BTVision and a look at how close we are to tomorrows webTV world

By November 30, 2006 January 1st, 2007 8 Comments


This week BT announced the launch of BT Vision, their new IPTV service.  There are lots of details on RadioandTelly but in summary you get:

  • A set top box which supports Freeview (UK free to air digital terrestrial TV service)
  • Set top box incorporates PVR which can hold 80 hours programming
  • Electronic programming guide which combines 14 day TV schedule and defined range of downloadable on demand content (sports, films, music etc.)
  • Access to BT Podshow (BT site which has licensed content and some UGC on it, but is v. careful with respect to copyright)

This is a first step towards the future vision I have been talking about, it gets TV’s connected to the internet, but open web access is going to be the killer app.  IMHO that is going to be the thing which motivates people to move.  Huge content libraries are interesting, but I’m not suffering for lack of choice at the moment, the thing I am missing is being able to go looking for stuff that interests me.

Open web access is also the enabler for mass adoption of aggregators and filters like TIOTI.  The likes of TIOTI can get off to a good start with early adopters and people who watch TV on their PC’s, but as pointed out by the Beeb balancing your laptop on your knee can only take you so far.

(As an aside reports on the BBC website are now suggesting that TV piracy is rampant on the web.  And the good news for UK plc is that we have a lead here!  Apparently we account for 10-25% of all TV piracy – not bad for a little island.  And all because we love American soaps.

It is worth noting though that more and more stuff is being made available legally according to Paul Pod of TIOTI.)

Other services available in the UK today (Telewest Teleport, CinemaNow and Homechoice) are all similar in that they only make their pre-defined libraries available.

These services all control the EPG as well – so whilst in theory it wouldn’t be difficult to open up web access to do so they would need to rebuild their user interface – which I understand is a tricky business.

On the subject of interfaces – I learnt of a new company today, Miniweb who are building a standards play around managing the internet-set top box-TV connection and user interface.  Seems interesting, but you know my thoughts on set top boxes – no more use than a chocolate teapot in a true webTV world.

Another important enabler that is having an impact today is the combination of improving compression codecs and improving bandwidth.

As I come to the end of this (rambling) post I realise I have been thinking about this back to front.  We won’t suddenly switch to open webTV because someone like BT makes it available in easy pre-packaged form.  It will start from the bottom up – like Napster created iTunes.  So the interesting data to look for is TV shows downloaded from the web.