcove [ Read more ]
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posted by Robin Good on Wednesday, January 9 2008, updated on Tuesday, May 5 2015

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