"The next big challenge is making consumers aware of what IPTV can offer them"

"What we see from our perspective is that the IPTV industry is lacking end-to-end specifications that will address the whole ecosystem," believes Yun Chao Hu, President of the Open IPTV Forum, speaking to IPTV News at the recent IPTV Forum Eastern Europe event in Prague.

"From our point of view [the Open IPTV Forum], most standardisation organisations are focused on the specification of the IPTV delivery mechanisms, and there are still many technical points still to resolve. The areas of content creation and content management are areas that will require further investigation on the need for specifications by the IPTV standardisation community. Furthermore, the Open IPTV Forum aims to have a certification program ready by next year that will stimulate and drive the IPTV market."

Regarding the Open IPTV Forum's ongoing initiatives, it has an interoperability event taking place in Berlin in November 2009 which will involve its members and invited industry observers, with the intention of testing the interoperability of IPTV equipment adhering to the Forum's standards. Then in the first half of 2010, the Forum is hosting another interoperability event with non-members also invited, aiming to test the efficacy of the interoperability standards. "It will be a real test," said Mr. Hu, "with the aim being to see if non-members' equipment works with members' equipment."

The Open IPTV Forum also supports initiatives such as the recently-announced Hybrid Broadcast Broadband TV (HbbTV) project, formed by a group of European broadcasters and solutions providers to help support the convergence of broadcast and broadband services. "The question for us is, how can we help our members to benefit from our initiatives," said Mr. Hu. "There is some activity and effort needed to ensure that we do not diverge with initiatives such as HbbTV."

Certification for the Forum's conformance specifications is expected to be concluded in 2010, according to the Open IPTV Forum, and is described as being on track. "The next big challenge is making consumers aware of what IPTV can offer them," stated Mr. Hu. "This can be achieved through clearer marketing of services, but also through word
 of mouth and actually putting IPTV in people's homes. The best way to build consumer awareness from my perspective is concrete examples."

Other milestones for the future include approval of Releases 1 and 2 specifications, as the Forum believes these will play an important role in delivering its vision of 'content anywhere, anytime, any device'. "We're approaching more mobility in content," says Mr. Hu. "However it is also important that we improve the blind spots in our specifications such as human-machine interface specifications - these include those associated with remote controls, which need to deliver more control and opportunities for interactivity.

"More emphasis could also be placed on the opportunities for business-to-business aspects of an IPTV service, such as healthcare, e-commerce and security," he added. "In a pure IPTV service (i.e. linear broadcast TV and VoD), the margins are low, with much of the revenue going to the content owner, and the e-commerce potential of IPTV definitely merits further investigation."

Regarding other challenges, Mr. Hu said: "There are also lots of questions in the area of regulation: for example, how to regulate favourable licensing towards specific service providers. This does, of course, negatively affect the benefits towards the end-users and keep IPTV prices artificially high."