CES 2011 – Connected TV, Mobile DTV, 3D and Big Crowds

Posted by Joe Zaller
Jan 13 2011

Last week I was shocked back to post-holiday reality by my annual winter pilgrimage to Las Vegas for the 2011 CES exhibition.  I spent a couple of days in the conference session and walking the (very crowded) show floor.

As in 2010, some of the key themes at CES were making money (or not) from online content, connected TV, 3D TV, and mobile TV broadcasting.

The conference session I attended focused on connected TV, online TV and the monetization of content via these channels.  On the monetization point, I lost count of the number of times I heard the word “experimentation” during these sessions – particularly from content owners.  In other words, although everyone agrees that multi-platform content delivery is a very important trend, many players have still not figured out the business model.

Connected TV however is another story – it’s an area where the business model is a bit more straightforward.

A long time ago, I used to work in the interactive TV space, and this is what connected TV reminds me of… it’s an interactive EPG that just happens to point at web content and your media library in addition to the channels that you receive from your provider.  However there is one critical difference with today’s connected TV platforms versus the interactive TV technology of a decade ago – the ability to deliver target advertising to specific viewers. 

Although I look at connected TV as a fancy EPG that’s connected to a sophisticated ad serving platform, I think it’s where I think we’ll be seeing real innovation (and revenue) over the next few years.  To me the promise of connected TV is stronger than that of 3D, another hot topic at CES.

After all that 3D hype at the beginning of 2010, the hysteria over 3D seems to have cooled down a bit in 2011.  3D set sales are slow, there’s not much content out there, and on the professional side broadcast vendors have significantly toned down their statements about 3D, as evidenced by the IBC press conferences of companies such as Grass Valley and Harris.

Nevertheless, there was still a great deal of 3D at CES this year – particularly at Panasonic, which as you can see in the photo below dedicated a considerable portion of its CES booth to 3D technologies.




I am still a 3D skeptic, particularly in terms of its real impact on the professional market. Yes, there is some equipment being sold, and yes there are a few dedicated 3D channels out there… but in terms of the overall market 3D today is still a drop in the bucket.  Only time will tell if 3D ever really becomes mainstream.  Nevertheless the 3D hype goes on, albeit in a somewhat toned-down form.

Another technology platform on which many have pinned their hopes is mobile TV broadcasting.  US OTA broadcasters are fighting a battle on many fronts – from the government, to Gary Shapiro at the CEA, to the need to generate new revenue streams, to the need to remain relevant in a multi-channel, always-on media environment — and they see mobile DTV broadcasting as a key way to help them succeed on all fronts. 



At CES, there was a small group of booths that were showing off technologies for ATSC mobile DTV broadcasting.  US broadcasters are serious about mobile TV, and they were there in force along with some well established (Harris, LG) and new technology vendors.  Over the course of the show, I ran into broadcasters from most of the networks and major station groups.  There were also a large number of broadcast vendors in attendance with one (Evertz) even having a booth at the show.

From the conversations I had at CES, I expect mobile DTV broadcasting to be a major theme of the NAB show in April.  Given the political climate this could be the make or break year for mobile DTV broadcasting in the US.  It’s going to be interesting to watch.

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