Julian Clover looks at how NDS is delivering applications previously only the subject of exhibition halls.
Some interactive TV projects give you the feeling they have been around since before the Potter’s Wheel. The difference with those shown this week by NDS at a showcase of the company’s applications is that only now are subscriber numbers at such a level where they start to become viable.
Advertising insertion, dubbed xAds by NDS, is a good example. Despite its success the Sky+ product, powered by the NDS XTV featureset, is still only available in 33% of UK homes. But with digital switchover providing additional growth the viability of downloading additional ads to a DVR is increasing. David Whittaker, Director of Business Development and Advertising Technologies explains NDS has encouraged its customers to hold back a portion of the hard drive’s capacity for the broadcaster’s own use. A station such as Channel 4 that divides its advertising into separate regions even though it broadcasts the same schedule across the UK. It could also target individual demographic groups using information already known to the platform operator.
The hard drive could also be used for telescoping, storing additional advertising content, and returning the viewer to the point they left the broadcast rather than missing the start of the second part of the programme. Unlike the current interactive options you also join the extended advertisement at the start of the sequence.
Turkey’s Dogan Media Group is already using NDS technology to broadcast an advertising overlay. It encourages viewers to text a number that would place money off a particular product, in this case Coca-Cola, to be electronically added to a nominated credit or charge card. The interface was wrapped around a news channel in a way that would have Ofcom reaching for its programming codes.
Also on display was a new HD electronic programme guide; although broadcasters have already introduced new HD services the EPG has remained in standard definition. The new version adds more detail, both in terms of the look and feel and the information displayed. The idea of skinning EPGs is not new and while the interface was sophisticated one feels that a platform operator would want to stick firmly to their own branding rather than allowing the consumer to choose from a variety of colours and themes.
The sophistication of HD also allows enhancements to set-top boxed based games. NDS has initiated the Rothko project to demonstrate the potential of set-top boxes. Jesper Knutsson, NDS Vice President for Interactive TV, said the company had been working with chip manufacturers to ensure that chipsets supplied to set-top boxes were capable of running the latest applications.
On demo was a game based around the Cartoon Network series Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends running on a Rothko-certified STB. The game runs in HD with all the elements in the game being vector based and created using Adobe Illustrator and Flash. The home was tipping from side to side in a manner more associated with Fisher Price than interactive television. The future is finally catching up.