'Cable 3.0' Is Aiming To Co-Opt 'Web 2.0'

1/19/2008 2:00 AM Eastern

Los Angeles — Cable operators are pondering what it would mean to incorporate interactive, social-networking applications and user-generated content spawned on the Internet — the likes of Facebook and YouTube, collectively referred to as “Web 2.0” — into a TV context.

But do people really want to have Facebook-style applications, which could let them share videos and chat on-screen, on their TVs?

Absolutely, and cable will need to offer them to remain relevant to customers steeped in the Web 2.0 worlds, said TellyTopia CEO Kshitij Kumar, whose company is pitching a system to deliver Web content and applications over cable networks.

“The bottom line is, cable needs to let its customers know, 'cable gets it,’ ” he said. That’s especially true for teenagers and young adults, he argued, who in some cases don’t even watch traditional TV in favor of hanging out on social-networking sites.

Kumar spoke on a panel session titled “Cable 3.0: Personalizing Services Beyond Web 2.0” at the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers’ Conference on Emerging Technologies here last week.

In his presentation, Kumar showed a mock-up of a “My TV” personalized screen, which combined a list of someone’s favorite movies and TV channels, with recommendations on videos to watch from friends and Internet content-like video blogs. Another potential social-networking feature for cable: being able to send video clips to friends with a few clicks of the remote.

CableLabs chief scientist Jason Gaedtke said the recently renamed tru2way platform for defining two-way cable services — formerly called the OpenCable Applications Platform — can let anyone develop interactive set-top applications with rich 3-D graphics fairly quickly.

“We could port a Flickr [photo-sharing] application in a matter of weeks” to run on a tru2way cable box, he said. The question is, “Until we get critical mass, are we going to get developers to the table?”

Gaedtke pointed out that consumer-electronics manufacturers are also moving quickly on this front. One example: At the Consumer Electronics Show earlier this month, Panasonic announced a partnership with Google to make photos and YouTube videos available on Panasonic’s forthcoming line of Internet-connected Viera HDTVs.

“The cable industry is waking up to the fact that being open is something new, and we need to update our business models,” said Gaedtke, who recently rejoined CableLabs after serving as chief architect for Comcast Interactive Media.

But “only the things that make sense to bring to the TV will come to the TV — it won’t be everything,” TellyTopia’s Kumar said.

Scientific Atlanta vice president of client architecture Ken Morse said cable’s opportunity is to bring together disparate sources of content into an easily navigated interface specifically designed for the TV.

“Cable is in a unique position to have the ability to bridge premium content, Internet content and a consumer’s own content at home,” he said.