Thomson Official Outlines Next-Generation Broadcast Vision
Thomson is one of the key technology vendors to satellite pay-TV operators world-wide, and its technology will be key in helping satellite pay-TV operators stay ahead of cable and IPTV competition. The IBC e-Daily spoke to Georges Laplanche, senior vice president, Thomson Premises Systems, about the technologies Thomson is showcasing at IBC and the types of solutions available to pay-TV operators and broadcasters.
IBC e-Daily: What has been the focus of your research and development efforts in the last year, and what are the main trends?
Laplanche: We are coming with the third generation of MPEG-4 set-top boxes. Over the last few years, we have mainly been focusing on delivering HD (high-definition) and MPEG-4 in general. We have set-top boxes from basic zapper boxes to HD PVR (personal video recorder) boxes that now really integrate and work with the third generation of integrated chipsets. As far as the CPE side of things is concerned, the main focus is on home networking. It is the trend everywhere. There is the convergence of broadcast and broadband and the transition from conditional access to DRM. Those are the big trends.
IBC e-Daily: Has the takeup of HD been in line with expectations?
Laplanche: The HD takeup is very much correlated to the availability of HD content. Sports, with the recent Olympics, has been a boost to HD takeup across the world. The United States has been ahead of the rest with operators such as DirecTV making hundreds of channels available. The United Kingdom has been very strong also with BSkyB. We are beginning to see more and more HD everywhere, in particular, HD PVRs. In the satellite world, we only supply HD PVRs now. In terms of Europe, the take-up of HD has differed in certain markets. Markets in Northern Europe have traditionally seen a faster take-up of HD. The take-up has started to be in line with expectations. In 2008, we are seeing more offerings in HD, but there is still a major gap between the United States and Europe. Without the United States we would not have so many products available. I would say the United States is, to a certain extent, camouflaging the slow takeup of HD elsewhere. Without such a big market as the United States, it would have been difficult to move so fast in terms of product development because the payback would not have been great. But now with extremely affordable HD products, it is really within the reach of European broadcasters as long as they push HD content such as movies, sports and entertainment.
IBC e-Daily: Has the global credit crunch impacted what pay-TV operators/telcos are spending on advanced technologies?
Laplanche: Fortunately, we don’t see the credit crunch having any impact on this market. We haven’t seen a decrease in the demand for set-top boxes. From what I am seeing, the [average revenues per user] for DTH operators are still increasing. The net additions are not always very high because there is more competition, but it is a solid market that does not seem to be affected by the global economy issues.
IBC e-Daily: How close are we to having content any time, anywhere, on any device?
Laplanche: Nearly every operator is planning to offer extra content now over IP, so there are trials and new solutions being developed by most operators. My guess is these sorts of solutions are going to be available over the next 12 months. Having said that, there are still some challenges that operators are facing in terms of mass-marketing of this home networking concept. One of the big challenges is how you monetize this extra service. How do you monetize home networking and extra services? How do you keep control of your subscriber acquisition costs? For example, will you need a wireless router capable of supporting video and distribute content all over the house. Who is going to push that router? Is it going to be the retail market or will we see a subsidy model This is something that is not decided yet. This could impact subscriber acquisition costs.
IBC e-Daily: What types of innovations in technologies and products will we see at future shows?
Laplanche: It is heading towards universal access to the content in the home network. Clearly, the battle for the home network is engaged with many types of solutions and technologies available and being proposed. We are putting a strong focus on it. We now have a product line that is dedicated to applications and connected devices for the home network. We want to give access to home networking applications, whatever the delivery (cable, IP, satellite). There will be applications such as management of communications, video on demand, etc. This is what we are going to see in terms of home networking applications. Underlying technologies also to watch out for are coax, wireless and powerline.