Notable Trends from TV of Tomorrow

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SAN FRANCISCO — For the fourth year running, interactive TV icon Tracy Swedlow hosted her eclectic “TV of Tomorrow” gathering March 3-5 in the visual feast that is the Yerba Buena Gardens here.

Noteworthy trends from this year’s TVOT: Managed versus unmanaged networks, “TV Everywhere” versus over-the-top video, and how to get real about the tsunami of data flooding service providers.

Watch for this “managed network” phrasing to stay front and center this year. A “managed” network is one that applies technological QoS (Quality of Service) mechanisms to ensure a consistent, high-quality, “five 9s” experience for the stuff you get from service providers – voice, video, broadband.

The opposite of the “managed network” is, in essence, the general chaos of the Internet. Best effort access. What you’re doing on the Internet, elbowing against whatever everybody else is doing.

More and more of what everybody’s doing on the Internet is video – and video is the fatso of the Internet, relative to data and voice.

Which brings us to “TV Everywhere,” versus “over-the-top” video.

Consensus definitions from TVOT: TV Everywhere exemplifies a “managed” service. It extends existing TV viewing rights from traditional multichannel video providers, to other screens. It gives Internet-based access to the TV subscriptions people are already paying for.

Over-the-top, by contrast, is “unmanaged.” It’s about delivering TV services “from the cloud,” with no dedicated device or carrier controlling distribution. The players in this category tend to derisively equate the word “manage” with the word “control.”

At TVOT, and despite what seemed like a 50/50 audience split between people on the managed/TV Everywhere/cable side, and the unmanaged/over-the-top/whipper-snapper side, prognostications about which side wins came in repeatedly as a tie.

My favorite clarifying comment about the debate came from Ian Blaine, who runs thePlatform  — a company straddling the managed and unmanaged worlds to make video play on multiple screens.

His perspective: “This is not just about control. It’s about how to transition these huge operations that are very network intensive. If you took all available HD video, from every operator, and tried to run it through the cloud – the cloud would break.”

Also a big topic at TVOT: That data tsunami, simultaneously the key to the monetized future, and a matrix of pain growing exponentially in every direction, every second.

Data is daunting, no doubt. But how else can you learn that people who watch the Sci-Fi channel are more likely to own cats? True, according to recent Rentrak data.

And probably useful info to someone like, say, Purina.