OTT: a new business opportunity for 3DTV Manufacturers

Over The Top (OTT), is one of the new emerging “widecast” services that is gaining prominence as more and more households get Broadband internet enabled. Currently other trends are DTT (Digital Terrrestial Television), IPTV (Internet protocol TV). But OTT is the most intriguing in that it allows for the distribution and consumption of video content over the internet.

In essence, with today’s Smart TVs, i.e Flat panel TVs (mostly), that have built in LAN or wifi connectors on the back, it is possible to stream content from internet video sites such as Youtube and others, via “widgets” that are factory installed by TV manufacturers.

This opens up a world of content and re-defines TV programming. Soon to be gone are the days when what one watched was in the hands of a gatekeeper such as broadcasters, Cable providers or Telcos. If regular TV is boring, a simple flick of the remote gives access to tailored content in many genres… Fashion, Cooking, Documentary, Kids shows and of course… 3D!

This is how it now becomes a business opportunity for TV manufacturers…at least for the big fish such as Sony, Panasonic, LG and Samsung.

Filling the Stereoscopic 3D Content gap with OTT S3D:

Today one of the biggest hurdles to the acceleration of S3D adoption is no doubt the lack of 3D Content. TV manufacturers have released a range of S3D capable TVs as well as 3D bluray players, and most of the theatrical 3d releases are now coming out on BluRay 3D to fill this content void.

Sidenote: At RealVision, we are particularly underwhelmed by the 2D to 3d conversion button that 3DTV manufacturers include. (Today) it is a complete gimmick in our opinion, and actually produces pseudo 3D that can hurt the viewers eyes. We have yet to see convincing 3D come out of these automated techniques.

However, one of the biggest repositories of S3D content (a mixed bag) of amateur and professional quality is on YouTube.  Most of the Smart 3D TVs have a dedicated Youtube 3D App that can be accessed from the Home screen menu of a 3DTV.

This allows access and playback of both HD and S3D videos from Youtube directly on a 3DTV set, without the need for an additional computer connected to the 3DTV.

If 3DTV manufacturers so desire, they can host their own streaming servers with dedicated bandwidth or piggyback on existing platforms such as Youtube to offer a cornucopia of 3D content to clients who own a 3DTV.

Ease of Access to OTT S3D content:

At the S3D Lab based at twofour54 in AbuDhabi, we have been testing the feasibility of distributing S3D content via an OTT service and what the whole chain from production to encoding, optimizing, hosting and delivery experience would be like for both interested manufacturers as well as the end audience in their living room.

The foremost need we have immediately identified is the need for Standardization of delivery platform and software (the receiving app) across all 3DTVs and models that are capable of OTT.

Some Insights:

As an example we tested two models of the Sony Bravia 3DTVs, the Sony KDL 46HX series (with thanks to Sony MiddleEast for the unit which is on permanent loan) as well as the Sony KDL 46EX series. Some initial insights are:

  • The EX series can ONLY display S3D when content is fed via an HDMI cable. If an STB or even a PC is connected to the 3DTV via any other type of connector such as Composite, component or VGA, the 3D menu does not show any option besides a “simulated 3d” option
  • Both the EX and FX series detects YOUTUBE 3D material automatically and plays it in 3D. Unfortunately there is no easy or obvious way to change aspect ratio or select a “higher” version of the 3D content such as an HD encoded version. The default 480p 3d streams starts. So we could assume that at stereoscopic 3D OTT would work for videos uploaded on platforms such as YouTube.

We have not yet had an opportunity to test models from other manufacturers yet, but these are some of the typical anomalies/observations that need to be addressed by Manufacturers if successful 3DTV content is to be deployed on their 3DTV sets.

Ease of access and intuition should be integrated into the hardware and software that forms the core of the “Smart TV”. One nice feature is the free Iphone remote control apps that Sony and Samsung have that make control of the Smart TVs easier. In the case of the Sony Bravia 3DTV, the text input is one such blessing.

Most of today’s Smart TVs can also get firmware upgrades over the internet, so we look forward to these being implemented by them in an effort of standardization. This will allow for a smoother and effective OTT business model to gain a foothold and redefine what broadcast and media consumption is today.

Footnote: The S3D Lab at twofour54 offers a non-biased collaborative environment for hardware and software manufactures, film makers, consumers and other media professionals to meet and discuss the current state of the art in S3D.