Many among The Cable Show's 12,000-plus attendees in Boston last week may, in the years ahead, tell anyone they like about witnessing the birth of not one, but two landmark TV developments. We'll see...and maybe you'll see.
Let's explain what went down first. This pair of developments came from Comcast, cable operator numero uno and co-parent of NBC Universal. Just a few hours into exhibit hall time Monday afternoon, Comcast unveiled the first rollout of Skype across the country by a multichannel service provider. Customers in 10 markets, including Boston, Atlanta, Miami, Chicago and Detroit, can turn their cable service into a videophone resource for $9.95 a month, calling friends and family anytime, and watch who they call in clear high-definition.
Equally important, two features take this edition of Skype beyond the one Mitsubishi and a few other connected TV set makers introduced two years ago. With their remote control, customers can keep watching who they call while watching TV on a part or full-screen basis. Also, at any time, the customer can send and receive instant messages among anyone that person connects with via Skype.
If Comcast customers take a liking to this, and if the other key cable and satellite providers react in short order with rollouts of Microsoft-backed Skype or similar videophone services--two huge ifs--this turns into the beginning of the most personal of interactive TV options. Video dialing your neighbor now can lead to mass-scale telemedicine where doctors offer checkup results to patients (illustrated by computer graphics and videos). Or making reservations for dining, travel and leisure activities with an on-call advisor. Or giving kids a new learning help with a personal tutor. Just three of the possibilities someone or institution can generate under a videocall outreach.
The other development from Comcast's booth isn't ready for deployment yet--but ready for that Boston crowd's evaluation. Judging from an informal check of faces at that booth, there's considerable interest for Project Dayview, labeled an interactive, cloud-fostered "dashboard" for life management.
By way of a home screen, Dayview illustrates information on aspects of a subscriber's lifestyle, from their latest viewing choices to appointments made for the day ahead to e-mails and voicemails. A remote click or two at the screen gives the user opportunities to read the info in-depth or add/delete material. Dayview also updates what makes the customer's living quarters tick, from air conditioning and lights to home security devices, and with the remote, make adjustments. The service also has news/weather/traffic updates, room for photos and personal media coming from other sources, and social media features.
Plenty of attempts at a TV-controlled home/energy management service have been made over the years, and until now, none have been embraced by the public. Dayview comes over as the best attempt yet for public approval, because the home management is wrapped in with other attractive features, and the home screen reads well, especially in high-definition. Comcast promises a rollout of Dayview in some locations later this year, and will make it available to connected/smart TV set makers.
It's been a great while since a new course for TV, much less two, came into existence from the same starting point in public. We'll see if Skype and Project Dayview from Comcast fit the bill.
More observations from the passing parade:
***Women 2.0, the fast-growing female entrepreneur movement out of San Francisco, is launching a Pitch competition in New York this November, following the success of a similar West Coast event earlier this year. Women entrepreneurs show off their creations for a shot at placement with a venture incubator. Here's an opportunity for women with new TV content and technology ventures to take a step forward. Make the max of it--www.women2.org has all the details. Women In Cable, NAMIC and Alliance For Women In Media, how about taking steps to form an alliance with Women 2.0?
***Hundreds of media and advertising officials lost a great chance to pick up valuable info on the Web's growing role in TV two weeks ago, thanks to Internet Week New York's decision to move its wonderful festival from an early June date to smack against the mid-May upfront blitz. There was much to get, from LG's showcase of Google TV with innovative remote control features (such as zooming in/out of Web sites and 2D-into-3D converted programs), to Appnation's interactive TV application sessions. IW continues silent on its change of date, and meantime, for the second straight year, press coverage that could have closed some of that info gap didn't happen because of incompetent credentials behavior at PKPR, IW's public relations agency. Plenty of journalists were denied credentials a month or two after filing for them (myself included), and everyone rejected was invited to come cover for a fee. This doesn't work, and it's time for IW's organizers to either demand a transformation of PKPR's behavior, or bring on an agency that can handle the load. Nevertheless, give IW huge props for drawing about 50,000 people to its assortment of 200-plus events.
***TechCrunch Disrupt NY is a sensational conference in every respect. However, it seems they can't get away from offering their audience an uncalled-for moment that zaps the life out. At edition one two years ago, it was founder/former head Michael Arrington's interview with former Yahoo chief executive Carol Bartz, using the F-word in his opening question. Last week, it was writer/moderator Josh Constine's social advertising discussion with AOL chief Tim Armstrong (a day after being on The Cable Show's opening panel) and NBA executive Melissa Brenner. Without warning to the audience or Brenner, Constine went into a 10-minute, self-serve grilling of Armstrong on AOL's handling of TechCrunch from every which angle. The subject was fair game, but not for a long stretch at the expense of Brenner, clearly uncomfortable at the turn of events, or the audience, expecting to hear about social advertising. The encounter came off juvenile. TechCrunch and its Disrupt followers deserve better. This kind of disrupt serves noooobody.
Until the next time, stay well and stay tuned!