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Notes from Television 3.0

At this year’s Television 3

By PETER WHITE

Published: 16 December, 2010

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At this year’s Television 3.0 conference in Los Angeles, 3D and Web content took center stage. Some were focused on delivering these to new users, others were focused on the peripheral devices and services that are needed to help support these platforms, from figuring out new ways to encode signals and free up bandwidth to developing content guides and user interfaces that make content discovery feasible with the millions, if not billions, of hours of content available from broadcasters and Web services.

Viewpoints varied. Tempers flared. Most were sure their specialty was the only way out from the coming storm. The one thing that everyone at the conference had in common was a white-hot enthusiasm for where the market was headed and the opportunity it offered.

A major theme is that those looking to the future of TV have one of two focuses: bringing quality 3D to market and making sure a Web presence is everywhere, especially OTT coming to the TV set from as many devices as possible.

The 3D camp has a very strong chieftain in ESPN, whose ESPN 3D channel is getting a lot of promotion and who has dumped a lot of money into developing 3D technology, 3D video practices and distribution. ESPN is so confident in the future of 3D that it recently invited the major broadcast networks and some of its biggest competition to see exactly what had been accomplished with 3D and to learn from the mistakes ESPN made early on.

The Web doesn’t have a singular champion, but it’s being led by the likes of Roku, Apple and Web content networks like Revision3. The device makers pushing the Web are hoping to expand the concept of TV beyond what hits the boob tube to be any video the user consumes on any screen. They want the consumer to think of “TV” as Netflix, Hulu Plus, iTunes, Amazon VOD and other sources on their flat screens, iPads, laptops and home networks. The Web will have the most immediate impact, but it may also suffer from the most immediate headaches.

Content champions for the Web are of mixed temper and can rub traditional models the wrong way. Revision3 was at the conference in full swing, and the flippant nature of its CEO visibly upsetting some in the crowd. While a representative from Fox agreed with Revision3’s position on the eventual demise of DRM, he also sat with furrowed brow and muttering under his breath as Revision3 dismissed the future of pay-TV offerings and called Fox and other major broadcasters’ content subpar compared to the Web’s niche offerings.

A popular buzzword for 3D was “ecosystem” because it highlights some of the strengths and weaknesses of 3D content. At its launch, 3D TVs had content available. Though it wasn’t a lot of content, it was still far ahead when compared when to HDTV was first introduced. Shortly after 3D TV sets came to market, professional-grade recording equipment hit the shelves, as did 3D graphics cards and other PC peripherals. At its consumer birth, 3D had a hardware ecosystem, which was followed by a robust, global 3D content ecosystem thanks to coverage of the World Cup.

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