March 15, 2011 · 6:30 PM
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IPTV (Internet Protocol Television) is standardised digital TV. It is different from Internet TV in that it is managed within a closed network, provides televisual services to a particular quality-level of viewing, and is presently distributed to static not portable platforms (e.g. through a set-top box). Present examples are Virgin TV and BT Vision, with YouView (erstwhile Project Canvas) looming on the horizon. Internet TV on the other hand is delivered via the 'open internet', meaning you can type a URL into your browser and gain access from anywhere; likewise to find content through Search (purposefully or by accident). Internet TV's quality of service is dependent of the capacity of the network you're running it through, familiar examples of which are YouTube or BBC iPlayer.
What are the potential benefits of these forms and platforms for cultural organisations? Internet TV is already well on its way becoming a major part of the web experience, deployed in diverse ways and increasingly so by artists and cultural organisations. We are told that making cultural material discoverable on IPTV platforms, too, means a significant increase in reach and impact and, by opening up to new audiences locally, nationally or internationally, the promise of additional revenue streams (specifically, TV's mainstream exposure is argued to promise an impact on ticket sales, associated products and, where these are made available, HD Download to Own and DVDs).
However, do these justify the level of skilling and resourcing most organisations will require to be part of such a platform, whose quality levels make even higher technical demands than those of Internet TV? The Digital Opportunity agenda makes IPTV a particular focus for Arts Council England, which is now concertedly acting in partnership with BBC Academy to help organisations with "training and guidance on how to maximize the creation and distribution of high quality arts content for audiences on digital platforms, including online, mobile and internet protocol television."
The IPTV landscape is fast moving and competitive, making it very difficult to predict where things are going to go. To ensure that opportunities such as these are not lost on those who cannot adapt (or at least not fast enough to benefit), what are the smaller-scale measures that can be implemented? It seems fundamental for organisations to make their content as adaptable as possible and,with the help of metadata, its discoverability can also be enhanced. With lots of different initiatives in this area in progress already, another obvious question has been how to create awareness of this existing activity, how to work together better; the cultural sector might even build its own platform/channel.
These and other questions will be central to March's Meetup, which is happening on 15th.