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Translation Please

ITV, IPTV Top Jargon Curiosities

9/27/2010 10:40 AM

Nothing like a room full of women, curious about technical buzzwords, to hatch real-world fodder for a technology translation column.

Last Wednesday morning, the Rocky Mountain chapter of Women in Cable Telecommunications hosted a “buzzword workshop,” of sorts, for the participants in its professional mentoring series. Charter Communications hosted in its engineering headquarters south of Denver; about 15 of us convened around a long table.

We were handed a piece of lined yellow paper, festooned with terminology. Partial list: ITV (EBIF, PID, bound vs. unbound); IP video/IPTV; connected devices, UltraViolet, DTA, ROS, ARPU. Even “MSO” made the list, identified both as “multiple- services operator” and “multiple-systems operator” - both of which are technically accurate these days.

We chewed on these terms (and bagels, yogurt, and berries) for about 2.5 hours. At the end, the most confusing and interesting terms were identified as follows:

No. 1 Most Confusing: “ITV” vs. “IPTV.” Translation: “ITV” is short for “interactive TV,” and dates back at least three decades, in cable. These days, “ITV” also goes by “ETV” (enhanced TV).

ITV/ETV conversations usually beeline to companion terms “EBIF” (Enhanced TV Binary Interchange Format) and “OCAP” (OpenCable Applications Platform, the technical foundation for the consumer-facing “Tru2way”).

It’s all about letting TV viewers use the remote control to interact with a show or an ad - instead of phoning in or texting a response.

Such “bound” interactivity works especially well when viewers’ interactions can impact the outcome of a show. News broke that same morning about David Hasselhoff getting the boot from Dancing with the Stars. This sidelined us - with relevancy! - for a few snarky minutes.

Note that EBIF and OCAP also do “unbound” applications, meaning interactive stuff that doesn’t directly correlate with the show or ad you’re watching. (Think guide, caller ID on TV, VOD menu, “widgets.”)

IPTV, on the other hand, is one of many terms that signifies the shift of video from now to next. From the distribution pipes that traditionally led to the TV (e.g., the set-top), to the distribution pipes that serve the PC (e.g., the cable modem). It’s partly about putting Internet video (think YouTube) on TV, and partly about putting TV on Internet-connected devices. It’s a lotta lotta.

No. 1 Most Interesting: UltraViolet, the consumer-facing brand for the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem (DECE), focused on doing for professionally-created, on-demand video what “TV Everywhere” is doing for linear video - making it portable to your various screens.

Here’s a sampling of reactions, from my notes: “Sounds too good to be true;” “if this really happens, it’s how it should be;” “too bad it won’t do my iTunes library;” “if this lets us both rent and sell movies to customers, I’m all for it.” My personal favorite: “Who gets the digital locker in the case of divorce?”

September