Making TV Better for the Middle Class

On one extreme, there are the television cord-cutters;those people who will use broadband and/or a combination of off-air content to eliminate the need for a franchised cable or IPTV service. On the other extreme, are those people who are satisfied with the value they receive from and are willing to pay for the convenience provided by the video packages from their franchised operator. In between these bounds lies, what Entone’s CEO Steve McKay calls, the “middle class”.

McKay estimates that 50 to 60% of viewers are interested in the convenience and features of pay television, such as live TV, DVR capability, high quality and access to live sports, but are intrigued at the cord-cutting approach as a way to cut costs and receive greater value. Clearly, with game consoles, Blu-ray players and connected TVs, it is becoming easier for this group to cut the cord. Despite these developments, McKay argues that this market segment would appreciate the value that an operator could provide by integrating broadband video and linear content into a single interface.

Entone is targeting this “middle class” with their new FusionTV service. Building on their experience with their gateway products, such as the Janus Media Hub, FusionTV allows operators to add broadband video to their existing franchised video offering. At the same time, those operators without an existing video service can use FusionTV to build a service based on broadband video content.

By using a gateway approach with integrated hard-drive, Entone may simultaneously drive two different channels of video to three distinct televisions from one central device (a media player type device required for HD signals). McKay indicates the hardware cost of this approach will be competitive with the alternative of placing a set-top box at each television.

By being a centralized unit, the user interface is common from device to device, content, whether the delivered media is from within the home or via the network. Media is accessible from any television and, by mid-2011, outside of the home on Entone-supplied client for devices such as the PC, smart phones and tablets.

The focus is providing linear programming, whether off-air or via a traditional cable or IPTV system, together with premium broadband video programming. At launch, FusionTV will integrate with Vudu, Pandora, Flicker, Twitter and Facebook. Although YouTube is not part of the first release, McKay hinted that integration with this ubiquitous video service is on the near-term horizon.

McKay suggested that the current six trial deployments, which include Tier 1, two Tier 2 and 3 Tier-3 telcos, are helping shape how the product evolves. McKay pointed out that one of the bigger challenges that the industry faces is the search and discovery conundrum. In other words, how does one make broadband video a more television-like service, instead of the type and click experience of the PC.

From my conversation with McKay, it sounds like Entone has a plan to integrate into Fusion TV intelligence to simplify the discovery and presentation for those of us in the middle class who like the TV to be a simple up/down experience. What they will be showing next week at TelcoTV is just a preview of what is ahead in Entone’s quest to make broadband video and personal media an integral part of the television experience and make TV easy for the middle class and a relevant offering for the operator.

Image courtesy of Entone.

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