Numericable building Television 2.0

Numericable has announced its next wave of technological developments, introducing new TV 2.0 applications such as widgets, pop-ups, search tools and personal channels, in addition to the existing VOD and catch-up TV elements. Every six months the French operator, which also has interests in Belgium and Luxembourg, lays out its plans for the next half year, as well as offering a progress report on what has been announced in the previous period.

In an interview with New Television Insider, Pascal Dormal, MD Belgium and Director Group Development, Numericable, said the cablenet had announced a new €19.49 triple play package that includes broadband internet speeds of 100 Mbps, free calls to 50 countries, as well as a basic 20 channel TV package.

The cablenet will also give its French subscribers the complete DTT package from the French TNT system, taking advantage of the increasing number of integrated digital television receivers in the French market. “We’re modulating the channels in DVB-T on the cable, meaning that if you are on cable – and in France DVB-T is mandated on all new TV sets – so you plug in the cable just like you used to analogue cable and you don’t need a set-top box.”

Dormal explained that by using DVB-T modulation it was possible to give the 20 channel offer to subscribers on the €19.49 package without the need for an expensive set-top box.

A similar scheme is being used by YouSee in Denmark. However, the TDC-owned cablenet has decided to go with DVB-C modulation, and IDTVs with this technology included are now only just beginning to come to market.

For the youth market, Numbericable is introducing a double-play offer in association with MTV. This time the 100 Mbps broadband is bundled with the 20 DTT channels and all those in the French MTV package, and the bundle itself will be marketed by the broadcaster. “We’ve not branded the box itself for logistic reasons, but the cards are branded, there will be separate marketing and billing, specifically targeting the youth.”

Numericable’s move towards TV 2.0 began one year ago, combining video content with the “best of the internet”. “The TV world was paralysed by the fact that an operator was controlling everything and the technology was not easily accessible, so we’ve changed that” said Dormal.

On top of its OpenTV middleware, Numericable is running the technology company’s Spyglass browser – also OpenTV’s contribution to HbbTV – here to offer html that allows anyone to create their own applications. “All the applications you see here are html, such as our video sharing application, Numerispace, where you can upload your holiday videos and share them with family and friends. We used it in a new marketing campaign by asking all our customers to upload a 20 second video promoting Numericable.” 400 promotions were received and the spots are now appearing on TF1, France 2 and other major channels. Customers can also view the best of the videos within the Numerispace section. The feature launched in the French market last December and will shortly make its debut in Belgium.

A new search feature enables customers to search through broadcast content and the 10,000-title VOD library. They can look by title, actor or director, etc. There are 22 different catalogues available through partners that include Canal+, TF1, Arte.

“The customer can transverse across all the different shops because without the navigation tool they would be lost,” said Dormal, likening the situation to the internet before search engines made their mark. “Our video on demand architecture today is a selection of portals that are filed together in a big VOD portal, but the titles are listed individually, so we’re building a recommendation portal across the entire catalogue.”

Some titles can be found on multiple portals and at different price-points. “It’s like when you go shopping for a DVD, you won’t only find the Disney DVD in Shop A the Warner DVD in Shop B. We’re not a content distributor, we’re a content navigator.”

Dormal anticipated that in time every channel will have its own portal comprising linear and on demand content.

User Generated Content can now be accessed through the TV following a tie up with the Daily Motion website. Dormal said he also hopes that YouTube can be included at a later stage.

A personalised music channel, known as ZooND, allows Numericable subscribers to create and programme. They can rate or skip videoclips, choose music categories, tell the channel the mood they are in (positive or negative), and choose themes in order to create their own look and feel. This is also integration with Facebook, allowing viewers to send their favourite clips to their friends. Subscribers pay an additional €4.99 to receive the service.

Numericable currently serves about 3.5 million homes, with 1,037,000 broadband customers and 753,000 telephony connections. There are 195,000 100 Mbps broadband customers and ARPU averages around €40. The network passes 8.3 million homes with its network capable of triple play, TV, HD and VOD.

Numericable will also launch a Widget TV service on its network using technology provided by Nagravision. The Swiss technology company will also provide “SDV” technology that will increase Numericable’s channel portfolio through the use of multicast broadcasting. The French cable operator will major on social networking, using a “MyTV” widget that will allow subscribers to alert friends to favourite shows as they are broadcast. Numericable subscribers will also be able to choose widgets from an extensive gallery that will include both recommendation widgets, as well as those allowing them to share video or track updates from popular online social networks.

It is Numericable’s intention to work with content providers to develop further services in the widget environment. The platform will also be open to external developers through the Nagra Media Widget Studio