I Want My iTV: A Glossary
What is IP/TV? Is that the same thing as iTV? Confused yet?
OMMA compiled a glossary to help you untangle these nascent technologies. IP/TV, or Internet Protocol Television, as deployed by telecommunications companies, has its own infrastructure. Interactive TV (iTV) applications that are built into digital set-top boxes enable a return path for consumer data. Both technologies are designed to offer marketers the ability to leverage a two-way dialogue with consumers. At least that's the potential...
What it stands for: Internet Protocol Television.
What it means: Generally, IP/TV is a system that uses Internet protocols to render audio and video. The finer details can change depending on who's using the term. Web nerds who refer to IP/TV are usually talking about Web video. In that case, IP/TV is a synonym for broadband, streaming, and wireless video.
When telecommunications types refer to IP/TV, they usually mean TV delivered by a communications company. IP/TV systems can run over either a hybrid copper/fiber system or over all-optical networks. Most communications companies offer both types of IP/TV, some even in the same markets. Optical IP/TV and hybrid systems handle ads differently.
What it stands for: Quadrature Amplitude Modulation.
What it means: QAM is the method by which cable companies deliver TV. The technology enables a return path for data.
What it stands for: Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification.
What it does: DOCSIS enables a two-way exchange of data over one-way cable systems. It is the cable industry's answer to IP-based communications. Since QAM cable networks normally only send content out, cable operators had to be clever about creating an upstream data path. Enter DOCSIS. But DOCSIS-over-QAM is bandwidth-constrained, so the return path is also bandwidth-constrained, as are the services offered on that return path.
What it stands for: Interactive Television
What it means: Interactive TV (iTV) is any television that has a so-called "return path." Information flows not only from broadcaster to viewer, but also back from viewer to broadcaster. Another feature common to all iTV systems is the ability to offer each TV set, or each viewer who uses that TV set, a different choice of content.
Developments in iTV are important for marketers to follow, because the technology offers the potential for couch commerce (the ability to order a pizza or a shirt with the click of a remote control), DVR features, the capability of clicking on ads to find out more, and click-stream analysis. With iTV, every click of the remote control goes into a database and can be analyzed by marketers to create household profiles. Such profiles are very useful for targeting consumers via direct marketing strategies. In an iTV world, the TV will be able to deliver targeted promotions, monitor responses, and then suggest alternative offers based on a consumer's response.
Digital set-top box providers such as Motorola, Scientific Atlantic, Pace, and Microsoft are designing boxes to run iTV applications. In many cases, they are teaming up with ad networks; Motorola, for example, is a major investor in SpotOn, a targeted advertising system.