SAN FRANCISCO — In a keynote address at ITVT’s recent “TV Of Tomorrow Show,” Panasonic marketing senior VP Bob Perry encouraged IPTV developers to begin conversations with larger TV manufacturers about getting their apps and services on new connected TV platforms, but warned that TV makers will be looking for deals that can help them differentiate themselves from competitors — not add the same services across the board.
Perry said his goal in presenting at the seminar, which was attended predominantly by IPTV application and services developers and representatives of managed TV system operators, was to “start a conversation, and drive a different way of looking at the same set of facts.”
He also explained that Panasonic’s Viera Cast IPTV platform that is now part of most of the company’s step-up TV lines, is a “walled garden” system that Panasonic maintains, because the company couldn’t risk launching interactive TV using an approach that would be prone to frequent breakdowns or incompatibility hang-ups using third-party apps and services available through over the top (OTT) approaches.
Still, Perry said the current Viera Cast system is a learning experience that will eventually change and become more open as the broadband IPTV entertainment environment matures and becomes more standardized.
We do not want to become a gatekeeper,” Perry said.
Perry explained that Panasonic, as most TV makers, works on a one-year product life-cycle timetable running January through April. “So for the TVs that Panasonic is introducing into the market today — the new ones that will replace them are already locked.”
“This is very, very high-risk activity, and these businesses are very, very big ventures,” Perry explained.
“Our challenge is to delight consumers by giving them what they could not imagine, but create a situation where they believe they could not live without it,” he said.
“When you look at who really controls the television business in the United States, it’s not little itsy-bitsy multinational companies like Panasonic — it’s retailers,” he said. “Walmart today owns 40 percent of the television business in the United States. So we have this challenge with making the consumer go into this magical wall of televisions and basically what we say to them is — ‘pick.’ Differentiation is a huge challenge.”
The benefits of new interactive apps and services must be instantly discernable by uneducated consumers, he warned, adding that that while manufacturers would love to depend on the sales teams of retailers to get the details of product story across to consumers, more and more shoppers are saying they don’t trust salespeople and would rather educate themselves and shop at lower-cost environments like warehouse clubs and massmerchant chains.
“They are really pulling this rug out from under us,” he said. “Little-bitty television companies like us, we probably spend $10 or $20 million a month in retail trying to communicate to consumers about why to buy our stuff, what’s cool about it and how to make the right decision.”
This year, he pointed out, the consumer electronics industry is going to start selling 3D.
“This is a new paradigm shift, and we have to communicate it,” he said. “Consumers don’t know what they want. It is our job to put it in front of them, let them experience it and let them pick, but boy is it a lot of work.”
Perry said TV makers will have an advantage in launching 3D TV that they did not have with HDTV — most consumers have seen some form of a 3D picture and know basically what it is. Before the launch of HDTV, most people had never seen a high-definition picture.
Perry said many consumers purchasing new HDTVs this spring and summer will want their purchase to remain future proof, and will step up to 3D whether there is a lot of 3D content available at launch or not.
Panasonic will help prime the 3D content pump by sponsoring three 3D channels DirecTV will launch in June, he said.
“3D is about experiencing television in the way it should be experienced,” said Perry, and that with the “resolution revolution” done with HDTV and the audio revolutions done with surround sound, the last leg of the stool is 3D video.
“This has huge implications on what you do,” Perry told the IPTV audience. “In the digital environment we are in today, where the consumer watches high definition and 1080p Blu-ray, and analog broadcasts being broadcast digitally, everybody is in a mad rush to make sure their content is authored in the highestquality resolution and best possible format, which now means 3D.”
“For most consumers, interactive content is an interesting concept that has yet to flower,” Perry said. “A lot of what we are doing so far in IPTV is not truly interactive, so a lot of your work is yet to flower, and we are very excited and looking forward to seeing that being built, and as a technology company we are hoping you can help lead us in so many ways to deliver this technology to consumers.”
Perry pointed to Panasonic’s recent agreement with Skype to build HDTV video phone functionality into select Panasonic sets as an example of “a game changer” that will help bring the true power of IPTV to the living room.